Book Review of The Hunger Games (Book One)

by JoHarrington

I was probably the only person left who had not read Suzanne Collins's amazing trilogy. Once I'd taken the plunge, I was riveted for days, until all three books were read.

I knew that 'The Hunger Games' had to be something special. Not only had they been plastered all over the internet for over a year, but they had done something astounding.

These three books had severed my nephew from his computer and games. He wanted to finish his chapter instead.

When the book closed, his eyes held a dazed expression. "That was the best book I ever read," He told me and handed it over. A day later, I wholeheartedly agreed.

The Hunger Games (Book 1)

Start here for an adventure that I could not put down. Forget about the 'aged 12 and upwards' tag. I'm forty and it was definitely worth reading.
The Hunger Games (Book 1)

What are the Hunger Games?

Twenty-four children are forced to kill or be killed on national television. It reminds everyone of their place in society.

In a futuristic world, there are few human societies left on the planet. Those which survived are largely slaves to the all powerful Capitol.

Once a year, they each must send two of their children to fight to the death in a gladiatorial style arena.  It's gruesome entertainment framed as reality TV for the delight of the Capitol's citizens. But it has a secondary purpose too.

The Hunger Games - as these juvenile killing fields are called - stand as a stark reminder to all of the Districts that they remain in thrall.

Their very lives continue at the whim of President Snow, the Capitol's tyrant. Their children's lives are nothing more than sport for his people.  The whole show is framed as punishment for an uprising seventy-four years ago. It is a vindictive and bloody message that the Capitol has the power to quash any repeat of that.

The enslaved twelve Districts are kept in want of basic sustenance, while the Capitol flaunts its wealth and leisure.  District One is given a little more, as it keeps the Capitol in jewels and luxury items. Each area is allotted progressively less, until we are informed that many people die in the streets of starvation in lowly District Twelve.

There can only be one victor in the elaborate arena.  Only one child can successfully traverse its forests, lakes or whatever terrain the Gamemakers create.  Traumatized and damaged beyond recall, the winner takes home something special - food.

His or her entire District gets extra provisions of grain for one whole year, until the slaughter begins again.

This is why it's called the Hunger Games.  The fight for survival is bigger than the arena itself.

The Hunger Games Book Trilogy Box Set

Once you finish the first book, you will want to read the next, then the next. Trust me on this. I've just been there.
Hunger Games Original Trilogy Box SetThe Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

Into the Reaping with Katniss Everdeen

One sixteen year old girl is the main breadwinner for her family. That doesn't make her exempt from the Hunger Games.

Our protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl from District Twelve. Through her eyes, the reader is taken firstly on a tour of her home and then into the Reaping itself.

The Reaping is the process by which children are chosen to enter the games. Their terror is palpable in Suzanne Collins's compelling descriptions.  We do not observe them there; we stand and wait to see if our names will come out of the bowl. 

Or worse.   If it's someone that we love instead.

This is what Collins does best. She places the reader at the heart of the action, and forces ethical questions along the way.  What would you do in that situation?  Is it ever right to kill an innocent child, even if you've been given orders?  Even if it's you or them? 

And remember, one young person in there is from your District. It will be somebody that you know, who you are asked to slaughter.  There is no turning back. If you simply refuse to fight, then you will be mown down. If all refused, then the Gamemakers would introduce an element which ensured a life or death, you or them scenario.

When is the right time to rebel?  And should you, if it means danger or death for your family, or your whole community back home?

We are taken into the very heart of the Hunger Games and the decisions that are made there will have widespread repercussions.

Is The Hunger Games Book Gory?

The implications are certainly gory.  You are told that someone was speared or that blood splattered.  If you allow your mind to dwell on the image, then it will be a very unsettling one.

However, Collins herself doesn't go into intricate accounts.  There are moments when a death lingers in gruesome circumstances, which are adequately divulged.  But not with a sadist's attention to literary detail.

Where she really pushes us is into the emotional and mental trauma. Her interest appears to be in critical thinking and moral dilemmas, rather than a gore-fest.

I think that the advice that this book is for ages twelve and above is a fair rating.

The Hunger Games is a Page-Turner Adventure Story

You will be turning those pages. The cranked up action and horrific decision making will make it imperative that you find out what happens next.

My apologies if I've made this story sound like some dry philosophical tract thus far.  It is not. The action propels the narrative on with ever increasing intensity.

The Hunger Games is a remarkably fast read, because you can't stop in the middle of it.  There's no time to ponder one point, before another moment of peril materializes. Pages get whipped over, just so you can follow the action as it unfolds.

As story-tellers go, Suzanne Collins has leapt up in my estimation. She knows how to pace her tale to leave her readers constantly craving more. 

Please don't be put off by the popularity of this book.  As I read it, I felt the same as I did the first time I saw David Beckham play football, or Pete Doherty perform a song.  Just because something is everywhere, it doesn't mean it's not good.

In fact, the opposite is generally the reason for their ubiquity.

If you haven't already read The Hunger Games (and I know that excludes 90% of the Western world), then do it. It is definitely worth your time.

The Hunger Games (Book One) Movie Trailer

The first book has already been made into a great film. I loved it. Then I read the book and realized that it was even better than the movie.

Buy The Hunger Games Movie on DVD, Blu-Ray or Amazon Instant Video

Now I've read the book, I desperately want to see the film again! My nephew said the same as he gave it to me. Clever boy. He knows that I have to get it for him now!
The Hunger Games [2-Disc DVD + Ultra-...The Hunger Games [2-Disc Blu-ray + Ul...The Hunger Games
It's Big Brother gone mad, with teenagers forced to fight to the death in order to survive. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.
Updated: 02/03/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 09/25/2012

I do thoroughly recommend them. My favourite was the second in the series. You're safe reading up to the moment when I put a warning in.

dustytoes on 09/25/2012

Great movie. I have not read this book but plan to read the next 2 - I have them ready and waiting, so I can't read your reviews!

JoHarrington on 09/21/2012

That's a whole new angle to consider - would the population have been bigger in Panem, if not for the threat of the Hunger Games? As in, would more people have been willing to have children?

Awww! If I get rich off these articles, we'll be right over there! <3 See you on Skype.

Shonna on 09/21/2012

Oh that makes two of us! Elen & your nephew, both - William's just a few years out, too, it'd do my head in as a mom - or I'd never be one in those circumstances.
:D Plane tix to Montana are sadly pricier than Vegas (smaller airport *sob*) but I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE it - and you'd have to bring Kate if you came, because I can show her true Pioneer history here - even in my own family line!
MISS you!!! Once I get a computer fix, we'll skype for sure :)

JoHarrington on 09/21/2012

I'm shuddering at the thought of Elen being in the Reaping. My nephew would be in there too.

Are you like me? Insofar as you're reading it imagining what it would have been like for Mrs Everdeen and the other adults. We would have been expected to just stand there and watch that happen. I don't think I could. I'd have ended up shot or as an avox, because I'd have gone running out to save them.

That, of course, would have saved nothing in the finish.

Suzanne Collins did do a lot of reading about ancient Rome and Greek culture. You can tell that in the gladiator fights and the names of those in the Capitol. But there was also a society which DID have to send two children apiece as tribunes. She nicked that too. Tell Elen that she's really clever to have put all of that together.

I'd have loved for them to have an 'I'm Spartacus' moment in the Hunger Games! LOL

Oh! I wish I was closer too. I'd so have these conversations with you. How much is a plane ticket to your house again?

Shonna on 09/21/2012

Elen and I have been reading the books together. She's pretty stunned that if she were in Panem, she'd have her name in the Reaping just like Prim and it's got her in a different mind-set for sure. I talked with her about the Gladiatorial facet - that in ancient Rome, which this all reminds me of VERY much, slaves were made to fight to the death - sometimes one to one, sometimes many with one or none surviving. They had to fight in an arena with hundreds if not thousands watching and those who survived became real celebrities. She's put two and two and figured that Panem is Rome come again. We discuss the deaths, the violence, etc. and she's decided that this reminds her of Sparticus (a story she learned recently because of a Tom Hanks movie of all of the characters kept shouting, "I am Sparticus!" so she had to ask what THAT was all about) and has been asking when they go all Sparticus on the Capital. It'll be VERY interesting discussing this with her as things progress...makes me wish you were closer here so we could all talk about these together!

JoHarrington on 09/21/2012

Me too! And now I want to see the movie again. :)

However, there is a lot lost in Hollywood's depiction. The book is chock full of extra detail and rendered all the richer for it. I'd certainly say that the book is better than the film, but then, aren't they always?

Mira on 09/21/2012

I saw the movie, and liked it. :-)

JoHarrington on 09/19/2012

There's some futuristic technology in the Capitol, especially around medicine, but nothing that couldn't be envisaged today. The only major 'this is the future' thing is the entire change in the way society is run. At least overtly. >.>

And yes, films of the other two are happening. Catching Fire is being filmed as we speak.

sheilamarie on 09/19/2012

I saw the movie just recently. Disturbing but food for thought. I agree, Jo, that it's set not too far into the future. In fact, one could argue the story could be metaphorically talking about the present. Almost. I've heard films of the other two books are in the works.

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