Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games (*minor spoilers*)

As with any book that garners significant media attention, I found myself intrigued by what I heard about The Hunger Games. My hype and expectations for the series were quite high starting out. The Harry Potter series is truly what turned me on to reading more than a decade ago and many of my fellow Potter fans spoke highly of The Hunger Games. As a result, I decided to check it out.

Suzanne Collins' first installment of her post-apocalyptic trilogy tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old resident of District 12 (what used to be parts of Appalachia). Katniss comes off as a confident, sometimes even brash, teenage girl with a keen eye for hunting game. She and her best friend Gale routinely break the law, slipping under the District 12 fence to do what they do best: hunt.

Unfortunately for Katniss, my previous sentence was not a typo. Hunting any sort of game is considered a punishable offense according to the Capitol. This post-apocalyptic world isn't a pleasant one and the Capitol is hardly a peaceful ruling body. The 12 districts are forced to provide them with natural resources, yet the Capitol takes it a step further. Every year, they demand each district participate in what is aptly named, The Reaping. All 12 distrcits must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the dreaded Hunger Games, a sickening fight to the death between children. The unfortunate "winners" are then given the title of Tribute. Only one can leave the Hunger Games alive and thus, claim the title of victor...but at what cost?

I'll leave the rest of the story to you. As for my take on the book, I was honestly a little let down; however, I would still highly recommend it. Let me explain. Firstly, my expectations were probably too high going into the series. I expected something epic and what I got was just a solid, well-written novel with an intriguing story.

My biggest qualm with the book is a simple one: predictability. There were very few times I was shocked by an event or surprised at some of the "twists" throughout. Although incredibly brave and smart in her own right, Katniss is not a terribly good judge of people. Self-admittedly, she struggles with communicating her feelings throughout the book and is a terrible public speaker (also self-admitted). So while I saw almost everything before it was about to happen, Katniss seems stunned at the most obvious plot twists.

In her defense, you can never be too trusting in an arena full of 23 other teenagers whose only hope for freedom is to slit your throat. For that reason, I can forgive Katniss and understand Collins' reasoning in writing Katniss as such a cautious protagonist.

Aside from that, Katniss is a character I absolutely loved to read. The story is told through her eyes and you instantly relate to her from the very first page. Her strong bond with her younger sister Prim. Her longing for her deceased father. And her struggling relationship with her mother. There's something here for anyone to relate.

Katniss isn't the only strong character. Peeta Mellark is probably my favorite character of the entire series thus far. He keeps Katniss guessing throughout. Haymitch Abernathy and Cinna are two other characters you'll quickly grow to love or hate.

From a technical standpoint, The Hunger Games is a quick read and one most young adults should have no problem reading. Katniss isn't overly wordy and Collins does an excellent job of letting you see the bleak world through her eyes. As with many young adult novels, the primary concern for allowing a child to read or not is definitely subject matter. Many young people - children, even - die gruesome deaths throughout the Hunger Games. I expected Collins to shy away from this due to the young adult focus of the series; however, she stays true to her story and lets the reader in on all the grizzly details.

The Hunger Games will certainly draw comparisons to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga, mainly due to the complicated love triangle persistent in each series. However, that is where the comparisons should end. The Hunger Games is a tragic, unique tale that stands on its own as a bleak, all the while riveting, account of a seriously disturbing world. Part of what makes The Hunger Games so great is its ability to take part of the world we know, and totally twist it into a chilling future. The environment may be different; yet humans still find a way to live, love, and ultimately, a way to overcome. Expect to see this series catch even more fire (pun intended) as it hits the silver screen in March of this year.

4 out of 5.


logankstewart said...

Once again, we have similar responses to a book. For me, I enjoyed Book One the most, but the other two were still above par.

One thing I really liked in this dystopia was Collins' innovation. The tracker-jackers and muttations to name two. Her vision of the future was definitely bleak, but to a degree, I could see it as a possibility if something ever went horribly wrong in the world.

Hope you keep up the blogging. You could/should review video games.

Jonboy said...

Interesting. I think I actually enjoyed the second one more, mainly because I found it slightly less predictable. I'll have a review up for it soon.

logankstewart said...

Hey, you've updated your look, as well as added the Goodreads widget. Looks good, friend. Now to find you on Goodreads. (That site is addictive if you're a bibliophile.)

Jonboy said...

Yes sir. I haven't had a chance to mess around much with Goodreads yet, but it looks amazing. Mainly, I just wanted the widget on my site, haha.

Thanks for the compliments on the layout. It's funny, you've recently switched to a lighter tone and I went dark. I wonder if Sunny Side Up still applies? :)

logankstewart said...

I think "Sunny Side Up" adds a bit of humor and hope to the darkness. At face value, you'll at least cause visitors to think, "uh, what?" Or you could envision the light through the darkness, too. Or you could really like eggs...

Anyway, I think it all looks good. Hope you figured out the widget stuff without too much of a headache. And enjoy Goodreads! You can even find free ebooks for your Kindle on there on occasion.

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