on 14 April 2011
I'm at a loss for words, and I'm not sure I can put any coherent words into a review. I can't begin to describe how much I loved this book. Its a genre away from anything I've ever read before, and I wasn't sure about it at first, and I probably wouldn't have picked it up; but so many of my GR buddies recommended it to me, kept telling me I had to read this book, and you know what? I'm glad I did.
This is the first in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins set in post-apocalyptic North America in a country called Panem, that is made of 12 Districts, and each year two 'Tributes' from each Districts one boy and one girl from the ages of 12-18 are sent to the Capitol where they must partake in a grueling battle for survival called The Hunger Games. Each Tribute is trained privately and let loose in the 'Arena' where they must ultimately kill each other until only 1 tribute remains standing and pronounced the winner. We meet Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take part in The Hunger Games instead of her 12 year old sister Prim, who was originally chosen. Along with Katniss is boy tribute Peeta Mellark the bakers son. Both Katniss and Peeta head to the Capitol, where they realise that only one of them can survive.
When I first started reading this book I was so sickened by the idea of all these teenagers killing each other off, just for the entertainment of the residents of the Capitol. Ultimately this comes down to survival. I was on the edge of my seat when reading this book. I'm trying to grow my nails, so it was really hard to try not to bite them whilst reading this, safe to say the inside of my cheek has seen better days.
I loved our two main characters, Katniss with her strenght and will power, and knowledge of how to survive in the wild from hunting in the forest everyday back in District 12. Peeta, the bakers son who doesn't really have any kind of skill, except for camoflague (thanks to icing cakes) and his upper body strength, but ultimately this is a duo who are set on surviving the next ardious weeks of their young lives.
God this review sucks. Anyway, I think that's all I can say about this book. Except that I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, and I can't wait to continue with Catching Fire.
Read it! :)
on 21 April 2012
At the end of the second book, Katniss and co. have relocated to the rebel city of District 13, the city that the Capitol maintained was destroyed. From here, the characters plot their attack against the hated Capitol and President Snow, joining in the rebellion that's now taking place in all of the Districts, for a showdown between President Snow and Katniss Everdeen....
I thought this book had potential and hoped that it would be an improvement on the second book, a lacklustre sequel to the brilliant first book. While the story of "Catching Fire" felt like it was dragging its heels, "Mockingjay" doesn't even bother to disguise its weariness. Suzanne Collins basically gives up in the third book, she (and when I began reading it, me as well) just wants it to end. She's out of ideas.
First off, why is the rebel city basically another version of the Capitol? They're a group of people who escaped the Big Brother/tyrannical rule of the Capitol only to replicate it almost entirely in their new, separate city. I don't understand why Collins made this choice, doesn't she want us to like the rebels at all? It'd be like in Star Wars if there were two Darth Vaders fighting each other - which one do you root for?
But that detail slips by as you realise how slow the pacing of the book is. Katniss spends pages and pages recovering from her injuries before heading off to view a battle scene and becoming injured again. So she has to recover all over AGAIN. With the focus on Katniss who is unable to leave the safety of the rebel stronghold, this allows Collins to avoid writing a potentially riveting scene of Gale and Finnick leading a covert op to the Capitol and bust out Peeta. In fact, a lot of action and exciting scenes are avoided entirely by Collins who either can't be bothered or doesn't feel she's up to writing them. So instead we get to read about Katniss recovering from her injuries, playing with her cat, blah blah zzzzzzz....
And if you think Collins was out of ideas in "Catching Fire" when she instigated another Hunger Games to liven things up, wait until you realise that she pulls out that trick again with this book. Yes, you read that right, there is ANOTHER Hunger Games in this book! Except it takes place in an urban setting, in the streets of the Capitol, but it's still very, very contrived.
The final battle is very sketchy. Once Katniss and Gale make it to the President's Mansion, an explosion renders Katniss unconscious and the reader finds out about the victory in a sort of brief outline, with a lot of exposition from Plutarch. Once again, Collins fails to write what was potentially the most memorable scene of the series, and I don't know why she didn't. It just feels lazy and, to go back to the Star Wars analogy, what if instead of focusing on blowing up the Death Star the film was about Princess Leia sitting in her cell by herself doing nothing?
This being the final book in the trilogy, characters will die and Collins gleefully kills off characters she's built up, once the attack on the Capitol finally gets going. But don't expect anything memorable, the characters (and one really major one) are dismissed in a line or two and then the story moves on. Even Gale isn't spared from this treatment, though he survives, he disappears and is given a line at the end and that's it - so much for Katniss and Gale's special friendship!
What really bothered me though is the lack of triumph at the end. The evil Capitol is overthrown, peace and equality and freedom now reigns, but there's no feeling of success once you put the book down. You don't care that the rebels won because they were mostly unpleasant and unlikeable throughout. Katniss is miserable throughout as well so you don't feel good about her because she doesn't feel good. There are no more Hunger Games and yet rather than feel glad, you just wish they'd bring it back because the characters are so boring without it.
This third book stands in stark contrast to the first book which was hugely entertaining and thrilling to read while this third one is a chore to get through for very little enjoyment and a very poor ending, which is very disappointing, as I really wanted all of the books to be as brilliant as the first. However, Suzanne Collins' inventiveness didn't hold up as the series went on and instead of going out with a bang the series sputtered out like a damp firework. So much for the mockingjay, I'd suggest anyone contemplating reading the trilogy to just stick with the first book and move on.
I'd heard a lot of good things about these books, and being a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction in general, I decided to give them a go. I don't regret this, exactly, but they weren't exactly what I was expecting.
The first book follows our main character, Katniss, as she participates in The Hunger Games - an annual event in which a group of randomly selected young people have to fight to the death in an arena. The young people are selected from twelve poor Districts (two from each) surrounding a wealthy capital - of course, it's the rich people in the capital who are entertained by the poor kids fighting it out. The whole event is televised for the entire nation to watch. The second two books follow on directly from The Hunger Games, and examine the aftermath of the events portrayed therein, ultimately leading to an attempt at revolution from the Districts.
These books can be read on quite a shallow level as a simple adventure story, but there is a not very subtle attempt at examining what it means to be human and compassionate, how wealth and power can change you, and what sparks a revolution (and what is required to keep it going). The books are well-paced and fraught with tension - I read the lot in about three days flat, and could hardly bear to put them down.
The loss of a star comes from two things: the writing, and the main protagonist. The writing is, for the most part, very straight-forward and not particularly adventurous or descriptive. The reasons for this are clear (the story is told from Katniss' perspective, and for much of her life she has been too focussed on survival to be able to be highly imaginative), but at times it does feel stilted and overly simple. The main protagonist, Katniss, is not always likeable - but the problem is more that she is billed as a fairly intelligent young person, but seems completely oblivious, even stupid, when it comes to certain areas.
All in all, though, the books are an excellent read and well worth checking out, whether you are a member of the intended teenage audience or not.
on 15 April 2012
You have to accept the author's words that she hadn't heard of Battle Royale when she wrote this. To be fair, many elements of Battle Royale were not unique when it was written, but it kind of sets a modern standard for the use of the game as a form of control of the people that has been used by others, and is the standard by which this formula is judged. So like it or not, this book will be compared.
BR is quite a hard book to read; translations often are; but it's stunning, and it made a stunning film. It is extremely hard-edged. Being told in the third person, it's far harder to get an early handle on the winner; in The Hunger Games, it's a question of how, not if, Katniss will triumph.
This is standard teenfare; Swallows and Amazons with live ammunition if you like, and it works surprisingly well; there's enough action to keep you reading through something that's quite lengthy for what it really contains, and all the familiar caricatured characters of any school-based novel are there for all to see.
The Lord of the Flies could clearly be seen as an influence, too.
I think the author deserves credit for making the first person present narration work; this can really grate in some books, but it works pretty well here. However, given the first person narration, any form of suspense is missing as it's only a question of when and how the dice will fall in Katniss's favour, and this alone prohibits it from getting more than three stars, and should really reduce it to two.
Overall, yes, quite readable, but if it's considered special, that must be because it rises just a little above a desert of so much rubbish.
As a toxopholite, I welcome the new-found interest in archery amongst the young; let's hope it continues.
Some minor spoilers within.
I have read the hell out of these books in the past week - all three of them. It's a tremendously satisfying series of books and every single one of them was hugely enjoyable. However, the last book suffers (a little) from several issues. The first is that it just doesn't feel as coherent as the first two - without the driving force of the Games themselves, it has to be a very different book and the characters don't feel quite so credible to me. The second is that the ending seems to undermine most of the central messages I took from the book. It just doesn't gel - it's a jarring misstep to my sensibilities. The third is that the horror of the central plot-line loses a lot of its impact with the half-hearted way in which events are described. Certain characters, I feel, deserved better in their final send-offs.
Don't get me wrong - it's still an intensely good book, and a reasonably good cap-stone to a tremendous trilogy. It doesn't take away from how good the first two books are, and it stands up well as a book in and of its own rights. It's just I came away from it feeling a little colder than I think I would have if some other paths had been taken.
on 8 October 2012
I loved the first Hunger Games book. Liked the second. Hated the third. Probably hated it all the more because it is such a let down after the first two. There was so much potential to wrap the story up well and make a really dramatic statement, but this book is just filled with complex, interminable and pointlessly detailed battle scenes, and Katniss having a completely uncharacteristic breakdown. If you have read the first two, don't bother with this one, it'll ruin it all for you. I'm feeling quite bitter about that.
I think the problem is that Ms. Collins was rushed. As a writer myself, I know about deadlines, and I think that with the first two books selling like the new Twilight, she was put under too much pressure to get book 3 out as quickly as possible. It shows in that some of the writing really is quite juvenile and unpolished. I felt a bit like a teacher saying to her "I KNOW you can do better than this." I really wish she'd told her agent, editor, publisher and readers where to get off and taken all the time she needed to make a really satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
SPOILER ALERT: To save you having to buy and struggle through this book, I'm going to summarise what happens.
District 13 is alive and well and underground, and Katniss is taken there following the end of book 2 where her mother and Prim are living with the other survivors of District 12. It's ruled over by President Coin, who asks Katniss to be the symbolic mockingjay to unite the districts against the capital. Katniss does so, but starts to realise that Coin is just as corrupt and cruel as Snow and would be just as much a tyrant were she to gain his power. The Districts do all rebel, all-out war ensues with huge loss of life. During the battle Katniss sees a cloud of little parachute bombs kill a group of children, and then sees the unexploded bombs go off a few minutes later to kill the medics - including Prim - who have rushed in to help the survivors. Having heard this tactic discussed in District 13 she realises that this atrocity was committed by Coin, not the Capitol as Coin later claims.
When the Districts have won President Coin suggests reinstituting the Hunger Games - using the Capitol's children - as punishment for how they treated the Districts. Gale supports this idea (and Coin) but Katniss feels it makes them just as bad as the old regime. Still reeling from Prim's death, however, she agrees that the people responsible for killing her sister should suffer.
The execution of President Snow is staged and Katniss is to be the one to kill him since this was part of her terms for being the mockingjay. Instead, however, she shoots her arrow into Coin.
Snow dies from his mystery illness and Katniss goes into isolation in District 12 to have a completely uncharacteristic mental breakdown. Peeta is with her, since he too is messed up from torture by the Capitol. Twenty years later Katniss and Peeta are married with two little children and still living in the rebuilt District 12.
on 21 March 2012
The Hunger Games is the first Suzanne Collins book I have read and I had no idea of its premise before I began reading, Saturday lunchtime. I finished it before I went to bed that night, literally unable to stop reading and have already ordered the final 2 books in the trilogy. Though considered 'children's fiction', I would question this label and consider its appeal to be universal; I wouldn't recommend it to anyone younger than a mature 11 year old with excellent reading skills. Having said that I am looking forward to my 11 year old son reading it to me so we can discuss the political, moral and ethical implications that arise from this though-provoking book. I read this as a bookclub choice and all the middle-aged women in the group enjoyed it as much as I did - so much so we are now going to read the sequel 'Catching Fire' too - our group agreeing to read a sequel at all, let alone immediately after finishing the preceeding tale is a unique accolade for this trilogy. Amazingly we also unanimously enjoyed it; not a first, but a rarity!
I won't go into the plot as there are plenty of reviews that have already trodden that ground and with the film coming out imminently, I'm sure the plot won't be difficult to uncover. Another selling point of this novel is The Hunger Games' wide appeal; I am a secondary school English Teacher and all of my students who have read it have been incredibly enthusiastic about it, yet I have also recommended this book to my 11 year old son, 15 year old daughter, my husband and my grandad (not forgetting me and my middle-aged female cronies have also enjoyed it). So not only is it a great book at a great price, but it will be well-thumbed by the time your friends and family have finished with it. I had read a few mediocre books in a row recently and this story has restored my faith in contemporary fiction.
on 5 January 2012
Like many of the recent reviewers here I came to The Hunger Games Trilogy relatively late after being badgered by friends who had already read the trilogy. At first I was resistant given I had never before read any Young Adults literature and the friends who were telling me to read the series were adults who read Twilight books, so their opinions could hardly be trusted. However, as with most readers of the series I devoured the books in fairly short order once I started them.
I am a particular fan of dystopian and alternate-universe fiction and the Hunger Games series effectively communicates many of the themes found in the famous dystopian novels of Huxley, Orwell and Bradbury et al to a young adult audience who may be encountering these ideas for the first time. While some professional critics have criticised the books for merely re-treading ideas that have been more thoroughly addressed in these classic adult novels, there is enough in this trilogy to be worthwhile reading even for those who are familiar with the classics.
Collins particular strengths are plotting and pacing of the novels; the pacing is incredibly tight allowing the reader to spend enough time in the world of Panem to feel emerged in the universe, but the books are not so long as to seem repetitive or for the exhilarating speed of the novels to be slowed. One of the excellent additions that Collins makes is the focus how the Hunger Games are a reality TV show and the tributes are styled and given media training as part of their preparation. While this might seem frivolous and at first jars with the horrifying to-the-death battles the children are about to engage in, it is an excellent, almost over the top satire of the cynicism, manipulation and shallowness that exists in current reality television and the celebrities it produces.
Katniss, the trilogy's heroine and narrator, is wonderfully complex, a girl forced to grow up before her time and take care of her family, making her hard an unforgiving in some ways while also intensely loyal and loving to those who make it in to her inner circle. The characterisation of Katniss is excellent, depicting her as often unlikeable but always realistic in her reactions to events around her. My only criticism of the writing of Katniss is how very brave and resilient she is depicted as being, which leaves little room for her to growth over the course of the series. However she is such a captivating character that I am willing to over-look this, particularly in view of the dearth of strong female characters presented to teenage audiences.
While the book is certainly gory and frequently depressing it is aimed at teenagers who are starting to become aware of some of the injustices of the world through the news and through their history lessons. Through the eyes of the young heroine of the novel they are given the opportunity to view an unjust, if incredibly extreme, world and better appreciate the freedom and opportunity available to them.
I have both read the book and listened to the audio book of The Hunger Games and would strongly recommend either to anyone, young or old, who has an interest in emersive dystopian fiction.
on 24 February 2012
A series of natural disasters destroys North America. Natural resources and food are consequently seriously depleted. A new nation, Panem, is created and ruled by the Capitol (spelt with an O not an A). There were thirteen districts, each responsible for supplying Capitol with its needs (District 11 is agriculture, District 12 coal etc). Whilst the residents of Capitol live rich and decadent lifestyles, people in the districts live a life of poverty ...... every day is a fight for survival, where there is never enough food, where people die young and people are wary of being reported to the state (whose punishments are swift and inhumane). A violent uprising against Capitol culminates in them completely destroying District 13 as punishment. However, the rulers decide that a more lasting reminder of The Capitol's power is needed ...... and the Hunger Games are created.
Every year a lottery is held and a girl and boy from each district is selected to participate in The Hunger Games. Twenty four children between the ages of 12 and 18 are taken to an arena. The arena is a large landscape which can be constructed as a jungle, desert, glacier ...... dependent only on the whim of the Game Makers. The children are deposited in the arena and basically must kill every one of their competitors ..... only one child will be allowed to leave the arena alive. Every move is captured on camera and televised throughout Panem. The games are brutal. Violent. Cruel. Popular viewing in Capitol and compulsory viewing in The Districts.
Katniss has spent years fighting to survive. Living on The Seam (District 12) where there is never enough to eat, she learns to hunt and gather in the woods, with her Father as a mentor. He is killed and she learns to take responsibility for providing both her sister and her withdrawn Mother with food. She forms a bond with Gale and they hunt together. Help each other. Trust each other.
However, due to an unexpected turn at The Reaping (the lottery) Katniss finds herself taken to the arena with the Baker's son ..... a boy she hardly knows, other than his once generous gift of bread when she was literally starving. The two join twenty two other young people from the other districts and know that only one can win. Only one will be allowed to live.
This book was a great read. Katniss has led a tough life and despite the challenges life throws at her, she fights to provide for her family. I formed an immediate attachment to the 16 year old Katniss. She is a real "tough cookie" with a soft and tender centre. She was trying to survive in a world that crushes the weak, whilst attempting to resolve her conflicted feelings about the people she knew. Katniss is determined to never marry or have children as she cannot bear the thought of them having to endure The Hunger Games.
She finds herself transported from a life where finding food is the first priority to one where her very life is in danger every minute of every day and night. In a place where the more tortuous and prolonged a death is, the happier the Game Makers are, as it ensures them a larger viewing public. Life is no longer as simple as it once was. Alliances are formed and broken. Decisions need to be made about trust, decisions that could cost her life. And she must learn to kill ...... or be killed.
A great book that that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The plot runs smoothly, increasing in tempo and making it hard to put down. The characters are well written, well rounded and engaging. The story is a real page turner and I purchased and started reading the sequel as soon as I had finished this!
on 4 April 2012
In a dystopian future world, a plentiful society exists in a place called the Capitol which oversees 12 poverty-stricken Districts to produce specific products to maintain their charmed lives. As a way of re-affirming their dominance over the Districts (as well as provide a sadistic entertainment to the twisted rulers), they demand 2 "tributes" in the form of one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18 to travel to the Capitol and be placed in a vast arena to survive and fight to the death. These televised trials are called "The Hunger Games". This is the story of a 16 year old girl called Katniss Everdeen from District 12 who is one of the chosen.
I heard about this book a few years ago in Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly column but I decided not to read it as it was labelled "Young Adult" (YA) (I'm not a teenager) and because it seemed like a knockoff "Battle Royale", a superb Japanese film I'd seen in 2000 which has a very similar premise. Having read the book, in hindsight both of these reasons were ridiculous. The YA label is arbitrary at best and, reading it, I couldn't understand why this book is considered to be a teen book and not one for adults. Maybe the lack of swearing, sex, and overly descriptive violent scenes?
And the "Battle Royale" argument (which seems to bother a number of reviewers), well was that the first book to feature kids on an island killing each other? Has no-one read "Lord of the Flies"? Shirley Jackson wrote maybe the best haunted house novel with "The Haunting of Hill House" - does that mean Richard Matheson's "Hell House" or Stephen King's "The Shining" are invalid because they followed in her wake? Or Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" preceded both Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", so do we discount Huxley and Orwell entirely? Just because a concept has been done before, doesn't mean it can't be done again - and done better at that.
"The Hunger Games" is an exceptionally thrilling read. Suzanne Collins has crafted a compelling portrait of a world unrecognisable to our own, both futuristic and historic at varying times, but the best part of the book is, as it should be, the Games itself. Once Katniss enters the arena with the 23 other teens, I couldn't stop reading and finished the book on my second sitting, it was that exhilarating to read. Her battle to survive both on the basic level of eating and drinking what she could find, while escaping her would-be murderers, was a unique reading experience that I've never come across before and Collins does a fantastic writing job throughout. The survival part of the book echoed another excellent series of YA books I read when I was a teenager, Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet" books (highly recommended by the way), while the many Roman references made it seem like an extended teen "Gladiator".
I won't give away anything about the story here but suffice it to say that there are betrayals and killings that you don't see coming, and constant suspense throughout (even though you know Katniss makes it). Like I say, I don't know why this isn't considered an adult book but any adults reading this review should give this novel a go, ignore the YA label, it's very well written, very well-conceived, and an amazing action-thriller with elements of sci-fi thrown in. Excellent fun, I bought the other two books immediately after finishing this and can't wait to find out how this series continues.