on 29 March 2012
This time last week I had not heard of the Hunger Games trilogy. I was happy and content in my oblivious state too but it all changed very quickly! My Facebook page went Crazy on Saturday with talk about the movie and how fantastic it was, how it was true to the books and generally there was a buzz in the virtual atmosphere! My curiousity was aroused and I googled "Hunger Games", saw there were books available and so downloaded the first to my Kindle.
I started reading the first book on Sunday morning and by Sunday night I had completely devoured it. My housework did not get completed and dinner was more than a bit late. Where on earth was this series hiding and why had I not heard of it before now?
The whole story is so well thought out, rounded characters, brilliant use of the English Language, imaginative and simply an enthralling pleasure to read. Don't be fooled that these books are aimed at Teens - I'm 32 and loved it. I loved it so much that I downloaded the other two books in the series immediately - I had to find out what happens to the characters and follow them on their quest. I had a bit of a late night Sunday and then during my hour lunch break for the next couple of days finished the second book which is just as captivating. I'm starting the third tonight, but am sure I will be sad to see it end.
If you only read one book this year, please make it this one - you really won't be disappointed. I can't stop raving about these books to my friends and colleagues and I had to come on here and write a review to tell you to read it too!
on 2 November 2011
Ever since Harry Potter, I have spent my time trying to find books with characters I love as though they were my own friends, and with a plot so real that I felt it could actually be happening. Most books disappoint me in this area and I've had to settle for a lot of mediocrity. But not this time. Hunger Games drew me so far into its world I didn't want to leave!
Hunger Games is set in the future where North America has been turned into a country called Panem, separated into 12 districts and the Capitol. As if constant hunger wasn't bad enough, the districts are constantly reminded of the "Dark Days", when they rebelled against the Capitol, by punishing their children in the Hunger Games. Every year each District must send one boy and one girl to the Capitol to take part in these Games where they must fight each other to their deaths. The winner is the child who comes out alive, having presumably killed all the others. The Hunger Games is reality TV at its very extreme; mere entertainment for the wealthy and pampered residents of the Captitol, but torturous for the Districts, who have to watch their children year by year go off to the Capitol to be killed.
This book starts on the day of the Reeping, where the teenagers who will enter the Games are chosen at random throughout the districts. We follow Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl of District 12. Katniss has been scarred deeply by the death of her father in a mining disaster several years ago and since then has been breaking the laws of Panem by hunting animals in the forest in order to feed her starving family. You can't help but feel for Katniss, who has lost so much and tries so hard to care for her family, and when her little sister Prim is chosen in the Reeping, you can understand why she volunteers to take her place. And so the story follows her, along with fellow District 12 Tribute Peeta, as they head off to the luxurious Capitol, and finally head into the Hunger Games where you will be unable to put the book down, waiting to see if/how Katniss will survive.
This might all sound a bit morbid and violent and that was definitely a big concern for me when the concept of the Games was first introduced. But I read on anyway and was pleased to discover that while yes, people died and yes the idea of the games is horrific, it was so carefully written that it didn't feel morbid at all. Instead of feeling sick, you're taken on a journey with Katniss as she wakes up to the idea that the world she lives in is highly unfair. It's not a constant bloodbath where murder is just something you have to do; Katniss learns quickly the awful consequences of taking someone's life and death is treated with a heavy heart indeed. It also relates to so many aspects of our own world, and it's not a far stretch to imagine some time in the distant future a society like this. For that reason, instead of being a morbid tale of death and injustice, it will probably open your eyes to many of the injustices in our own world.
But don't worry, the Hunger Games won't leave you feeling completely miserable. The tragic moments are brightened considerably with light-hearted moments and some brilliant characters: I loved Cinna, the stylist, who is incredibly creative; I enjoyed drunken Haymitch, the only Tribute from District 12 who ever came back alive, who is enlisted to help Katniss and Peeta, and has a hidden depth that may surprise you; Peeta brings a certain amount of humour to the story, but also a wisdom that is beyond Katniss. Add to that Career Tributes, from Districts 1, 2, and 4 who have spent their lives training for the Games and see it as a great honour; a would-be love-triangle; and a main character you will feel for not because she's pathetic or a damsel in distress character (she's neither of these things!), but because she is feisty and fighting so hard to find justice in a world that has little, you can't help but hope she succeeds.
So what with the characters I felt I knew personally, a plot that seemed so real I came out of the book in a daze, and enough pace and action to keep me wanting more, I found myself reading this book at every possible moment and hating every second I spent away from it! I did not want to finish this book and finishing it was the most awful moment of the whole book! Possibly one of my favourite books of all time, Hunger Games is a trend-setter like Harry Potter and Twilight before it. It will define a generation of books and those who read it; if you don't read it you will be missing out on a HUGE moment.
The Hunger Games is on the way to our big screens (23 March in the UK and US) and therefore I thought it only right and proper to do what I should do more often when a movie comes out that's based on a book - read the book. I have the best intentions to read the trilogy in its entirety before the release because I suspect that there may be borrowings from Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the film adaptation but so far I have just read the one that people are talking about an awful lot - The Hunger Games.
In a near and dark future the bit of our world that we know as North America is now Panem. At its centre is The Capitol and around it are 12 Districts, each devoted to a different industry (such as mining or farming). But once there were was a District 13. This District was destroyed in an uprising against the President and his controllers. The result of this rebellion is that each year the remaining Districts must watch a son and a daughter fight to the death in front of their eyes in some kind of obscene reality television show called The Hunger Games. Two children, aged between 12 and 18, are put into an artificial environment, given limited weapons and food, and are aggravated and teased and prodded and goaded into slaughtering the others - or at least those who do not die of hunger or dehydration or mishap - until just one survives. This entertainment has been crafted with rituals and careful design into something appallingly oppressive yet ornate that mocks the fact that its victims are young and frightened children.
Our heroine is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen from the grottiest and poorest of the Districts, the twelfth. She is placed into the Games not because her name was called in the lottery but because the name that was called was that of her 12-year-old sister. Katniss protects her family and is its provider, illicitly hunting outside the District's wire and scraping at survival. It's inconceivable that this brave girl wouldn't protect her sister now. The boy who is called with her to `play' is Peeta, whom, it turns out, is a boy who once saved Katniss' life. And so begins the Hunger Games, as we see it through the detailed, evocative and frighteningly grown up narrative of Katniss.
The Hunger Games is essentially a novel in three parts: the run up to the Games, the Games themselves and their conclusion. We shift between District 12, with its soot-faced mining occupants and its hungry inhabitants, to the Capitol with its extravagant foods, rooms, trains and clothes. Finally, there is the artificial environment of the Games themselves, populated by the 24 youngsters and whatever other beings the Gamemakers introduce to stir things up a bit.
For me, the most interesting part of the novel wasn't the Games, which I didn't think went dark enough despite the horrors, but the world that Suzanne Collins has created here, with the Districts, the Capitol and its uneasy, sometimes voiceless inhabitants. The Games are just one element of a truly fascinating, well-evoked and quite alarming vision of the future where it's almost as if the parents have given up.
The Hunger Games is an excellent novel. It may sound long at over 450 pages but these are swift and fast and they rush past the eyes. The excitement never lets up and when it finally ends you'll be glad that there are another two novels to go in the trilogy. I am a big fan of Young Adult dystopian fiction and, while this isn't my favourite, it is certainly a novel I recommend to all ages, not least because we will soon see it brought to the big screen. Suzanne Collins has seen the finished film and, from the sound of it, it delivered with Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class) doing a fine job bringing Katniss to life. But before you enjoy that, I urge you to enjoy the book.
on 2 April 2012
Suzanne Collins has said that she wrote 'The Hunger Games' series to condemn 'reality TV and the Iraq war' and I,as a reader, believe that she has succeeded in her aim. 'The Hunger Games' is a televised competition broadcast across the country of Panem, (a North America of the far future made up of thirteen districts) where a boy and a girl from each 'district' is selected each year to fight to the death in an arena until only one person survives. This synopsis may sound brutal and horrific, and to a great extent it really is, but it also shows us how the power of human nature can fight back from such atrocities. The main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers for the Games so that her sister does not have to take part, is a particularly flawed character and yet this helps to give her the appealing persona that she has. She is first and foremost a fighter and a hunter, but her struggles with her own personal emotions show signs of vulnerability in her personality, something which I believe is needed in order to make her a more rounded character. The 'love-triangle' in the series does at times get a little bit tedious and irritating- there are certain points where the reader will think, 'For goodness sake, just choose!' however this is by no means the main plot line to the novel, but instead an underlying one. Peeta, the boy who is selected to fight with (and indeed against) her is, as Collins describes in 'Mockingjay' the final book in the trilogy, 'the dandelion in the spring'; the character who helps to keep the fiery Katniss grounded when no-one else can. His character compliments Katniss' (even though at times she is really quite awful to him!!). Gale, the third member of this 'triangle' is more like Katniss in temperament- he is fiery and hot-headed- which makes the reader see why Katniss feels so at ease in his company.
The condemnation of reality TV comes in with the reactions of the people across Panem towards the events shown on the programme- they appear to be delighted and enthralled by the bloodbath which commences, and rejoice when the people at the Capitol control and manipulate the arena to create deadly obstacles for the tributes (players) to face. However, we also see the reactions of the families of the tributes to several of the deaths, showing that in fact, the majority of people are appalled by such events.
I do believe that these books deserve a five-star rating, despite their flaws. The main issue I had with this series however was the last 50 pages of 'Mockingjay'. Yes, I was happy with the conclusion, but I felt that it was somewhat rushed and that the fate of Katniss came down to events of coincidence and chance rather than those of choice on her part (you will see what I mean when you read it) which was a little bit disappointing. However, I think that these books are an absolute must-read (for adults as well as teenagers!) and that they will be remembered for many years to come.
on 29 November 2011
I have to side with all the five-star reviewers!
I enjoyed reading this SO much! I thought that the characters, who we have learnt to love in the previous books, developed new layers to their personality - Peeta in particular! A lot of other reviews have suggested that Katniss is unlikable and that she becomes weak and 'whiney', but I found her one of the most relatable characters BECAUSE of her flaws. Her reactions to the trauma that she suffers makes this one of the most gut-wrenching books I've read.
I think that the source of a lot of disappointment for the other more negative reviews is that this story has a non-conventional ending. I think the ending may have alienated a lot of people as it's not a stereotypically 'happy ending' but, personally, I found this a fantastic thing! With other series of books I've read, notably Harry Potter, although I loved them, I found myself asking just how much of a happy ending there could be for the main characters when so many bad things have happened in their lives. I loved the bittersweet ending of Mockingjay, where we see a world still affected by the traumatic events of the past.
I think that in comparison to a lot of (dare I use the phrase) 'Young adult' fiction that shows a dull love triangle, this book shows that no matter what happens, there is always hope and I found this to be a refreshing message. This book won't be everyone's cup of tea but I would encourage everyone to read this book - but maybe ask them to forget about the conventional ending that they were probably expecting.
There are flaws in this book, don't get me wrong, but I would challenge anyone to find a perfect book. For me, I review a book depending on whether I felt anything for the characters and whether I would read it again. By those criteria, it deserves every one of those 5 stars.
I hope that this has been helpful in some way!
So, Mockingjay. I'm not going to lie - I am addicted, obsessed and completely loyal to this trilogy, so my review is reflective of that - but even so let me tell you, this book did not exactly bring me joy. It evokes a lot of emotions, yes but I was crying not smiling at the end of it.
Mockingjay stays true to its dystopian origins. While a lot will not agree with me, I feel that the grimness of the book is a part of its strength. In true dystopian fashion, it explores the downfall of human conscience and displays the worse of our attributes; like Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I was appalled by many of the events in the book and at points felt sick at the ability of the characters to act as cruelly as they do. At times I felt that Mockingjay borders on unbearable - exactly how grim can a book be? It seems that nothing close to happily ever after can be associated with this book, because believe me, it can be depressing.
I can't help but comment on all the political implications on this book, because the trilogy is far beyond just Katniss' story. The workings of the rebellion and the fight for freedom takes a bulk of the book and the tension spirals out of control in many of its pages.As the mockingjay, Katniss traverses the thin line that divides both sides. I love the twisted, wicked feel of the battle because that was exactly how I imagined it to be. Not only full of secrets, but full of dark aims and uncertainties.
There is a lot I can say about how the characters' fates are sealed. We know beforehand that there will be deaths; what we do not know is who will die. Or exactly how many. As it turns out, no number of speculations could possibly have prepared me for the depressing turn of events in Mockingjay. Unfair will not even begin to cover what I think, because really I felt as if the characters were oppressed. Their circumstances were too heavy to comprehend experiencing, and the book does not give them what happiness they were due. The strength of characters is evident here, as clearly as their weaknesses. At this point, we readers are already very attached to the characters, so extreme reactions are expected. When I found out exactly who dies, I literally screamed and cried and wished the words changed. It was not supposed to happen, that was my primary reaction. There was a sense of hopelessness and helplessness and surely, you have got to be kidding? I felt as if I was killed right along with the character(s).
It was even more painful to read about the fates of those who were indirectly responsible for those deaths. And while I was not happy with the decisions of some of the major characters, I can understand the rationale behind it. It was not easy to pretend to be in their shoes and emphatise, but to comprehend the depth of pain and grief is, and that understanding is what makes it seem like a true decision. Depressing, but I felt that the portrayal of the damages to the human persona is not only accurate but also vivid, I believe Mockingjay stays true to its origins.
The ending I felt is slightly too rushed for my liking and too much too short. I am not sure I approve with what happened to some of the major characters, because towards the end I felt the need to know more about how they fared. I needed details, further insights and I don't think that was exactly granted. The ending is open to interpretations and leaves a lot to the reader to ponder and imagine. It is not happy per se, but as close to happiness as a dystopian trilogy like this one can be. I'm going to go ahead and say that the ending be-fits the feel of the trilogy. Had it been a flowery happy ever after, I would have much disliked it, because then it would appear as if it was only made to please the readers. It's not the best possible ending, but I can envision it happening following the events of Mockingjay. So it is a neat ending I guess. Still, I needed more!
I'm sure Mockingjay is part evil - it gave me such a terrible case of withdrawal once I finished that I did not know what to say or do - and that was on top of all the other emotions the events in the book evoked! There was a sense of 'now what?' that hovered over me when it was over, and I was emotionally-drained. Which means it's a good book, a great trilogy and a worthy read. Which means I am still hooked to it, and will probably always be. Which means Katniss' story is unmissable. Prepare to scream, kick and cry with this final book.
The hunger games is focussed on an almost surreal world where "The Capitol" is watching over a set of 12 districts. These districts each have different skills, some are fantastic farmers or hunters or bakers and so on. The hunger games is a broadcast show which all 12 districts can watch and essentially become a part of. One boy and One girl from each district is chosen to fight in the hunger games - and it's a fight to the death. The winner? Well, they're the last living contestant. However, what seems quite a relevant twist is that the contestants are children of varying ages and degrees of strength and independance.
It's such a brilliant book in that you really do become totally engaged. You're desperate to determine who will survive and really you don't want anyone to lose. It's awful in one sense because children have to die in the world of the hunger games and at times their deaths seem premeditated - as though there might be some set-ups.
I don't want to ruin the story for anyone but it really is a young-adult gem but I think you could enjoy it even as an adult. It's a less gruesome and more complex version of the movie "deathrace" but of course, there are no cars because the contestants are, in this case, in the middle of reality world created specifically to test their survival skills.
Definitely worth a read, the cover is great too - you can change the character on the front. Enjoy!
on 10 September 2011
I ignored this book for a long time on the basis that I felt it sounded too similar to Battle Royale. However I have finally got round to reading it, and am glad I did -whilst there are plenty of flaws, this is a fast paced, thrilling, adventure story, which provides surprises and visceral entertainment.
Katniss and Peeta are the teenage 'tributes' chosen from District 12, the poorest district of a post-apocalyptic North American society. Their district specialises in mining - others concentrate on farming, machinery, etc - but Katniss is actually a skilled 'outdoorswoman' - following her father's death, she has had to make a living off the land. Peeta is a baker's son - but one with a showman's gift for oratory. They and 22 other teenagers - 2 from each district - are required to fight to the last survivor in a televised arena battle. And yes, the arena is pretty much that of Battle Royale, with death zones, individual weapons, teenage love, regular announcements of the slain, etc. Basically if you just imagine Ms. Collins got permission to tell a story in Takami's setting, you'll be able to enjoy the story far more.
So other than the ...um, 'borrowed' premise, what else is wrong with it? Wafer thin characterisation - most of the other tributes are cardboard cut outs- iffy moralising ('Katniss stabbed him in the face. Later she reflected, 'Oh God, what have I done, how could I kill another human. I hate the government.' Then she fired an arrow into the heart of Boy Two from District Nine'). I paraphrase, but the moral struggle is filler, not truth. And some lazy story-telling - on entering the arena, Peeta is able to form an alliance with other tributes, whom we have never seen him talk to, who we are told do not rate his abilities and who would have been able to easily dispatch him.
But there is plenty right with the book too - the prose is strong, the action relentless and believable, and Katniss' romantic dilemma is much better defined than her issues with killing people. The Rue scene - you'll know it when you read it - is pitch perfect and remains with you long after the book is closed.
on 5 October 2015
I'm not going to waste your time telling you what The Hunger Games books are all about (you can get that from the blurb) but instead will tell you what I would want to know about this hugely popular trilogy. They are well written, carefully plotted novels that take you into a dystopian future so believable you will be glad you are not in the 12 - 16 age bracket. The story is horrific and terribly violent but I did hand the books over to my 11 year old who'd heard about them from his friends talking about the films. Why would I put images in my son's head of children killing children? Simply put, because the novel does not glorify violence and, unlike video games, shows the result of violence to be devastating. The book provoked lots of questions about freedom and control which gave us a chance to talk about oppression in today's world. And let's not forget they are a cracking good read. My reluctant-reader ploughed through them in record time.
Suzanne Collins is a wonderfully talented writer (she was one of the writers on Clifford the Big Red Dog) whose deft touch creates superb characters that are so alive they stay with you for months after you have finished. I loved these books too and I'm a middle-aged Mum. I loved them so much I bought copies for my niece, godson and friend's child. And I so enjoyed Suzanne Collins' writing that I then ordered her Gregor the Underlander fantasy series and devoured them too (and yes they are great too but for different reasons). So yes, you should let you child read these thought provoking books.
on 9 July 2012
I gave the first two books 5* as I genuinely felt they were both truly amazing. Sadly I can't say the same for the final book of this trilogy. Towards the end of the book it felt VERY rushed and there were plenty of open-ended 'scenes' which I felt could have been handled better. It's such a shame because it could have been something great but sadly it feels quite incomplete.