Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

March 23, 2012 § 6 Comments

Cover of

I have to admit that I initially gave The Hunger Games trilogy the stinkeye. I remember standing at the bestsellers table at the front of Borders bookstore (oh, sniff, Borders!) and reading the synopses. Teenagers being forced to fight to the death? I’ll pass on this series, thanks. But I continued to hear so many rave about it that I began reading The Hunger Games. It was tough. My stomach twinged with anxiety from the opening paragraph. Despite my dread, which sometimes felt as formidable and dense as an iron curtain, I kept returning because of Katniss Everdeen. I had to rejoin her — I couldn’t leave her to face her road of trials alone.

In a future post-apocalyptic North America known as Panem, the rich and powerful Capitol rules over twelve poorer outlying districts. Each year, as punishment for one past and quashed insurrection, the Capitol forces each district to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to fight to the death in the nationally televised Hunger Games. The last one alive is the victor. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in the coal mining District 12 and hunts illegally to provide food for her mother and twelve year-old sister Prim. When Prim’s name is drawn as District 12’s girl tribute for the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers in her place. Katniss must compete against 23 other tributes, including Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son, who once slipped her a loaf of bread when she was starving. Even though the odds are stacked against her, she promises her distraught sister that she will really try to win. But to triumph and return home, she must be the last one standing, even if it means killing the one person who saved her life.

I now know why this book is so phenomenally popular. My connection to Katniss during my two-week journey with her was visceral—I’d be at work typing on the computer and suddenly stop, adrenaline flowing, worrying about how she was going to handle the next situation. When she is paired with kind yet unpredictable Peeta in the training, it is sickeningly poignant because what lies ahead is her being thrown into the arena with this boy and forced to fight against him. It is a testament to her magnetism that for a good chunk of the book, she is on her own, trying to outwit her opponents, yet that portion is just as compelling and seared into my brain as the parts where she is interacting with others. The dehumanizing circumstances amplify what makes up our humanity—the need for a friendly face, a world of encouragement, a hand to hold onto, crushingly, for dear life. At the forefront is Katniss’ desire to protect her precious and fragile sister, whom she loves desperately:

 “And then I see her, the blood drained from her face, hands clenched in fists at her sides, walking with stiff, small steps up toward the stage, passing me, and I see the back of her blouse has become untucked and hangs out over her skirt. It’s this detail, the untucked blouse forming a ducktail, that brings me back to myself.”

For this book, I jealously set aside a day of my weekend to finish it. I paced the house, distracted, until I could sit down and immerse myself till the very end. I didn’t want to put it down to quench thirst, fill my stomach, or take a piss. When I finished, I walked around in a daze and was so thankful that there are two, albeit increasingly violent, more books to go. Any book that compels an introverted individual such as myself to initiate a conversation about it in the company lunchroom or to babble about it, huffing and puffing away, to a complete stranger who had the book open on the stationary bike next to me at the gym—this is a book that the world should be reading.

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§ 6 Responses to Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • Emma says:

    I just finished it yesterday and can’t wait to delve into the next part tomorrow. Katniss is a brave and independent woman. She was a great character to spend time with.

  • Oh, Borders, how I miss you. It makes me sick to my stomach when I pass by some of their old storefronts and see a teenybopper clothing store in its place.

    Anyhow, thanks for this. I’m slow to the game and only just saw The Hunger Games at a discount theater yesterday. Like you, I passed by the section because I didn’t want to fall into the hype. I think now that it’s died down a bit, it’s time to try it out. I have a feeling that I know what the next several weeks will be spent doing…


    • Shannon says:

      Oh, I still miss Borders, it’s terrible. There’s a furniture store where my local Borders used to be, and every time I pass it, it just doesn’t feel right. I have to tell you that if you liked the movie The Hunger Games, you will love the book. Love. It’s so much better than the movie.

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