The Hunger Games

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The Hunger GamesBy Suzanne Collins [LibraryThingAmazon]

Katniss Everdeen is a poacher in the poorest district of Panem, the country that exists where the United States used to be. She’s been single-handedly supporting her family for five years, and would do anything for her little sister — even take her sister’s place in Panem’s brutal Hunger Games, in which tributes (more accurately described as sacrifices) from each district are forced to fight each other to the death. On national television. At first, no one takes Kat seriously, but even as she proves herself a formidable opponent she rages against the system, knowing that if she survives and wins the Hunger Games, she may lose her humanity altogether.

Jess and I both read this book, in fact, devoured it, within days of its initial release last year. We’ve been trying to review it for months now, but it keeps getting put off, because there’s not actually much to say. You see, this book is., in a word, phenomenal. We have no real criticisms, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. All we could really think to do is list some of the ways in which it’s awesome.

So here you go!

1. Kat is a fantastic character. She’s a first-person narrator; she’s jaded and cynical, and very angry at the world — and understandably, given everything she’s been through even before the Games get started. She’s incredibly kick-ass and active in all the ways we love our protagonists to be, and her internal dilemma is as compelling as the external danger she’s in: if Kat manages to win the games, it’ll be by becoming a cold-blooded murderer, and losing her humanity. She’s terrified of letting that happen. But her only other alternative is to die. So what’s a girl to do?

2. The world building. It’s definitely a dystopian story, and Panem is a scary place. The difference between the haves and have-nots is striking and stark. The way Panem deals with enemies is also terrifying: the book takes place 80 years after a failed uprising — the event that gave rise to the original Hunger Games — in which one district was completely obliterated and is now basically salted earth; and Katniss runs across several horrific mutant animals that were used as weapons in that war. But on a smaller scale, she also sees what happens to individuals who dissent — and since she’s the hero, and Panem’s capital is villainous, of course we want her to dissent as readers. But we definitely know what the stakes are for that, and they aren’t pretty.

3. The plotting. The book is incredibly tightly plotted, full both moral dilemmas and serious danger (and you never get the feeling that Kat will be okay, just because she’s narrating). It isn’t a shock that the book is so well-drawn, given how utterly phenomenal Collins’ Underland Chronicles were, especially towards the end when all the small bits and pieces came into play. I can only imagine the scale on which that will happen in the Hunger Games trilogy, because with a first book as well written as this, and knowing that Collins is an amazing writer who can truly follow through on everything she has set up, I can only imagine the series getting better. And that is saying something, because the first book is really, really, really good.

Do I even need to say it? Five cupcakes and all the sprinkles in the world.


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