Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 0439023521
Trade Paperback
Note: This reviewer read a non-US edition.

Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. A reluctant heroine in a terrifying, post-war former North America, Katniss is 16 years old and has taken responsibility for her family after her father died. Every day she risks her life to hunt for food to sell and consume, the only thing saving her from persecution is the fact that she had the smarts to sell to local authorities. Her world falls apart when she is forced to volunteer for a horrifying, inhumane reality TV show.

A game to the death, The Hunger Games is reminiscent of Gladiator battles of old, with honour and glory bestowed upon the winner. None of the participants – one from each district of Panem – are volunteers, though those from the richer districts are more blood thirsty than their lesser competitors. Katniss is from District 12, the last and poorest district of her native country. She makes a splash pre-games and receives much attention, thanks to her stylist who seems to genuinely want her to win.

The games begin after much pomp and ceremony, and we are thrust into the action-packed, run to the death horror that are the Hunger Games. While the country watches on the television, these children (you have to be under 18 to participate) are forced literally to kill or be killed. Not only do they have to fight each other, they also have to counter the rules and deathly obstacles put in the “arena” by the Capitol – the oppressive government of the country.

This book, recommended to me by our own Lelia Taylor, had me on the edge of my seat (literally) and I can honestly say that Katniss Everdeen is the first hero or heroine I’ve really loved since Harry Potter gripped my heart 10 years ago. Like Harry, she is a reluctant hero, she does what it takes to survive and tries her best to keep her integrity in tact by living up to her own principles in a temporary world that goes completely against them. Don’t be put off by the fact that Stephenie Meyer is quoted on the cover. For all her authorial faults, she clearly has great taste in what she reads.

Suzanne Collins has given us a strong, sympathetic female teenage lead and a world that reminded me often of bloodthirsty, disgustingly rich and horrifically poor historical Europe. I absolutely can’t wait to read the last two books in the trilogy, as I have no idea where they’ll go. I just know I’m going to enjoy the ride.

Reviewed by Kate Ernst, November 2010.