This is the first book in a young adult series (and I think it shows!) about a dystopic world where the United States is now known as Panem. Divided into twelve distinct districts that each have their own industrial focus, Panem is ruled from the Capitol with an iron fist. To help keep the people in linewhich is very necessary considering everyone is kept on the brink of starvationthe Capitol requires each district to send two tributes (a boy and girl) to The Hunger Games each year. A country-wide televised event, The Hunger Games changes each year, with a special arena being constructed for each game. What doesn't change is the basic rule: all tributes must either kill or be killed, and only one tribute can be left standing at the end.
The concept of having young people being thrown together in an arena and being forced to fight to the death sounds horribleand it is, but it also makes for exciting reading. The story is told from the point-of-view of Katnissa 16-year-old girl from District 12 (the coal mining district in what used to be Appalachia). Katniss is not your average girl by today's standards. She's a rule-breaker (leaving the fenced district to hunt for food in the woods) and a skilled hunter, especially with bows and arrows. When her beloved younger sister Prim is selected as a tribute for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. As she enters the flamboyant, anything goes world of the Capitol, we learn more about the Games and her fellow tributePeeta, a good-looking son of a baker who showed kindness to Katniss years ago. When they are thrust into the arena, all bets are off as Katniss struggles to survive and be the last tribute standing. But Peeta throws a wrench into the mix and changes Katniss's game plan, leading to an ending that is sure to cause problems for everyone involved.
In the second book, Catching Fire, (and I doubt if you read the first book you won't continue on with the series), we get to find out what happens after the Hunger Games described in the first book. Once again, Collins sets up a cliffhanger ending that will probably ensure that the third installment will shoot straight to the top of the best-seller lists.
I'm not going to talk too much about these books as they've probably been discussed to death already. My guess is if the concept of the books appeals to you, you're going to read this series and will be pretty satisfied with them. I didn't think the writing was stellar and I had some issues with Katniss being unaware of what is going on around her (especially in the second book), but these books are meant to be fast exciting reads and they don't disappoint. Frankly, I felt Collins could have dropped the whole "love triangle" subplot and had a better book, but perhaps that is just me.
The Bottom Line: 4 stars for concept and 3.5 stars for execution. Perfect for young adults and anyone seeking a fast-moving dystopian tale that doesn't make you think too much. I read both books in a day. These books are the equivalent of eating a candy bara candy bar with spikes in itbut a candy bar nonetheless.
Reviewed by Cat for TeensReadToo.com
Twenty-four children: twelve boys, twelve girls, tributes selected by random lottery every year and sent to the capitol city of Panem to compete in a brutal, bloodthirsty fight for survival, with the last participant standing declared champion.
Welcome to the Hunger Games, a grim reminder to those living in the twelve districts comprising what was once the United States of their place as virtual slaves to the gleaming Capitol at their center.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is this year's female representative for District 12, having volunteered to take her younger sister Prim's place. Sent to the arena with the baker's son and classmate, Peeta Mellark -- a boy who, several years prior, saved Kat and her family from the ravages of starvation after her father's death in a coal mining accident -- neither competitor from the final district seem to be contenders.
But Peeta's good nature and Kat's small stature belie the former's cunning intelligence and the latter's experience as a hunter; while a revelation from Peeta during the introductory ceremonies sends Katniss into the first day of competition more than a little off-kilter.
The stage is set, the tributes have arrived, and the cameras are watching...let the games begin.
It is no exaggeration to call THE HUNGER GAMES a pulse-pounding page-turner. Collins grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go. While Katniss isn't always the most likable character (in fact, there were plenty of times I much preferred the affable Peeta, or even sweet, birdlike little Ruth), she is always compelling, thanks to her rational approach to every challenge and her dogged determination.
While THE HUNGER GAMES is a plot-driven novel, the characters and their relationships are the heart of the story. Ms. Collins has created a dystopian tale of Orwellian caliber for young adults, giving any reader plenty to churn their minds between now and the next installment of this trilogy.
My only complaint is having to wait for the next installment.
THE HUNGER GAMES is without doubt one of the best books I have ever read. 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives with her family and friends in what used to be North America. Now, it's divided up into 12 impoverished fenced-in Districts and ruled by the faraway Capitol of Panem. The Capitol keeps all the Districts in line by hosting the annual Hunger Games. One boy and one girl--called "tributes"--are randomly selected to fight all the other tributes to the death on live TV.
Katniss frantically volunteers in place of her beloved and delicate young sister, Prim, when Prim is chosen. While Prim would not have stood a chance, Katniss is strong and resourceful. Often she has hunted illegally in the woods outside of their district to provide food for her family.
She is joined in the Hunger Games by Peeta Mellark, the baker's son. Katniss is a coal miner's daughters and thus their socioeconomically different lives have never crossed, except once when Peeta basically saved her life. But now she knows that they must kill each other if they want to get out of the Hunger Games alive...even if they may or may not have feelings for each other.
THE HUNGER GAMES is suspenseful, action-packed, and well-written, with an endearing love story. Suzanne Collins spins a terrifying dystopian world for readers. I was only sad when the book ended too soon and left some important issues--will anything be done about the totalitarian government?--unanswered. However, the ending seems to promise a sequel, which I will anxiously await.
Young adult novels have always had a dark side, so to speak; a sub-genre that eschews peer pressure and turbulent relationships for death, despair, and destruction. This is not a recent trend. For every Death Note you find today, you can find an equally disturbing Z for Zachariah. While much of todays dark teen novels lean towards the supernatural, you will occasionally find one that ventures into more classical science fiction territory. Suzanne Collins newest YA novel, The Hunger Games, does so quite successfully. The setting is grim and oppressive, the characters are desperate and hopeless, and the specter of death hangs over every page. And every page will drag the reader eagerly to the next.
Strong and positive female leads are important in young adult novels, and The Hunger Games has the perfect hero in Katniss Everdeen. She is tough, resolute, intelligent, and able. Yet, she still struggles with the same confused feelings and emotions that young girls need to cope with, even when not fighting to the death in a government sponsored reality show/snuff film. As she struggles to survive the deadly prime-time death match she has been unfairly thrust into, she deal not only with these typical teenage dilemmas, but also greater issues concerning government, society, morality, and honor.
All of this might seem like a lot for one book to handle, but Hunger Games manages to do so without coming off too preachy or instructional. Granted, the Hunger Games themselves (which are very reminiscent of previous books like Stephen Kings Running Man, or Koushun Takamis manga series Battle Royale), as well as the post-apocalyptic dictatorship Panem that holds the event, might not hold up under the scrutiny that hardcore science-fiction novels sometimes demand. But for a young adult science-fantasy novel like this, demanding one-hundred-percent social-political realism seems a tad unfair. What matters is that the characters and setting support the characters and subject matter, and manage to do so with the captivating suspense of any mainstream paperback thriller.
This is a fantastic book, and series in general (although the first book was better than the second). I have never read Harry Potter or Twilight or any other "teen series" book that everyone is obsessed with, but after reading this book I can understand the hysteria. The characters are very well developed, easy to relate to, and interesting. The plot is unique, intriguing, horrifying, and entertaining all at once. It is a quick read and I suggest buying both books at the same time - you won't want any lag time between continuing the story!