Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games - From Suzanne Collins' Website
See my question at the bottom of this review.

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

I prop myself up on one elbow. There’s enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother’s body, their cheeks pressed together. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. Prim’s face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named. My mother was very beautiful once, too. Or so they tell me.

Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he’s a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.

Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.

I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has molded to my feet. I pull on trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag. On the table, under a wooden bowl to protect it from hungry rats and cats alike, sits a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Prim’s gift to me on reaping day. I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside.

Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn’t until two. May as well sleep in. If you can.

~Excerpt from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

On the way back from Vancouver last fall, I decided I wanted a quick read. Young Adult fiction would be perfect, since they were shorter in length. In the YVR airport, I browsed through the titles. I debated starting Twilight (as I have yet to read that), but I wasn’t in the mood for paranormal teen romance. Catching Fire had just been released in hard cover, and since I’d been curious about reading The Hunger Games, I purchased the paper back.

Set in a dystopian future, a boy and a girl from the twelve districts are sent to the capital to fight to the death in a deadly manipulated game of survivor. It was a premise I initially didn’t want to read, but being a trilogy intrigued me. I had to know more.

By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked, and new I’d found the next perfect book to devour. Suzanne Collins makes her heroine and family loved right from the start. They stick in your heart, and you don’t want to let them go. The premise, only 1 can survive out of a deadly survivor game, juxtaposed with the soul of a caring heroine and some other beloved characters makes the story fast-paced.

The world creation is outstanding, Suzanne Collin’s dystopia is a definite but not heavy-handed commentary on our society today. While you wonder about how people can willingly want to watch teenagers murder each other in a modern-day coliseum, you can’t help but sympathize with their ignorance. It makes the reader wonder what she’s seen in her day.

This was a book I not only devoured, but made me lie awake at night, wondering what was going to happen next. I pictured what I would do with the characters, and while I often knew what she foreshadowed, Ms Collins surprised me again and again. After I finished the book, I dreamed about the characters because they were so real to me. I consider this a tribute to Ms. Collins’ writing. The last books that achieved that with me were the Harry Potter series. (I read the first four one long weekend in August years ago.) Part of it is the unfinished feel to the Hunger Games; the reader is left wanting more. Her trilogy should almost be packaged as one book.

I’m curious to see how the movie turns out. The fashion and the games should have some pretty interesting special effects. I’m also excited about some of the cast members. However, I think part of the success of the book is Katniss’ first person account. I don’t know how the movie will handle that transition, but I hope they do it well. Suzanne Collins shares co-screenwriter credits, so that should help.

I completely recommend this books (and series – future posts on the next 2 books coming soon.), however, I have a caveat.

Make no mistake, this book is brutal, and it’s labelled a mature read with good reason. I probably would have read this book earlier as a child, probably around 8-10 years old. But that doesn’t mean I should have. Publishers recommend this book to those at least 12, because it deals with so much death. If I’d read the book at 8, I would definitely have had nightmares.

Q4U: I mentioned the Harry Potter series and now the Hunger Games series as books I not only devoured, but with characters I embraced in thoughts and dreams. What books have affected you that way?

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