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Oct 31

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (TMWTR)

About this Book
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning? 
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
When I was in college, I had to read and analyze a short story (which was taken from a novel whose name I can’t remember, nor the author) in one of my English classes.  The short story was about a man who lived on an island and had some people come to visit him. He let the people go and then hunted them. I know I’m being vague, but I honestly can’t remember anything more than that about it. Well, that and the fact that The Hunger Games reminded me of that short story for some odd reason. 
This book has a lot of people singing it’s praises, and while The Hunger Games does have some good things about it, and it is an enjoyable story, I’m afraid that it also has enough problems to nicely balance it out. Collins has done something which is quite amazing for a reader such as myself. She’s created an absolutely unbelievable story, and made it an interesting, somewhat enjoyable read. 
Collins has a very descriptive, almost lyrical cadence to her writing. It’s her writing which makes the book shine, and probably why there are so many fans of the series. I can understand, after reading this book, how many readers fell in love with the series. The story is emotionally intense and, when coupled with Collin’s descriptive writing has the inevitable effect of sucking a reader in, and wrapping around their mind. It could easily become hard for a reader to separate themselves from the story. 
However, despite Collins’ obvious talent with writing, the story had a tendency get bogged down with memories and internal dialogue. These stories do serve to help the reader understand more of the world and character background, often garnishing sympathy and understanding from the reader. It became apparent during a few of them that Collins could have portrayed the same amount of information to the reader in a shorter amount of time. This did, occasionally, cause the overall pace of The Hunger Games to drag and make certain situations/stories seem overly wordy.
While it was fairly easy for me to overlook many of the overly long back stories, the major issue I had with the book was one of believability. I just could not suspend disbelief enough to actually believe anything like The Hunger Games would actually ever exist. It kind of reminded me of a mixture of 1984 and the short story I discussed at the beginning of this review. My main problem with it was that, while I’m not a parent, I can’t imagine any parent  actually allowing their children to be taken off for something like that, no matter who was doing the taking or for what reason. Human nature only bends so far. Parents all over the world have died to protect their kids from injustices which were less than those found in this book. I simply could not believe that any parent, much less parents of starving children in a backwater, pissed on district would allow their kids to be taken by some illusive Capitol to fight to the death on television. 
I realize this is a point many readers and series fans will probably take issue with, but when I look at the overall work critically, the story being told simply is not believable with human nature, or the world she has created. There is a problem here where, when looked at objectively, things just don’t add up and this in turn kept me from becoming fully engaged in the tale being told. 
The characterization was rather iffy for me as well. Collins made a very wise decision to tell her story in present tense, which let the reader wonder what the ending would actually be but that wasn’t really necessary. From the first page I pretty much had the entire book figured out and knew exactly how it would end. Katness’s development was unbalanced. While her history was very well done, believable and interesting, the current situations and her narration of them could border on washed out. Some of her actions didn’t really make sense when put in context with who she is. Basically what I’m saying is her past was more interesting than her present and made more logical sense. It’s obvious that Collins was trying very hard to do something new and different with Katness and while she did succeed in some respects, in others Katness was the stereotypical lead character. She was beautiful but had no idea that she was, and incredibly strong and smart without really realizing that either. Everyone loved her and she somehow remained absolutely ignorant of that throughout. 
There was some romance in this book and while my readers pretty much all know where I stand on romance, this one only bothered me in the sense that Katness wasn’t really believable with it at all. I simply couldn’t believe that anyone would really be that absolutely, maddeningly ignorant with such a painfully obvious fact. Again that reflects on Katness’ development. Her past was much more fleshed out, well rounded and believable. It almost seemed like Collins wasn’t sure how to handle developing a character in the intense, emotionally strained situation she was in. 
However, that being said, I did enjoy this book. It was a good escape from reality and while I can’t sing it’s praises like almost everyone else alive, it was an alright read. If Collins somehow manages to balance her uneven characterization and perhaps bring in a little more believability to her world, it could attract the more skeptical readers, like myself. As it is, this series is a hit and I can understand why. Collins is a good, lyrical writer with an interesting, if not completely unique idea. The emotional intensity and mature but “clean” content serve to attract a wide array of readers. While I did have problems with this book on the whole, I enjoyed it for what it was: a vacation from reality. There is enough promise for the rest of the series that I will probably finish it eventually, but it’s nothing I can’t wait to do. 
3.5/5 stars

8 comments

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  1. redhead

    Thanks for the critical review of this book. It's got so much hype behind it, so many slathering fans, it was nice to find out that it's got plusses (a nice escape), and minuses (just about everything else). all of the "it's the best book ever!" all over the blogosphere was really starting to drive me crazy.

  2. Sarah

    Redhead, I'm glad you liked the review. I agree with you, all the hype online about this book makes it really hard to read it and remain objective. I honestly wouldn't have touched it if it wasn't on my "tell me what to read" list. I found a copy of it online and that pretty much decided that.

    Anyway, thanks for the props on this review. I was afraid all the fan boys and girls would rise up and say me over it…

  3. Gem

    I can completely agree with the unrealistic portrayal of the romance/relationship. It was really frustrating how blind and ignorant Katniss was. I also think by keeping things 'clean' it took away from the harshness and darkness that should have been part of a world that forces children to kill each other

  4. Robin Sullivan

    Hey Sarah,
    I've not read your review yet – as I'm just starting this book but will as soon as I get donen with it. So far I'm liking the main character and the pacing seems good.

  5. Sarah

    Robin, I'll be interested to see what you think of it!!

  6. Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom)

    This is the review I've been waiting for, and I'm glad you gave it a balanced review. Everyone else has been harping on about how amazing it is, it's nice to see the other side of the coin. I need to read it just because it seems like an important one to read (if the public consensus is anything to go by) but I think it can wait a little longer. Thanks 😀

  7. pottinger

    I can not suspend my disbelief enough to believe any world would kill its children. I would believe it with full grown adults, but the very basis of human nature and the point of our very existence would prevent this scenario from ever playing out.

  8. neal

    Just browsing your blog, and decided to take a look at a few reviews. I reviewed this one at my blog as well:

    http://englishmajorversustheworld.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-review-hunger-games-book-1-of.html

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying, except that I don’t think Collins has the “lyrical” writing that you talk about. I wonder if there’s a certain passage that sticks with you.

    Otherwise, though, I agree that the characterizations were fairly sketchy and obvious, that the world didn’t seem quite to fit together to make sense the way I wanted it to, but also that it was a quick, engaging read despite all its flaws. I score it about a 5/10, but I still thought it was a page-turner.

    Also, the short story you’re thinking of is The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell.

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