Monday, August 16, 2010

Book twenty-three: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Here's what I liked about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: The action scenes are so intense that they're the literary equivalents of the best scenes in scary movies.  But instead of covering your eyes until the tension ends, you want to stop reading or skip ahead to ensure that everything works out in the end.  Accomplishing this trick was no small matter.  Particularly when you consider what I didn't like about the book.

The Hunger Games is designed as a young adult read that tells the story of Katniss, a teenage girl who lives in a dismal, post-apocalyptic world set sometime in the  future.  Each year, kids from each of twelve districts are randomly selected, thrown into an arena, and told to kill each other off.  Last one standing gets riches and bragging rights for his or her district.

Back to what I didn't like about the book: This is another example of a story written in first person that I think is worse for it.  Within in the first 30 pages of the book, you know what's going to happen.  Katniss will participate in the Hunger Games and she'll win.  What else can happen?  She's telling the story.  Is she going to sit home and watch the games on TV?  Is she going start the games, get killed half way through and the last line of the book will be, "I die"?  Of course not. 

Then, weakening the intrigue of the plot even more, (and this could be a bit of a spoiler) Collins changes the rules of the games about two thirds of the way into the book, eliminating one of the most intriguing plot questions: How will Katniss deal with eliminating the other kid from her district? This was a plot twist I was looking forward to.  But, oh wait, now if two people from the same district are still alive at the end, they both win.  So both Katniss and the other boy from her district will survive.

I also have to say that the brutality of the book troubled me a little, particularly since it's between children. Part of that's because I don't really like the whole post-apocalyptic assertion that humanity will always trend toward evil.  And partly because many parents I know would decry this violence if it were in a story targeted to adults. 

All that said, this book is written so well with so much excitement and tension, that I haven't ruled out reading the next book in the series. And you could do a lot worse for an exciting, fun summer read than Hunger Games.


  1. Jeff, I just finished this book last week. I couldn't put it down. I was bothered about the violence too. I kept thinking, "if this was reality TV it would be horrific to watch". It also has me thinking how grateful I am for my fridge and the food in my pantry. I won't let the boys read it until they are much older... seriously, who writes books for young adults that plot the murders of everyone around them? I ran across your post on my dashboard, I hope you don't think I'm stalking you.. just love to hear your perspective on life and such. Cheers to you and McCann.

  2. It's worth reading the entire trilogy and (spoiler alert) it isn't always a happy ending. These works kept me gripped last week - up many nights well into the darkness reading away. I think this isn't so unlike Lord of the Flies or 1984.