The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games book Collins


So, today is the big day. The Hunger Games movie comes out. I decided to be all current and actually read the book so I’d be “in the know” for the big event. This is in contrast to the Harry Potter phenomenon — I read the first book only, and that a couple of years after all the fuss. And Twilight? I’ve never even been tempted to read (or see) that whole mess, even though my neighbor insists it will be a classic (“100 years from now, Stephenie Meyer will still be famous!” O-kay, then).

My thoughts on the book? It was okay. I give it maybe a 6 out of 10. The beginning struck me as a total rip-off of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” But I loved “The Lottery,” so that was okay. The basics, for those of you unfamiliar with the premise: the setting is the US in the future, after there’s been some huge catastrophe and the country exists as 12 districts. Each year, each district has a lottery to select 2 teens (“tributes”) to send to the “Hunger Games” in the Capitol, where they compete against each other in a reality TV-fest sorta like “Survivor.” Only, instead of voting people off, the teens kill each other until only one is left.

Telling the story is Katniss, the female tribute from District 12, which is the poorest district.

She wasn’t the originally-chosen female tribute; that would have been her 12-year-old sister, Prim. Katniss can’t bear to send in her frail little sis, and besides, Katniss is all kinds of awesome in her ability to hunt with a bow and arrow, which as you can imagine might come in handy when you’re trying to kill 23 other people in a wooded environment.

Peeta is the male District 12 tribute. He doesn’t have a whole lotta skills, which is a great literary and movie device because it allows Katniss to show her girl power by pretty much surviving on her own and dragging Peeta along as well.

Of course, what’s a good story without a love triangle, so we also have Gale. Gale lives in District 12 as well, and is Katniss’s hunting partner and best friend (and a big hunk as well).

Katniss and Peeta head to the Capitol, where they’re pampered in a way they’ve never experienced back home. This is kind of weird, considering that it’s all in preparation to go in and either kill or be killed, but that’s how “The Hunger Games” rolls.

Once the games begin, we get a whole lotta pages full of teens hunting for food, teens searching for water, and teens killing each other in a whole slew of ways. Along the way, there were some interesting plot twists, and a few seemingly totally arbitrary rule-changes and plot elements thrown in that left me furrowing my eyebrows.

While all this was compelling to apparently 99% of the population, it just wasn’t that interesting to me. I’d read ecstatic posts all over Facebook: “Just read all 3 HG books in 90 minutes!” “OMG THE HUNGER GAMES are the most amazing books ever!” “Have NEVER read such a great book!!!!” And so on.

I had to assume either 1)these people have not read all that many books,  2)these people are seeing something I’m not, or 3)I’m weird. I’m willing to accept any of the above.

I read the first book in a couple of weeks (well, mostly. I still have one chapter left, which I’ll probably finish up tonight). I’ll probably read the other two, just out of curiosity. But I’m not staying up nights in anticipation. I’ll probably see the movie as well – my oldest daughter is a big fan, and it would be fun to discuss it with her.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how these books can be a mirror of our society: how all the reality TV is coarsening people — how as a society we’re becoming harsher and less tolerant of others — etc. I don’t know. I guess I could kind of see that, and yet I see many other things that remind me of our nation’s downhill spiral far more than this book.

What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book, whether you’re one of the rabid fans or one of the odd, take-it-or-leave-it readers, like me :).

And just since I am so proud to be so cutting-edge: May the odds be ever in your favor.

** I’m inordinately proud of the fact that I wrote this entire review without once using the word “dystopian.” It’s fast becoming one of my top 5 overused words for 2012.



4 thoughts on “The Hunger Games

  1. I haven’t read the books either, though I’ll admit, when they were “recapping” on the radio this morning (you know, for the tiny minority of the population who hadn’t read it), my first thought was “huh, sounds like The Lottery. . . ”

    So my question is this – why, in the future, do people always seem to have made-up-sounding names? Or is it just me who’s never met a Katniss or a Peeta?

  2. I haven’t read the books and I doubt that I ever will. HUNGER GAMES are not on my bucket list of books I am eager to read. So happy to read your review after wondering about all of the hoopla on TV and hype about these books. All of it sounds pretty depressing and weird to me! I much prefer “happy thoughts” rather than the imagery of teenagers eating other teenagers. UGH! I asked my husband just a couple of days ago what he knew about the series, books, and upcoming movie. He told me that he thought it was on the order of a reality show, which are not even on my radar at all. Guess that I am just an “old fogey”
    who is completely out of touch with what appeals to younger people, but I do applaud you, Susan, for digging deeper into this matter. I found your critique of the book quite interesting in spite of my distaste for the subject matter. Thank you for your enlightening report!

  3. I just heard on the news that the author is an I U graduate – class of 1985. Did you know that?

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