Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 1) - Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2008
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a novel that prior to starting my book blog I had never heard of. However, I have seen it praised across multiple blogs and review sites, therefore I decided that I should finally pick it up and give it a read. What I discovered was a thoroughly enjoyable young adult novel full of action, thrills and some superb suspense.

The story itself is set in a dystopian North America that has been divided into 12 districts and is ruled by an oppressive government situated in an area known simply as the Capitol. As a reminder of the power of the Capitol, the 12 districts are ordered to provide both a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games. Theses games are set in a large dangerous arena and involve the 24 children fighting to the death whilst the entire event is being shown live across the nation.

The story is focused on Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers to fight in the games so that her 12 year old sister will be spared having to take part. Upon arrival at the Capitol, Katniss' team formulate a plan to try and tug the heartstrings of the audience to increase her chances of survival. However, in the end, Katniss must use her own wits, courage and intellect to try and survive the games.

I have to admit that when I read the synopsis the first thing that came to my head was "Battle Royale" which is another novel that follows a future government sending children to fight to the death in a dangerous wild arena. The plot is very similar, however after having watched the movie adaptation of "Battle Royale" I would have to say that it is much more violent and bloody and is aimed much more at adults whereas "The Hunger Games" is a little lighter on the violence front and does at times focus more on the various relationships between the central characters as you would expect from a YA novel.

Either way, the plot in "The Hunger Games" is riveting and I couldn't put it down as Katniss battles both the competitors and the arena itself with hunger, thirst and fire proving to be almost as deadly as the other children. The thrills and action scenes come quickly and often once the games themselves get underway and this section moved along at a quick pace. Some of the more violent action scenes can be a little disturbing when you consider the age of the characters involved but I felt that the author doesn't go into any unneeded details. I suspect however that some people may find the premise itself enough to put them off reading no matter how much the author may hold back on the savagery. However, the book is more than just this as some of the best parts of the novel in my opinion are the strategies, battle of wills and manipulation of the game viewers that goes on.

The main characters in the story, Katniss herself and the boy from District 12, Peeta are both likeable enough people. They are both on the whole "good" in how they act and the author has developed them into deep enough people although I have to admit that I did begin to wonder if Katniss could actually do anything badly or wrong at times. However, she did turn out to have at least one flaw in that she was as dense as a rock when it came to understanding some of the more complex emotional aspects relationships. Whilst this did lead to some rather amusing scenes it also irritated me a little bit as I couldn't believe anyone could really be that blind to what was staring them in the face.

In addition to these two main characters, Collins has also created an interesting mix of varied and engaging support characters. I specifically thoroughly enjoyed watching the drunken Haymitch alter as he realised that maybe this time he wouldn't have to just sit and watch those he was helping die without a chance.

The biggest thing lacking for me in the story was a little bit more information on the world itself and its history. The reader does get little titbits of information throughout the novel but nothing really in-depth or meaty that helps build up a good picture. It doesn't cause any issues with following the plot or enjoying the novel but I just think there is a great world here and wish that I could have found out more about it.

One other little issue I did have is that I thought it was a bit obvious how the story and Hunger Games would end although I will admit that Collins did throw a little curveball that had me thinking the book could actually go somewhere else for a few pages. I also felt the ending itself was a little bit too sudden and abrupt, it does lead well into the sequel but it isn't a very satisfying conclusion for the book itself.

Overall, "The Hunger Games" was a brilliant read that kept me entertained from start to finish with a turely riveting plot. In my opinion the violence and premise make the novel more suited at the older side of the YA market and adults than to young teens but it really does depend on what other works of fiction the child may normally read or watch. I am now looking forward to reading the sequel and hope that I will learn more about the world itself and some of its history that has only been briefly touched upon in "The Hunger Games".


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