Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On Tributes: A Pseudo-Review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I don't usually read books just because they're popular, and I don't usually read books just because there's a movie coming out. But as I've begun to enjoy more dystopian novels, it became clear to me that I was avoiding this one just because it's popular, and that seemed silly of me.

Even having overcome that, I still almost hesitate to review this because it has frankly been reviewed to death. What can I possibly say about this book that hasn't already been said dozens of times? Probably nothing. So instead of my usual like/dislike/recommendation format, I'm simply going to list what my expectations were when I went into this book--expectations based on what I read, was told, and saw in the movie trailers.

1)It has a strong heroine

Yes, it does. Katnis is a survivor by nature. She's strong and defiant and almost cold. But she has people she loves, people she'll do anything for, and you can't help but like her for that. Even when she does some unlikable things.

2) It's Really Violent!

This tends to be something everyone really focuses on about this book, especially with a PG-13 movie coming out. How are they going to get all that child death with a PG-13 rating?! Oh, easily. I'm not saying this book was a picnic on unicorn island to see the bunny festival, but it wasn't as gory as everyone built it up to me. Eleven of the twenty four contestants die right as the games open, and Katnis only clearly sees one of them happen. Then Katnis hears an idiot who built a fire die, but again sees nothing. Two die from bee stings, one from poison. They don't see Thresh die. A lot of the big deaths happen at night, happen quickly, and could easily be pulled off with very little blood if the film-makers are clever.

That being said, yes, it is a book about death and survival. It's about trying to keep your humanity when you're commanded to kill or die. So there has to be some violence.

3) It's about Defying The System.

This book sets you up for some epic show of defiance against the Capitol. Early on, you realize that Peeta has feelings for Katnis, and she begins to soften toward him as well. So my expectation was that it would come down to the two of them, and Katnis would have this big choice to make. Does she kill him, take her own life, refuse to do anything...this moment was extremely predictable from the beginning of the book. It loses something in the way of epicness as a result. It came across, to me, as a moment of impulsive resistance instead of a conscious decision to dent the system.

4) There's a romance

...That was lukewarm to me. This is where I sort of disliked Katnis. Does she feel anything for Peeta? Not until it becomes convenient too. When she's told they can both win. Then she wants him. Before this point, it doesn't even occur to her to help him. I'm baffled by this decision from the author, to have the Capitol lie to them and thus force them together.  Why not have them come together on their own despite it all? To me, that would have been more rebellious and more romantic and it would have made that final moment of defiance seem as epic as it should have. Instead, I'm left not really trusting Katnis's feelings or the entire romance in general.

Final Thoughts: It's a good novel. It (at least somewhat) deserves it's outstanding popularity. But, to me, it has some serious flaws that will likely keep it off of my Read Again list. 4 stars.


  1. I totally get what you mean about the supposed violence in this one. I put off reading it for the longest time because I thought it was going to really be graphic but then when I did read it, it was kinda like "is there something wrong with me? Because this was nothing compared to the usual stuff I read..." I didn't see Katniss as being proactive in defying the system either. But I guess that's the way the author wished to portray her.

    1. Lan, my thoughts exactly--"What's wrong with me? Shouldn't I be appalled by this?" Truthfully, it is a lot of death for a YA novel, but it isn't gratuitous. I actually think the author handled it as tastefully as the plot allowed, and I hope to see the movie do the same.

  2. I agree with you about the romance. I would have liked something that didn't feel completely forced. And on the whole I liked Katniss - but not for the way she uses Peeta whenever it's in her own best interests!

    1. Her choices just baffled me--I kept waiting for her to stop and really assess her feelings and start to actually care...but she barely does.

  3. I got luck--- I had no idea that The Hunger Games was popular when I read it. I liked the way the author borrowed from ancient Roman culture to create her story world (though I'd really love to know how that culture came about).

    I didn't care for the romance thing specifically because it was kind of self-serving for Katniss to embrace it. Though I'm not a romance novel reader, I do like a nice romance subplot, but the one in The Hunger Games was not quite what I liked.


Thoughtful comments are appreciated! I always respond to them, and I usually return the favor! Happy reading!

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