As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 19, 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, 2008

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlaying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one girl and one boy 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 is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has also resolved to outwit the creators of the games. To do that she will have to be the last person standing at the end of the deadly ordeal, and that will take every ounce of strength and cunning she has. (Amazon)

(This is a repost of a previously reviewed book, because if you haven't already read this book - all three of you out there - do it quick, before you watch the movie! It will only take you a day, believe me!)

Review by Amy Finnegan, Writer, reader, Bookshop Talk host
Imagine two dozen gladiators—brutal killers, merely for the sake of entertainment—being selected to star in the reality show "Survivor." But forget voting your competition off the island; this contest of wit, strength, and endurance isn't over until just one heart is beating.

This is The Hunger Games. Or at least this is what The Hunger Games would be at its finest, according to its producers. Instead, a national audience is forced to watch perhaps eight or so of the contestants, who have trained all their lives for this "honor," slaughter the other sixteen, who were chosen from a mandatory raffle to be easy prey. Some of them are as young as twelve. None are older than eighteen.

But only after the bloodbath do the Games really begin.

Had I read this introduction on the back of a book, there is no way I would have spent $17 on it. I wouldn't have even bought it with a half-price coupon. The premise is just too horrifying. But because of so many others telling me the novel would be well worth my time to read, I did, and simply put: The Hunger Games is one of the best novels I've read in several years.

Why, you ask? Brilliant plot, excellent writing, and a clever, highly-likable protagonist. And for you fans of a good romance . . . when one will eventually have to take the other's life, think of the complications. This definitely isn't your typical love story, but it's a great one.

The target audience is young adult (ages 12-18), and I think a good majority of twelve year olds are mature enough to read it. But I would encourage a parent to read it first before their child that young picks it up. You'll enjoy the read yourself even if you decide your child should wait a year of two longer. However, I don't think many younger than fifteen or so will really see the depth of the story—the subtle hints woven into it about how savage our entertainment tastes have become, and where they may end up if our humanity isn't kept in check. The author never says this, but the message is clear on nearly every page.

As far as content for younger readers, there isn't a single curse word in the entire book. Not one. In my opinion, that is the mark of a really competent writer. Even in life and death situations, Collins doesn't lean on easy crutches to portray the emotions of her characters. And I don't want to give too much away about the romance, but there wasn't a single line even in the most intimate of scenes that I wouldn't let my own tween/teen daughters read.

The violence is definitely there, but gore is kept to a minimum. Remember what The Hunger Games is all about, however, because the rules are real: kill or be killed. And children do indeed die. I think it's fair to relate the violence level to that of the last three books in the Harry Potter series. But there are fewer emotional strings attached to most who die in The Hunger Games, so it isn't quite as traumatic.

Honestly, compared to the shocking material I often find in novels written for an audience as young as twelve, questionable content in The Hunger Games is really quite mild. I recommend it for just about anyone in the target audience range, and the novel is easily sophisticated enough for most adults. In fact, I rarely read books even half this riveting off the adult shelves.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate (but keep in mind the description of the violence above)
Mature Themes: survival, hunting, corrupt government, death

Book formats:


Kim said...

I really enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES, but I didn't absolutely love the other two books in the series. Ah, well, sometimes it's that way with a series, isn't it?

Has anyone out there read GRACE, by Elizabeth Scott? I just read it in one sitting. It's so phenomenal, and it reminds me, in some ways, of THE HUNGER GAMES. It's dystopian, too.

Anyway, back to THE HUNGER GAMES--I love the romantic tension! It's one of my favorite things about the first book.

Wonderful review, Amy!

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shannon said...

I am really interested in reading this trilogy, but the hold wait is forever at my library. The Idea Room sent me to your blog and I'm sure I'll be back for more reviews and ideas.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to see the movie this week, and I'm really excited! Anyone else going? Any predictions on whether the books or the movies will be better? As a rule, I'm a books-over-movies person, but we'll see.

I enjoyed this review again this second time around, Amy!

MKHutchins said...

I loved all of these books! I'm hopeful that the movies will keep true to at least the spirit of the books...but I probably won't watch until it's available on Redbox.

Laura Howard said...

It took me a while to jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon after it first came out, because the premise seemed so grim. I found that once I started I couldn't put it down, though, for all the reasons Amy has listed here. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I almost always (Never Let Me Go is the exception) like books better than movies, so I won't expect any different with this.