Monday, September 12, 2011


Suzanne Collins says she got the idea for writing THE HUNGER GAMES from flipping through TV channels. She saw a reality show on one channel, a movie on war on the other and developed her idea into a 3 book series. They have become best sellers and now the series has been made into a movie which will be released in 2012.

The story is told from the first person, present tense perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a courageous teenager living in Seam, a poor mining community of District 12, a part of Panem. There is nothing left but a capital and twelve districts of North America.  Her father dies when she is twelve and she has to scrounge for food to feed her little sister and a mother who sinks into a depression so deep she forgets her children. Katniss becomes an excellent hunter, along with her friend Gale, poaching from the government lands, and trading on the black market to provide food for her family.

 Each year the capital forces each district to offer two children (the reaping) as tributes, a punishment for holding a rebellion 75 years before. The 24 tributes are then put into a reality TV arena loaded  with cameras, which has forrests, lakes, hills etc. They must fight for their lives until only one child is left the victor. Winning  not only means they stay alive, but they secure food drops for their family, while the other eleven maintain their meager existences, therefore the title, THE HUNGER GAMES makes real sense.
 She has a deep friendship with Gale, her hunting and poaching friend. However, when she takes the place of her sister in the games and she soon has a growing affection for Peeta Mellark, her companion contestant from District 12.

 I found, Katniss Everdeen,  the first person narrator as likeable and self-sacrificing.  It's a trait that requires humility and a lack of selfishness. She can't say, "I'm very self-sacrificing." The trait comes through in more subtle ways from what the character does and how she thinks. Katniss risks her life every day to get food for her mother and sister, and the way she thinks about her sister makes it clear that she would do anything for her. Then she does the same thing for Peeta. And when she does, it's believable, and makes the reader care for her.

 For  a YA, the book is suprisingly violent with teenagers and children mutilated, explosions, beatings, eviscerations, arrows through eye sockets, and hallucianatory insect venom with long term effects. The first book THE HUNGER GAMES, was probably, for me, the best in the series. It's fast paced and easy to read, and introduces the characters in a unique way. It could easily be a stand alone book.

 CATCHING FIRE , the second in the series is interesting,but doesn't add anything to the story.It took the reader on a tour around Panem, offered up information on the people and the government with hints of rebellion. Then the Quarter Quell came and the second hunger games and it just became more of the same.

 MOCKINGJAY is the final book, and while the emphasis is on war, the setting is different. Any book which is trying to tie up all of the plots gets the feel of being predictable. And that was the case with this last book. The reader just moved from one plot point to the next with plot explanations and personal resolutions. The epilogue could have been eliminated.

This series was the first YA books I have read. What I found interesting was I was hooked from the first page and the age factor never mattered. The story and the characters were compelling and  the first book was a page turner that kept me up late into the night.While the second two weren't nearly as compelling, I felt the same excitement as a reader "to turn the page."


Ellis Vidler said...

Interesting review, Ruby. I haven't read the books, but my grandchildren loved Hunger Games. They weren't as enchanged with the next two. It must be very difficult to write a series with only one real story. I'm sticking to standalones. :-)

Ruby Johnson said...

Hi Ellis:
Thanks for stopping by. I think if you read the first book you would be hooked. Like I said, I don't normally read this type of book, so it was a real change for me. The pacing is very good. Now as someone who is involved with a critique group, I had to overlook grammar and sentence structure. But I just kept turning the pages.

Anne said...

I loved this series! I have to agree with your critique for the most part. Even though the first novel was by far the best, I found I could not put down the other two either.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thanks for posting. As I said, it was the first YA I'd read, and was glad I did.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read these books, but they sound interesting.I know others who have and they liked the books.

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