Book Review: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Suzanne Collins’ novel, The Hunger Games, has been growing in popularity since its publication several years ago. This attention was only boosted by the film adaptation, set to release in March of 2012. Set in a dystopian future where North America has been split into 12 districts by an evil government known only as The Capitol after a devastating war. The 12 districts are punished by being kept desperately poor – and once a year they must each select one boy and one girl by lottery to do battle in a grand gladiatorial arena known as the Hunger Games. These twenty-four children, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, must fight to the death, and there can be only one winner. When Katniss Everdeen’s twelve-year-old sister’s name is drawn for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and is thus drawn into a horrifying and desperate fight for survival against the odds, the elements, and her fellow, bloodthirsty competitors.

Thus is the premise of The Hunger Games. The book is very well written, immediately capturing your attention and drawing you further and further in with each passing page. I poured through it in three days, staying up well into the night to reach the end. The story is strongly executed, mesmerizing and captivating from the first page. Katniss is an eminently identifiable main character, and Peeta and Rue make for sympathetic secondary allies. Cato and the Careers are truly villainous. Yet after all the games are done, we realize the true villains have never really been involved in the fighting in the Games; they have shaped it. The villainous ones are the rulers of the Capitol and the Districts, the ones who require children to fight to the death; the villains are the barbaric population who relish the killing, who cheer and clamor for more, more, more blood. The oppressed people in the poor districts watch because it is the law; they hate the Games. The people in the Capitol are like the citizens of Rome, who love the Gladiatorial ring, bloodthirsty and fickle.

Some Christians have questioned the morality of the book (I have responded to one major review here), but I have seen nothing that is particularly opposed to Christian ethics. There was no sin in Katniss’s actions that I could find, and the central message of the book is that even in the most hopeless of situations, there is still hope. The core of the book is Katniss’s journey from being untrusting and calculating at the book’s opening, and growing into a girl who trusts others in the Games. It is a story about love overcoming tyranny, love beating the odds. I think those are generally themes and messages Christians can get behind. I hope to expand my thoughts on the Hunger Games in a few posts discussing the morality and ethics of the book.

Overall, The Hunger Games was a phenomenal book. I look forward to reading the sequels. Highly recommended.

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