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.

  3 comments for “Book Review: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

  1. September 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I liked it too 🙂

  2. Pamela
    December 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a series of books that are being given almost the same acclamation as the Harry Potter series. The first movie is due out in March. I’ve read that some schools are asininely including them in their curriculum and that some young girls are left with nightmares after having read them.

    Due to the popularity of these books, I would like to issue a warning to parents. Please read the entire series before allowing your children to read them. I feel the books could be psychologically damaging to young, impressionable minds. Please read them in a critical manner.
    The following are my own thoughts on the series and then I included another review:

    I finished reading the series last night as I had received them as a gift.
    The books were riveting, charged, highly emotional, but having said that… I have real reservations about the series.

    The series is about the extremely sadistic torture of young teenagers. The further along in the series…the more twisted and perverse the story line becomes. But, because of the way it is all presented, you tend to forget that these are children and not adults who must survive these gruesome, hellish games. The sarcastic glory with which the Hunger Games are treated by those in power adds an utterly depraved dimension to the plot. For those who are unfortunately familiar with the Saw movies, the books are more insidious.

    Besides the almost continuous and multiple ways the author finds to torture and kill off her characters, the under-age main character must stand naked while a man examines every inch of her in deciding how she is to be dressed, is handed suicide pills, watches a close friend beheaded, sees her sister go up in flames and learns that the former victors were sold as prostitutes. Children are forced to kill each other. This is a series for young pre-teens and young teens? What happened to half-way wholesome books for our young ones? Let’s throw-out the misleading ‘young adult’ label these books are given. Children are not ‘young adults’ until they are 18 years old. They should not be considered adults until they are 21 as it always was, but political reasons forbid this.

    By the end of the series the main characters are left so completely broken in body, mind and spirit that there is no victorious rejoicing. While the feat of eliminating the Hunger Games forever is accomplished, there is very little else to celebrate. This is entertainment for children?
    Books which are completely absorbing as are these, leave a deep-seated impression that cannot be easily shaken. There is a subtle subconscious psychological impact. In a way, similar to movies and television, the story is such that it almost desensitizes a person to the subject of the torture of children and I feel that is a very dangerous thing. Only someone who has read the entire series will understand what I am saying, here. I would be very interested in knowing what a panel of psychologists would say about the effects of this series on young minds.
    Whether intentionally or not, to my mind, the series glorifies the torture of children. The movies will do so at a deeper level.
    I almost have to wonder why the books were written. Supposedly, it was to show the effects of war on children according to one review. But, in reality, these books aren’t about a realistic war, which is bad enough. In reality, there is no-one, no-one who could survive what the author puts the main character through in the games. The series seems to be the product of a twisted mind who has thought up every way imaginable to torture innocent children and present the torture as a story to the world.

    These books are not the way we want our children’s imaginations to be stirred. Those who will rush to see the movies, which has a big-star line-up, think about what you will be endorsing. Make no mistake, the entire series is about the unmitigated torture of children in as many imaginable forms possible. If we consider these future Hunger Games movies entertainment, then what is that saying about us?

    Because of the level of violence, sadism and the torture and sacrifice of children, I don’t plan on seeing the movie. And, let’s hope the crazies out there don’t see them, either.

    I know that everyone is raving about this series….but when people regard a series of books whose entire content is about the extreme, bloody torture of children in every form imaginable, their having to kill each other or be killed ….these are children’s books? Come on. Shame on Scholastic for publishing them. These have to be the most violent children’s books on the planet. They are sadistic in the extreme.
    I think people have truly lost their minds to support this series and the future movies, I really do. Parents worry about violent video games, but I guess extreme violence in books is fine.

  3. December 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Pamela, that’s quite the comment! Unfortunately, I don’t think you have accurately captured the essence of The Hunger Games or of Suzanne Collins’ intentions for the work. The books do not glorify violence, but reveal the horror that violence does upon a person and upon society. Just because a violent act occurs in a book does not mean it is bad for being there. Not once in all three books does Collins ever ask us to approve of those perpetrating violence. The books therefore do not encourage us to become desensitized to violence, but rather heightens our sensitization to it, and spurs us to oppose it not just in fiction but in the real world as well. With all respect, you are not letting the narrative of the books set the tone for how you read them. I’ve interacted more with your comment here.

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