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Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Mar 22, 2011

Title: The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, Book 1 of 3)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Released:
September 14, 2008
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Pages/Format:
384 (Hardcover)
Genre:
YA, Sci-Fi – Dystopian
Source:
Public Library

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl 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 steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before–and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

One Sentence Review: The Hunger Games is well-written, compelling, and poses many important philosophical questions.

In-Depth Review

Note: There are some minor spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t read the book I would recommend proceeding with caution, and avoiding the second-to-last paragraph all together.

I have read so many reviews of The Hunger Games over the last few months, both good and bad, and finally decided that I had to read it myself to see what all the hype was about. I approached the book with a certain degree of excitement (the buzz about this book around the blogosphere is contagious), some reservations (the theme of forcing kids to murder each other is pretty heavy stuff, and the fact that it’s been compared to Twilight didn’t help any), and great curiosity about the philosophical questions that a book like this will inevitably raise.

The Plot, Characters, and Writing

Let me first say that I found The Hunger Games to be a very compelling book. I sped through it in less that twenty-four hours and was thoroughly captivated by it. The suspense was drawn out very well and the cliff-hanger ending left it impossible for me to even consider not reading the second book in the trilogy. I was also relieved to find that all comparisons to Twilight were superficial at best. Katniss is a stronger and much more dynamic and character than Bella, and Peeta is way more relatable than Edward and refreshingly human.

As for the writing, Suzanne Collins did a brilliant job of illustrating the world in which Katniss lives without spending too much time on long, boring descriptions of futuristic technologies and historical background. (I know some reviewers wished that Collins had spent more time relating the historical events that led to the downfall of America and the creation of Panem, and I do hope that she provides this history in Catching Fire, but I think it was a good idea to leave it out of the first book. However, I do wish that a map of Panem had been provided.) I also appreciated the delicate way Collins described the events inside the arena of the Hunger Games. She effectively communicated the horror and brutality of the Games without being too graphic.

The Hunger Games and Morality

That being said, I think it was poor judgement on the part of the publisher to market this book to children twelve and up. There is a huge emotional, psychological, and moral developmental gap between ages twelve and fourteen, and I think the latter is a much more suitable starting age for a book that deals with such a philosophically charged–not to mention gory–topic.

I know that there are a fair number of people (parents especially) who read this book and hated it because the idea of children being forced to fight each other to the death is so utterly repulsive. And I agree, it is the height of moral degradation for a society to not only kill children, but force them to brutally murder each other. Carrie from Reading to Know was one of those bloggers who was unable to finish the book, and she wrote an excellent review in which she likened the Hunger Games to abortion, which was very insightful, though I think that the Hunger Games goes even farther by forcing children into the roles of both victim and perpetrator.

The Hunger Games and the Culture

'Thumbs Down' by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872

There are numerous historical and mythological parallels to the Hunger Games, the most obvious of which is the Roman Colosseum, where gladiators fought to the death for the entertainment of the populace and martyrs were torn apart by wild beasts as crowds jeered. Granted, children were not forced to participate in these blood sports (at least that we know of), but the fact that an entire city population could enjoy watching men of any age tear each other apart speaks to the frightening reality that all of humanity (including you and me) is perfectly capable of taking pleasure from the worst kinds of evil.

This fact still applies today as much as it did two thousand years ago. Some of the reality tv shows Americans watch today prove that we still find purposeless violence entertaining, even if it’s not taken to the extreme it has been in the past. Video games like Rage, where players not only witness violence, but mentally and visually participate in it, are an even more extreme example of our culture’s disturbing fascination with bloodlust.

The Hunger Games Compared and Contrasted

Death Race (2008)

Perhaps the closest parallel to The Hunger Games in recent media is Death Race, a 2008 remake of the 1975 movie which depicts a post-industrial America where prisons are privately owned. To accrue revenue, one warden decides to create a reality tv show in which contestants from the prison are chosen to participate in a car race where they must kill each other off to win their freedom. The two stories closely resemble each other, but there is one subtle, yet significant difference that made me enjoy The Hunger Games, while being utterly disgusted by Death Race. The Hunger Games is character driven. The primary focus of the book is not on the atrocity of the Games, though it serves as the essential backdrop to the stories of our two protagonists. Death Race was just the opposite. Brief coverage of the character’s histories serve as the backdrop for two hours of graphic violence. The Hunger Games invites readers to consider the impact of war, violence, and political oppression on children–an acute reality in many parts of the globe–and to ask larger questions about life and morality. Death Race invites audiences to do exactly what the eager viewers of the Hunger Games in the Capitol do in the book–”wallow around” (The Hunger Games, page 354) in the gore and filth and evil of such ‘games’.

Gladiator (2000)

In this way I liken The Hunger Games more to Gladiator (2000). While there are not as many superficial similarities between the plots of these two stories as there are between The Hunger Games and Death Race, there is a marked similarity in the character focus and tone. Whereas Death Race is designed to give readers a thrill every time there’s a huge explosion or violent death, Gladiator, like The Hunger Games, gives readers a thrill every time the the protagonist does something noble in the face of such horror, like defying the sadistic authorities or sacrificing himself/herself for a just cause.

Conclusion

All of this is to say that I think The Hunger Games approaches the topic of brutality for sport in a way that asks all of the important questions (for example, what would you do if you were forced to choose between murdering someone and being killed yourself?) without promoting or condoning violence. The entertainment in this book (which is necessary in all fiction if an author wants to effectively communicate his or her message) grows out of the positive themes of the book–Katniss’s sacrificial love for her sister, Peeta’s sacrificial love for Katniss, and their quest to keep their souls, while those around them are losing theirs (to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling).

The average reader will not take pleasure in reading passages that illustrate the heartless brutality of the government-mandated Games, such as the one where Cato is slowly tortured to death by canine-human mutations or when Rue is speared by a fellow tribute. Those descriptions, while relatively mild, are enough to make one’s stomach turn. But in contrast, readers will feel great satisfaction when characters respond to such horrors by defying the very people who invented them, like when Katniss decorates Rue’s body with flowers before it is taken away, or when Katniss and Peeta refuse to kill each other even for the sake of their own personal survival.

To me, this is what sets The Hunger Games apart from similar tales, and it’s why I recommend that adults and older teens read it and contemplate the philosophical questions it poses. I would also suggest that because of the heavy subject matter teens ages 14-15 discuss the book with their parents or a trusted mentor after reading it.

Other Reviews: Dear Author | Bibliofreak

If you reviewed this book, leave a link to the review in a comment and I may add it to the list above. In return, you must link back to my review. If your review is already on the list you don’t have to link back; it just means I loved it!

About Suzanne Collins:

Suzanne Collins has had a successful and prolific career writing for children’s television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, and is the author of the bestselling Underland Chronicles. Suzanne currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard.

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Read my review of Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy and Mockingjay, the final book.

51 Comments

  1. I’m in high school, and I had to do this for a novel study. I have never hated English class more. I guess this book would be okay for a quick read one night, but NOT for a novel study. You don’t realize how bad a book is until you have to find “hidden meaning” and there really isn’t any. This story has been done numerous times by various authors in the past, but geared for adults. This book has a good story line. I will give it that. The problem is, it is not meant to be done by an author who writes children’s books. This book had a lot of potential, but it lacked the maturity to make it realistic. That I think is why they rated it 12 and up. If you don’t target that younger age group, who will you sell it to? Most teenagers like a little bit more complexity in their books. This just didn’t have that.

    I know several kids who have read this. 3 of my siblings are 9, 10 and 12, and they have all read it, along with most of their classes. Bad things happen, and they all know that. They see the news. They learn history. My 12 year old sister has been reading non-fiction war stories since she was about 8 and she is a perfectly well rounded kid. She just loves to learn about history and try to understand how these things happen. So far, to my knowledge, she hasn’t started a war on account of a book she read. If you have a 12 year old who reads a stupid book and thinks it’s okay to kill people after then no offence, but you’re doing something wrong. You don’t have to let your kids read it, and that’s okay. However, most 12 year olds can think for themselves. They know what’s right and wrong. You can say that you don’t want to let your kids read it because they might get scared or you just don’t morally approve of the content and again that’s fine. Just don’t, for gods sake, say that kids can’t read it because they might think it’s acceptable to kill their best friend. If you won’t accept that they can think and make decisions, then maybe you should sit down and think about why you believe your child to be a brainless sheep. Good luck turning them into functional adults.

    And yes, I am 16 and no, I am not a parent. However, I have ended up having to raise 6 younger kids pretty much by myself. (Thank god they’re very responsible and the oldest is only 2 years younger than me :P ) They pride themselves in their ability to think for themselves, and learn about the world and human nature.

    Haha and sorry for the rant :) I got a bit off topic I think, but there is nothing that pisses me off more than people who don’t have any faith in their kids.

  2. I just want to know, am I th only one that pictured historical events as I read the books. Like in Mockingjay all throughout the book I imagined the Cuban and French Revolution and in Catching Fire I imagined the Gladiators and in Hunger Games I imagined lif in hollywood.

  3. I haven’t read the books or seen the movie, but I agree with this review it that it’s VERY irresponsible to let 12 year olds read such cruelty – fighting to the death? What will these kids learn from the cruel VIDEO GAME that I’m sure is in the works?

    I’m sure it’s written very well, but I hope parents are helping these children to understand that it’s not right to murder others so your family has food.

    But, I have to admit that with all the positive reviews, the author must have written the book very well… I just hope parents with young children won’t let them see the movie when when it comes out for rent.

    • George, I think you misunderstand the premise of the book. The kids aren’t murdering each other so their families have food. They are forced to kill each other by the government. And while I don’t think this book would be something many 12-year-olds could handle, I will say that this is nowhere near the literary equivalent of a violent video game. It’s a story that explores how children and young adults respond to war and violence and it effectively asks the question, “What would you do if…” in morally ambiguous situations.

      Personally, if I had kids that age, I would let them read the books and watch the movie.

    • Haha

  4. i havent read the book yet, but i just comeback from watching the movie and went straight to internet cafe, and for the first time ever i make comment since it was rather overwhelming. what i captured so far is the previous generation has failed the current ones and the latter pay dearly (sounds familiar?). NOthing the adults can do in that movie (maybe the second installment will show something what the oldies like me can do to protect the kids). I must say that was the most brutal movie ever saw, I am still going gaga with the part where Cato i think, the rather older kid, break the smaller kid’s neck, and the smaller kid was shown, rather cunningly by the damned director, that he was just a small kid not capable even to look after the stack of inventory, since he was just walking around just like a 13 year old supposed to do. I hate that part so much. I almost wept in my seat, and i am in my 40s. I am a prone to violence person according to some colleagues, but I trembled several times since too many brutal sets in the movie.I start to think that iam a good heart person afterall. There are lines which i hope universally accepted one, where you couldnt make that type of movie going around mainstream. I feel like to run over any freakin old man with beard right now.
    But try to be cool about this, i must say the actress did Katniss character is superb. She is athletic, no-nonsense, strongwill, good broad shoulder.just like reinhard heydrich would like to see, but still lots of human shortcomings within her character. the sob doing the movie are that good actually.THey really can make me take side with Katniss and feel her so much. You know, a lot of people are not aware about the next installment, and they all think that movie thesedays let bad ones win over good ones. that was pure evil, man. I really hate old people right now. I think i gonna knock down this old man who sit besides me in this internet cafe. He does look like that mthfckr snow in the movie.

  5. As a Christian youth do you think it’s appropriate for me to be reading this series? I’m really into it but I’m not sure if God likes the thought of me reading about kids my age having to murder(one of the commandments)!! Please help!!

    • Hi GodsLilGurl, I can’t really tell you what to read or not read. You kind of have to go with your own conscious on that one. All I can say is that I personally place little value on the “family-friendliness” in media that seems to be the emphasis of so many Christian groups (like Focus on the Family and others). I don’t know how old you are, but in general I believe it’s less about what you read and more about how you read it. Just like I think there are R rated movies worth watching and R rated movies not worth watching. I think there’s a lot of cultural commentary worked into this series which I found fascinating and entertaining. But again, it’s up to you whether you read it or not.

  6. Ahhh I have to find historical events that insiperd this book catching fire and i cant! Please help me.

    • I’m not sure that there were any historical events that inspired the Hunger Games trilogy. It’s just pure dystopian fiction.

  7. I seriously fell in love with these books, and wish that they could last forever. At first I wasn’t too attached, but after I started getting into it, it was so exhilarating and I found myself getting excited to get home so I could continue reading. By the time I finished the first one, I couldn’t wait another second before digging into the second, so I downloaded it onto my Kindle as fast as I could. Ripped through that one in about a day and half, and ripped through the end of the second one and the whole third one in a single day. I couldn’t put it down. I was at the edge of my seat the whole time, and just had to know what would happen at the end. I’m not one of the emotional saps that cried when anything sorrowful happend, trying not to spoil anything, but it’s all about this riveting, adrenaline raising series that I guarantee you will find yourself unable to put down.

  8. SPOILER ALERT

    Hi Kate
    Firstly great job on your book review! I really enjoyed reading it, its very well written and I actually read the whole thing, which I rarely ever do! :) Recently I have been working on an individual novel study for the HG and I opened this link to help me with ideas that can support my points in my written review. I was wondering if you could provide some of your input and ideas on the following questions:

    1: What evidence from the story (Use any lines found in the story to help prove it.) suggests that Katniss Everdeen is the Protagonist in the Hunger game?
    * For the question I talked about how Katniss is a very dynamic and round character who transforms herself from a low key and simple girl (going hunting secretly, keeping away from peacekeepers etc..) to a nationwide rebel leader (decorating rue’s body with flowers, threatening to eat the berries… are there anymore..?? I’m lost) Although that part of her isn’t really introduced until the second and third book <- any thoughts?

    2. Is the antagonist President Snow, or the capitol??
    personally I believe that the antagonist in the HG is president snow, since all the power is under his command, and what he says, goes… but I also need evidence to support this as well…<- any thoughts?

    3. for the 3rd question our teacher has told us to pick our own… out of the following questions, which do you think would be a wise choice?
    NOVEL ‘BASICS’
    1.What challenge or conflict does the protagonist encounter? How is the conflict resolved?
    2.Other important characters in the novel are…? How did they contribute to the story?
    3.What is the setting of the novel (5)? How does it impact the story?
    4.From whose perspective is the story told? How does it impact the story? How would the story change if told from another perspective?
    5.What is the climax of the novel? How does it get there?
    6.Summarize the theme or central idea of this novel. How is the theme developed?

    Thanks Kate
    Rida

    • Hi Rida,

      I think the evidence for Katniss being the protagonist is simply the fact that her story is what Collins focuses on the most in the book. What sets her apart from all the other characters is that she volunteered for the Hunger Games, vs. being drafted like everyone else was.

      For your second question, I think that the antagonist isn’t really one person, it’s totalitarianism in general. We see this with Coin in the third book. It’s the idea that you can control people through fear.

      All of the other questions can spark some interesting discussion. I would just pick whichever one you’re most comfortable elaborating on.

      Thanks for your comment. :)

  9. I read your review and it brings up many points that captivate my interest; however, I am 150 pages in and the book is failing to capture my interest and continue reading it. I am not a “regular reader” either. I have read many classic literature novels as well as many YA novels. Is there something that I’m not seeing? and do you encourage me to keep reading? Once again, excellent review and out of curiosity do you think this series is better than HP?

    • Hey Miguel, not every bestseller is right for every person. If you’re not captivated by the story after 120 pages, there’s nothing wrong with calling it quits. I loved the the HG series, but I don’t think it held a candle to HP.

  10. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time! I strongly recommend people read this book! The name may not sound like it is your type of book but it is for everyone! I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to read catching fire and mockingjay! My English teacher said she doesn’t read these types of books but she absoulutly loved it! I am very impressed by how well this book is written! I am only in high school and I love this book! This is a book for EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  11. This is one of the best analyses that I have read because it comes from a moral heart and perspective. The impact of violence on our children is emphasized. How much better are we than the shallow people of the Capitol if we ignore the character’s nobility, grace and morality in the midst of the violence and focus on just the intense gruesome survival aspects of the series? I do see another dimension of underlying themes in the series that go much deeper than great character development. The characters are the vehicle for the themes.

    One of those themes that I rarely see mentioned is the human soul’s natural yearning for freedom and the role that it plays: “We hold these truths to be self evident- that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Of course, within the context of morality and virtue, freedom finds safe haven. Freedom without a moral base is anarchy- the characters demonstrate yearning for freedom within the context of love and basic values. The reason why the narrative is first person is so we can see into the mind of the main character. In her mind, Katniss shows her true self and her true self is free and moral in spite of the Capitol influence.

    Subconsciously, we are drawn to these books because we see a post apocalyptic world that tramples on freedom and liberty. We are awestruck by it- like we are passing a horrific accident on the freeway and can’t help looking. We are also drawn in by certain traces we see in our own society. The interplay between media and the government to control the masses and public opinion as one example.

    I find it particularly interesting when reading other commentary on the books that these themes and aspects concerning freedom and how they relate to current world conditions are ignored. One person commented on the difference between The Hunger Games and our Olympic Games- how one is brutal while the other celebrates fair competition and world wide cooperation. While this is true to a certain degree, I could not help but notice Chinese children torn from the arms of their parents by the State at an early age and forced to compete. Then, we had to put up with an American Media literally gushing about the Chinese government and how the State (Capitol) handled everything. The connections to the Hunger Games are obviously there.

    The “parchment girl” is “right on” about these characters and I was encouraged by her suggestion to contemplate the philosophical questions. This is why I wrote the main one down I felt concerning freedom and liberty. A few more questions I have been contemplating:

    What is the role of the Media in shaping public opinion and what should be their responsibility in a free society?

    How do the Districts vs. the Capitol relate to our current geo-political environment especially when considering Red States vs. Blue States during elections?

    Will the ability of our children (similar to the children in the Hunger games) to pursue freedom be threatened by an increasingly deficit ridden government bent on controlling more and more of our lives and the private sector? What role does our Media play compared to the Capitol Media in this government control?

    What are some of the basic “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” images that tug at our heart strings in this series? Possible Spoiler Warning- Examples: Katniss’ sacrificing her life for Prim, Katniss longing for home, Peeta giving the bread, Katniss’ flower rebellion with Rue, the freedom of the woods and how this freedom brings physical life and sustenance, etc.

    Just some thoughts.. .

    • The theme of liberty vs. tyranny is not one that I had thought much about when I first read the book, but I’m glad you brought it up. I suspect this theme will be more thoroughly explored in the 3rd book in the trilogy. And I’ll definitely be keeping in mind some of the excellent questions you raised when I read Mockingjay.

  12. Encore Encore Encore! Another brillant analysis but most importantly I was happy to hear that you are a bonfide fan of Collins dystopian games. I sped through the books in a span of 4 days and felt elated when I finished. Collins cliff hangers leave you thirsting for more and the wrap up is quite telling. I’ll wait until you finish the last one and then will expound further.

    PS You must get a copy of The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. It just came out this month and marketed as Child Lit Fantasy. A completely enthralling read that captures you from the very first page. It’s a magical treaty treading in the mysticism behind the lore of legends. You have to read this one. AMAZING!

  13. That was the most thorough review of THE HUNGER GAMES I’ve yet to read. I can be a bit squeamish about violence in books, so I haven’t read this series yet (even though I won Mockingjay in a giveaway). But from what you have to say, I might just check it out!

    Thanks for the review!

    • Yeah, I’ve been known to ramble a bit… I hope if you choose to read The Hunger Games you really enjoy it!

  14. Very well-written review!

  15. Reeealy loved this post– very helpful and informational :D Thank you!

  16. I thought that you did a very good book review!
    I’m only 13 years old but I think that I’m old enough to understand some powerful messages “hidden” in this book. After I finish the whole SERIES I took some time to think about things. I didn’t so much think about the violence aspect of the book. I thought about the meaning of life for Katniss after the Capital put her through the Hunger Games TWICE! When I would read the parts about her living a wealthy life in the Victor Village or when she wasn’t doing anything in District 13. I thought: huh, after she battled through soo much and won, what does she do? Her life was destroyed and could never be fixed.
    This is only one question I asked while reading this series. There are many others and that’s what I like about it!
    Thanks for the excellent review! :)

    • Whoa, careful with the spoilers, Little Lady! ;)

      By the way, no offense on the age thing. I recommended the book for ages 14+ as a general guideline, but I’m sure there are a lot of kids your age and even younger who are mature enough to understand the underlying themes of the book. Thanks for the comment!

  17. Yeah I really liked it.

  18. Ok I had to do a book review for school and I chose this book so here it goes.

    The Hunger Games is by Suzanne Collins who also wrote the Underland Chronicles for middle reader. Besides that, Collins has wrote the script for several children television shows. It is an awesome book and I couldn’t stop reading it.
    This book takes place in the future in a land called Panem. After a huge war Panem was separated into 12 districts. Every year two kids (one boy and one girl) from each district go to the Capitol to compete in a battle to the death. Only the winner survives. When Katniss name is pulled out of the lottery to compete in the battle she thinks she will never return. In this action packed book Suzanne Collins displays survival, violence, romance, and suspense!
    I liked this book a lot. It has made its way up to my top ten favorite books! The only reason you shouldn’t read it is because it does have some violence in it. I recommend it to kids 12 and up, and I also recommend it to kids who like action and survival books.
    Sincerely,
    Cambra

    • Thanks for sharing your book review, Cambra! I think you picked a good book for you school assignment. :)

  19. Wow, excellent review! I would never be able to stomach a book like this. I don’t read novels often, but I recently read a suspense-thriller and found it to be disturbing, although the message was excellent… Your review was very eloquent and well-said. Good job!

  20. I have not read The Hunger Games yet. I did appreciate your thoughts on it but I did not read you last two paragraphs yet just in case I decide to read it. I think your comparisons are very interesting and now I am very curious about the series. Great review and insight!

    • Thanks, Beth! I hope if you choose to read it that you enjoy it and get something out of it. :)

  21. This is a great analysis of the book Kate. I loved the story. And I agree if the sub plot of Peeta’s sacrificial love for Katniss wasn’t included, I wouldn’t have found it as interesting. I read the first third of the book and it was ok, but when the boy with the bread declared his love on national television, I was hooked.

    That said, I followed all your links and some of these writers are waaaay too academic for me. There’s something to be said for simple entertainment. I don’t feel let down if a book doesn’t make me ask critical questions. Books help me unwind and relax. Sure, Hunger Games has lots to discuss…if you’re so inclined. It would probably make a great book club pick.

    But I also don’t see anything wrong with treating it like a summer popcorn movie. Just enjoy the ride. And I did find the ride enjoyable. As disturbing a situation Peeta and Katniss found themselves it, there was something gratifying about seeing them “stick it to the man” in the best way they knew how.

    • Hey Joy, thanks for weighing in!

      Maybe my need to analyze everything I watch/read/listen to is just a personality quirk. I feel kind of cheated if entertainment doesn’t give me something to critically think about. But you’re so right – the most gratifying part of the book is seeing P&K “stick it to the man.” That struggle against tyranny is a huge part of what is so compelling about the book. And the best characters always grow out of tough, even cruel circumstances.

      • Maybe I’m the one with the personality quirk. I always say when I finally retire from teaching I’m going to do something totally mindless. No thought involved. Like sell peanuts at the ball park. :) (no offense to anyone working in consessions)

        Books are my peanuts and baseball stadium. When I get home from work, I don’t want to think, I just want to vegetate.

        • I totally understand that! (And hey, selling peanuts could be very fulfilling. Think of all the people watching you could do.) The closest I get to vegging out is when I watch old 60′s comedies on Hulu while eating a late dinner. I still tend to analyze them too much, but it’s about as close to mindless bliss as I’ll ever get. :)

  22. Very nice review. After reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in one weekend, I began to wonder why I actually liked the books. I agree with much of what you said.

    It’s an interesting topic, for sure. I do agree with what Adam above said. Having read Night, The Diary of Anne Frank (think after she was captured), So Far From the Bamboo Grove, and other true stories of young men and women who faced unspeakable horrors, I see how easy it is to settle behind the “fiction” genre and read The Hunger Games for pure entertainment, and I don’t believe it is anything of value to be entertained by. The true stories had my stomach rolling, but The Hunger Games only made me wrinkle my nose, and it, if it was true, is on a much worse level.

    I sad all of that to say this: As a tool to provoke the questions that you mentioned in your post, The Hunger Games can be beneficial. As fiction literature, for pure entertainment, I just can’t see it as useful or wise.

    • You make an excellent point, Jennifer, and you touched on something I didn’t think to mention in my review. We read true stories of people who face unparalleled cruelty and horror with courage and unwavering resolve to do the right thing in spite of the consequences and we’re inspired by it. We read fictional stories of people in the same situations who do the same things, and we’re entertained by it. Why the drastically different responses? I think perhaps one reason we’re entertained by fiction and merely inspired by nonfiction is that plot elements are added to fiction that grip us in a unique way. For example, would The Hunger Games have been anywhere near as entertaining if you removed the sub-plot of Peeta and Katniss’s romantic relationship? I doubt it. If you removed that from the plot I’m not sure it the book would have sold at all. Any thoughts on this?

      Also, in response to your last sentence, I’m not entirely convinced that any book, movie, etc, is beneficial purely as a source of entertainment. Aren’t all forms of media supposed to prompt us think critically, to ask questions? If they don’t, haven’t they failed us to some extent?

      • Agreed. And I’m pretty sure you are correct about Peeta and Katniss’s relationship. These are some deep questions to think on! I like it!!

  23. Sounds like a really interesting book. I’d really like to read it. I’m 14 – would you recommend it for my age?

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for stopping by! I personally think it would be fine for your age, but I would recommend talking about it with your parents first (maybe have them read it, or have them read my analysis of it… there’s also a great review of the book meant for parents at Focus on the Family). This is definitely a discussion-starting book and I think it can both an enjoyable suspense read and a great tool to examine the implications of our media-driven culture.

  24. I agree that this shouldn’t be compared to Twilight at all :) And of course, a good analysis of the book!
    Did you use this for a class also?
    (It sort of reminded me of my essays in school for English)

    • I agree, but since so much of the YA culture has compared and contrasted the two to death, I thought I’d give my two cents on that comparison too. :)

      Nope, didn’t use it for a class. Just for fun.

  25. I think it is much better to compare to Ender’s Game than Twilight.

    I am finishing up Elie Weisel’s Night about his time as a 15/16 year old in German concentration camps. Kiness and Elie were the same age. But the brutality of Night far exceeds that of Hunger Games. I am all for not giving children books that they cannot handle. But I do think that protecting them from history (or scripture for that matter) does not really serve the children well in the long term. In many ways reading Night has made me think about the use of suffering, even in small amounts, on reality shows like survivor. Hunger Games obviously more directly addresses this, but the reality of Night affected me much more.

    Thanks for your review.

    • Thanks for commenting! I agree that kids shouldn’t be protected too much from history and especially Scripture, but I think they can get the good sense of what happens without some of the more graphic descriptions.

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