I really appreciate my regular readers. But it never occurred to me that you were actually waiting for my reviews until my lovely friend and fellow BABB, Shannon, bless her book-addicted soul, emailed me saying, “I hate to be one of those people, but you haven’t reviewed The Hunger Games yet.” Two of my book clubs, including the BABBs read the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy in December. Apparently it was quite noticeable when I posted the review for January’s book before the one for December. J All I can say is that some reviews come easily. With others I like to start and stop and go back and reflect. It’s often more difficult to review a book I really enjoy than a book I only sort of enjoy. And I know I’ve been neglecting the blog...I do have several excuses for this—the Holidays were insanely crazy and when they were done, I had business travel, work emergencies, triathlon training, and absolute truth be told, I’ve been having so much fun reading, that getting to the page to write has just not happened. Books are my crack, after all. Writing about books is my crack therapy, but the addiction is still stronger and always easier.
Now onto the review…This is another one of those books that everyone is talking about. There are actually three books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, all by Suzanne Collins. The first movie adaptation is also coming out next month, so that gives you an idea how popular these are. These are “young adult” books about a dystopic future. The story begins instantly. You learn very quickly that at the base of the story is an oppressive government that enslaves the people in their outlying territories. A rebellion some 70+years ago ended in one of these territories, called “District 13” being completely destroyed and the remaining 12 districts being forced into participating in and watching the annual “Hunger Games,” as a reminder never to rebel again. In the Hunger Games, each district must send two of their children, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 & 18 to fight to the death in an arena. This isn’t gladiator-style. The arenas are huge, many acres, even miles across and could be located anywhere in the world, from deserts to forests to oceans. The contestants, called “tributes,” train for several weeks, have personal stylists and often have cosmetic alterations done because the entire games is recorded and broadcast to the whole country, and the “Capital” government wants to put on a good show.
Tributes are chosen by random drawing, although volunteers are accepted. Our protagonist, sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen from District 12, volunteers to take the place of her 12-year old sister, Prim, when they pick her name out of the pot. The plot thickens when her fellow tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark, announces in his interview that he has been in love with Katniss since they were little children.
The plot line sounds horrific, and of course it is horrific to send 24 kids out to kill each other. When I told my sister about this book, she said “That doesn’t sound like anything I’d ever want to read.” BUT WAIT---keep reading. If I do my job with this review, you’ll be another one of those crazy Hunger Games fans before you know it.
Aside from being well written and action packed, these books really make you think. Imagine if you were thrown into that arena and forced to kill or be killed. What would you do? The televised aspect of these games is a huge factor. If you put on a good show, your “sponsors” may help you by sending you a tool, or food, or medicine that you desperately need. Would you be able to perform? Fake it when you need to in order to manipulate an audience? And how resentful would you be of a government that forced you into this situation? Wouldn’t you want to bring them down? How can you appeal to the audience and send a message to your oppressors at the same time? And would you have the guts to do it when they hold your life, and the lives of people you love in their hands? Katniss struggles with all these things and readers can’t turn the page fast enough to see how she deals with them.
Ratings (For an explanation of my rating factors, please visit the Rating System Key page.)
Crack Factor – 9.9. Can’t put it down? Neglecting things? PB & J for dinner? All marks of a crack book. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire had me, my husband and my entire book club glued to the pages. Mockingjay unfortunately fell during the holiday craziness, so I had to put it down to cook and wrap presents and be hostess and stuff, but all are quick reads, definite page turners. Even my husband, who almost never reads books, finished the first book within a couple days. I even got text messages from him like “OMG! Peeta just….” And if a non-reader like Adam can get caught in a book, you gotta imagine it’s good.
Tears Shed Factor – I wouldn’t necessarily call these books emotional, although there are many emotional parts. It would always hit me, however, when Katniss was feeling the weight of her responsibilities. Once you have loved someone enough to be willing to die for them, you know what I mean. Ever since the death of her father, Katniss has supported and cared for her mother and sister. Her love for Prim is so fierce, and the thought of losing her to the games is so terrifying, that it’s easier for her to volunteer herself than let her little sister die in the arena. Love like that gives you chills.
Distraction Factor – 9.0. All dystopia books are frightening---most of me says “This could never happen,” but then there’s that little voice in the back of my head that sees current disturbing trends taken to extreme ends and realizes that somewhere in the historic record, something similar has probably already happened or is happening somewhere in the world. Slavery, exploitation, gladiators: these are not the stuff of imagination, but of history and reality.
PeopleFactor – 9.0. Great characters show up all throughout this book. It has good guys and bad guys and the ones in between, all marvelously flawed, both love-able and odious. I was frequently angry with Collins when she would kill off my favorites. UGH!
Story Telling Factor – 9.0. You can’t just read one of these books, you really need to commit to all 3 to get a good sense of the story, but books one and two will leave you wanting more, so you won’t want to wait. They are well plotted and move along fast. If I had any gripes about the story, it was that a few times, the story had to halt because of its ‘Young Adult Fiction” literary category. I found this incredibly irritating. The author definitely stopped the story in a “teen appropriate” place a few times when I really wanted it to go to the adult place. This was even more irritating because I felt that stopping in the teen place was contrary to what probably would have happened in real life. The natural progression of some of these parts would have been to take it further, but the author had to stop where she did. Frustrating.
Writing Skills Factor –Okay, this is not great literature, but never once did I sit up and say---wow—the writing is bugging me, or this doesn’t make sense, or she could have done this better. Collins’ writing skills are good—she can tell a story well, and keep you coming back for more.
Bad Ass Babe Factor – 9.5 The best heroes and heroines are the ones who never want to be one in the first place. They are the ones created when the world needs them, who step into the role that is forced on them and rise to the occasion. Katniss is an amazing, if reluctant, heroine. She carries the weight of responsibility on her young shoulders most of the time, but she has her moments of self doubt, of protest, and of anger, which makes her human and more appealing. She makes sure to take care of the people she loves. She is smart and tough.
Hotter than Adam Factor – 9.5. I think anyone would admit that it’s hard to resist someone who is completely in love with you. Peeta’s love for Katniss is continually touching in its innocence and selflessness. I felt so bad for him so many times and I wanted to smack her over the head for not getting it…until. I’m not going to give anything away, but Peeta is an incredibly appealing leading man. (And then there's Finnick...I imagine him somewhat like a blonder Adam with a trident...yummy...) One of the BABBs sent this pic to the rest of us, so I must include it:
Total Rating: 9.31
For serious Hunger Games fans, here's the trailer: