My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m disinclined to believe that Collins didn’t know of Battle Royale before reviews compared the Hunger Games to it. As an author, there is a certain amount of research that must be done for any kind of book and the fact that she didn’t come across a very popular novel (translated in many languages) that also had a blockbuster movie made out of it is absurd. I was nine when Battle Royale came out, and ten when the movie did and I knew about the concept even if I never read or saw the movie. That’s how popular it was. That’s how many books or TV shows that I actually came in contact with mentioned it in passing.
Anyway, on to the Hunger Games. While the concept is not novel, the execution is quite good. The Hunger Games bears a startling resemblance to the reality TV shows–closest one is Big Brother–and could be a symbolism of how people have been so taken with this kind of show. Or it could really just be a take-off from Battle Royale, who knows. One arena, a battle to the death, arranged by the Capitol to prevent further uprisings from the outlying districts. Tributes are chosen via random drawing. The poorer you are, the more slips of paper with your name on it will be in the bowl. All tributes are teenagers. The concept itself is sickening (although it has already been used in Battle Royale). The book also has things that keep you riveted–muttations, morality, philosophies.
I wish the author described the background and setting more. With the way that the author described it, I imagined Panem just rising up like sea foam after The Little Mermaid (in this case, North America) died. And what happened to the rest of the continents? Also, I always got the impression that District 12 was a small city but based on the amount of refugees in the third book–which was only 10% of their population–it seems like District 12 was a quite big District. And every other district was at least twice as big as 12, so that was definitely a lot of citizens. We could’ve benefited from more description of the Districts more to give us a greater sense of Panem.
This book was not written in a descriptive format, rather a narrative one. For example, the author would state the names of all the delicious food during a scene but wouldn’t show us how it was delicious. It worked well enough, as the book was easy to read and the narrative format was especially useful during the parts with a lot of suspense and fighting.
The point of view is told from the female heroine, a strong, independent sixteen year old from District 12 who volunteered for the Hunger Games in place of her twelve year old sister. We follow her journey into the brutal Hunger Games with Peeta, the boy from her district, who incidentally is in love with her. The boy exploits his love for her on screen (leaving Katniss no choice but to go along with it) and later on, she takes advantage of it to ensure “sponsors”, people who send them items to survive the arena. That in itself, was also sick. The Capitol was using them for their entertainment and as a means of propaganda; our hero and heroine used their feelings (or lack thereof), their bodies, and the emotions of people to stay alive. It’s a sick cycle all in all, but one you can’t look away from.
This book also introduces us to other interesting characters and at the time I finished this, I couldn’t wait to read more about them and their back stories in the next books.