I read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because my fifth grader’s teacher recommended it. It was very good, but intense. I couldn’t put it down, and read it in about two days. I then immediately picked up the next two books in the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay but we’ll save commentary on those for their own separate book reviews.
Hunger Games is like a government take-over on steroids! It combines the theme of an over-reaching central government with the ability of that government to force its citizens to do anything it wants. The central government forces the twelve “districts” that it controls to provide the Capitol with its every need and whim, while forcing the citizens in the districts to live in abject poverty. To top off the cruelty, the government forces its citizens to participate in an annual tournament called the Hunger Games. To fulfill the requirements of this tournament, each of the twelve districts must provide the Capitol with one boy and one girl that they refer to as “tributes.” These tributes are then forced to fight to the death in an arena that has been created to be dangerous and terrifying for its participants. The citizens in the districts are also forced to watch the games as they play out on live television. The book is set in the undisclosed distant future during a time period after which all other human life on the North American continent has been abolished by some untold event or events.
Several themes that I picked up from reading Hunger Games included the assumption that the people on the North American continent will someday be an endangered species, and will then be punished for whatever caused this to happen. Another theme that is very evident is the theme of an all-powerful central government that has control over everything that its citizens do and one that is very cruel to its citizens. Other themes include over-indulgence on the part of the Capitol society, the cruelty of people towards other people, taking pleasure in the abuse towards others, the need for individual survival skills, and the inert desire for self-preservation.
Hunger Games is centered around a 16 year old girl named Katniss, a defiant young lady who is fed up with the way the citizens in her district are treated by the central government. She has a great deal of survival skills that have been taught to her by her father, who was killed prior to the beginning of the story leaving Katniss to provide for her mother and younger sister. She has a best friend named Gale, a young man who regularly accompanies Katniss on hunting trips. Hunting in and of itself is illegal but provides much needed food for their families and the community. Gale is slightly older than Katniss and silently wishes that he will someday be more than just friends. At the beginning of the story, Katniss has no desire to seek a husband at all because she doesn’t want to bring children into such a cruel world. Also, she has only thought of Gale as a friend and confident, not as a future love interest. Her feelings are confused however when he confesses his desire for her just prior to her leaving as a tribute to the Hunger Games.
When Katniss volunteers as a tribute in place of her younger sister, she is thrust into a friendship with a boy her own age named Peeta, who has secretly been in love with Katniss since they were very young. When Peeta proclaims his love for Katniss on live television, she is forced into a situation where she must choose how to react to his love and then ultimately be forced to either kill or be killed by him. Torn between her need for self-preservation and her desire to keep this love-struck boy alive, she is forced to make some difficult decisions that will affect not only each of them but her family and friends back home as well.
I won’t tell you how it ends. That would be mean of me. I highly recommend Hunger Games as a good read and for its aggressive use of moral and ethical themes. This page-turner of a book contains intense violence and doesn’t let up the chase and conflict for even a minute. Once the action begins, it doesn’t stop until the very last page and has little in the way of conflict resolution, which of course leads the reader to jump right into the next book in the series! Anyone who thinks a strong central government is a good thing…should read this book! Have you read Hunger Games? What’s your opinion? -Julie