Hello my dear blogger friends! Today I bring you a guest review from...my hubby! I finally convinced him to read The Hunger Games and I thought it would be fun for him to do a review of the book since (a) I haven't reviewed it on this blog and (b) he's a really good writer. So, without further ado, introducing my hubby!! Enjoy. :-) (He is a bit long-winded so bear with him on this one--he just had a lot to say!)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
© September 2008 by Scholastic, Inc.
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 will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Jess and I have now been married for just under two years and, lately, have been trying to make an attempt to 'get into' each other's hobbies a bit. I'm an avid homebrewer and 10th-level beer nerd, and so she's been slowly trying to get more interested in the endless variety of beers I bring home, brew, and talk about non-stop. For my part, I thought it might be nice to make a genuine attempt to get into her main hobby which, as you all know, is reading. We decided that it would be cool to have a sort of 'book club': just the two of us. We would each take turns picking a book to read, read it together over the course of a week or two, and then make a special dinner/tea/hors d'oeuvres/drinks, etc and talk about the book a bit.
At first, I wasn't too excited about the idea; I'll be honest. I have to read so much for school (just started my PhD in medieval history) that the last thing I want to do before nodding off is pick up another bleedin' book. However, as soon as I got a bit into this book, it became genuinely exciting for me. Other than Lovely Bones (which Jess made me read a few years ago), Harry Potter (yes, I love Harry Potter) is about the closest I've gotten to popular fiction. The only other thing I've read for fun in the past few years is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (via audiobooks) which is BRILLIANT. But, moving on...
First off, I must say, I was not prepared to really like this book. It's not that I was actively planning not to like it; really I was just fairly convinced that it wasn't likely to catch and/or hold my interest. After all, my favorite books at this time are Martin's; they're dark, gritty, violent, and (at times) disturbing. Not really 'kid's' books, as I assumed The Hunger Games was. The Hunger Games, as any of you who have read it will know, is not a children's book. I know that it's classified as young adult fiction, but it's (in my opinion) a good deal more than that. While it's easily accessible and will certainly prove engaging for 13-14s on up, there's a lot in here to appeal to adults as well. Collins jumps right into the story with some pretty heavy stuff. There are clear and brutally-drawn lines of social stratification and it's clear that class conflict is very present in Katniss' 'district', the Seam. I'm not sure why, but I was not really expecting to find these sorts of issues addressed in teen literature, especially so early on in the book.
Katniss is easy to like. She tells the story in the first person, and is brutally honest, fairly confident, but never cocky. She's a heroine who seems real enough and is portrayed with a certain amount of depth. It's easy to see why she would appeal to young adult readers. When her mother's emotional breakdown leaves the family facing starvation, it's Katniss who picks up the pieces and, for several years, it's her (illegal) hunting and foraging that keeps food on the table. Collins treats her young teen heroine with respect and, in doing so, seems to suggest the very real influence (and responsiblities) that young people can have. Yet, while Katniss is a young adult, the issues that she struggles with throughout the book (trust, loyalty, love, etc) are universal, and will certainly appeal to much older readers as well.
Collins does a good job in keeping this book appropriate for her target age level (no sex, the barest hint of crude language, etc) but does a phenomenal job in building a real sense of urgency and, at times, terror throughout the book. She's good at portraying emotions: fear, loss, confusion, doubt, and loyalty in ways that seem both urgent and real. There is real fear out in the woods, as Katniss is being hunted, and there's genuine sadness when a friend dies. The book is certainly a page-turner, and is nicely paced. It's exciting enough that you never want to put it down, yet it's not done to the extreme where the reader is emotionally exhausted just from reading (I have a love/hate relationship with books like that). Collins does a very nice job in giving you just enough information about the world of the Hunger Games; you can picture it in your mind, but (unlike, say, Martin) every rock is not described to you in detail.
Were there negatives? Yes, but they were few and far between. The Hunger Games is written in the first-person voice of a 16-year-old girl and, as such, it's fairly casual, though at times eloquent. Nevertheless, Collins plays fast and loose with sentence structure at a few point. Ok, now you're just nitpicking, you say. And you're right, I am. Yet, as someone who is constantly having to critique student papers, there were a couple of passages where it genuinely annoyed me. Other than that, I was unsure how I felt about the 'rule change' near the middle of the book. Was it really interesting? Yes. Could the Capitol do it for viewing ratings? Absolutely. Does it still feel juuuust a bit too convenient? I can't make up my mind.
Overall, I would give this book a solid B+ on a scale of A (this book is seriously life-changing) to F (good for kindling, but nothing else). It's fun, exciting, and post-apocalyptic (always love that) and deals with themes (love, betrayal, fear, loyalty) with which we're all familiar. Moreover, more serious issues such as economic innequality (and the accompanying hardships for those on the bottom), loyalty, courage, loss, depression, etc are addressed as well. Even if you're not a teen, it's easy to care about Katniss Everdeen; as she deals with a lot of the same issues we all do. And yes, I will be reading the second and third installments of this trilogy.