Book Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Style: Chapter Book
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genres: Fiction, Dystopian
Page Count: 384
Format: Trade Paperback (library copy)
Reading time: 4 hours
Date Finished: 1/08/17
My impressions: I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I enjoyed The Hunger Games, because it’s a very good book. More surprising, I suspect, is that I’ve waited until now to read this popular book and have somehow managed to avoid watching the film series as well, meaning that the entire story is fresh and interesting for me, replete with its many twists and turns and intriguing ending. I couldn’t wait to start Catching Fire, and I’m currently taking a break from my foray into that chapter to collect my thoughts here.
What’s most impressive to me about The Hunger Games is how well-paced it is. Every one of the book’s chapters is just a few pages long, and yet structured with a deliberate tension and release, just like the arrows that fly from Katniss Everdeen’s bow. The extensive dystopian world is built up gradually, with new information being dropped in just as it’s needed to provide the reader with enough knowledge to move forward. The writing takes place in the present tense as things are happening, but in the past tense when Katniss is reflecting on the moments that have shaped her. Best of all, the action is centered around wondering how two characters are going to survive in a conflict where only one can be the victor, and by then by providing a logical path for it to be possible so that the ending won’t feel contrived if such a turn should occur.
The characters, too, are expertly crafted. Katniss is a unique heroine in literature, providing a strong heroine who feels feminine and yet has the strength and resilience to make her formidable. Katniss has tragedy in her past (due to the death of her father in a coal mine), but lacks the common child abuse or rape backstory that so often shows up in these sorts of female characters. Her relationship with her friend Gale feels realistic and reflects how a highly-driven girl about her age might feel about the world; her cluelessness at her own femininity and her affect on others likewise makes her compelling, especially as the story brings her companion and would-be lover Peeta into focus. And Collins did an excellent job with many of the supporting characters as well – it’s not only easy to see how they made a great film from this book, but also easy to see how actors could want to inhabit these characters.
I’ve never read another book by Suzanne Collins, but I consider myself privileged to be able to encounter her work now and I’m very curious how her other series aimed at middle-school kids (The Underland Chronicles) reads. I never once felt like the story was contrived or that the plot was forcing the characters along unnaturally, and even where I could see the tricks Collins used to keep the plot moving along, I got lost in the story most of the time. This might be marketed and sold as a young adult series, but make no mistake – it’s masterful in its execution, and something even an adult can find greatly engaging.
I will note now that I’ve heard Catching Fire is a great continuation of the story and that Mockingjay takes a surprising turn away from what the fans expected into a deeper, darker direction. We’ll see how I feel about the series once I’ve finished reading them!