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Book Thoughts: The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic

Release date: October 31, 2008

Goodreads description:
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, the shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh 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 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 weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I decided not to write a review for The Hunger Games for a few reasons. Mainly, though, it’s because I’m so late to the party that everyone – and I mean everyone – but me has read it. And the point of a review is to introduce readers to a book. I wouldn’t be doing that, since I am probably one of the last people on the face of the earth to have read it. But I did want to share my thoughts.

Another reason I didn’t want to write a review is because if I were to wrangle my thoughts into a review format, I don’t think in that format they would adequately express my feelings and thoughts about this book, the characters and the world.

And while I thought about doing a Quickie Review – because writing a synopsis is really pointless as everyone knows who Katniss is and what The Hunger Games is about – I still felt I wouldn’t be able to express myself in quite the right way.

And so a thoughts post it is. But as they’re not random, I’m doing this as a Book Thoughts post.

While I am not reviewing this book, I do have a rating for it. And I gave The Hunger Games 4/5 stars on Goodreads – which for me is a “loved it” review.

There are many, many readers who have stated that this book is the best book they’ve ever read, that they were blown away by it and that they felt a connection to this book like no other. Sadly, for me, I didn’t quite make that same kind of connection or feel that same intensity of emotion.

I wasn’t blown away by The Hunger Games, though I did love it. I think a lot of it had to do with the timing. If I had read it when it was released, or before I had devoured as many YA books as I have, it might have been different. I’m sort of likening it to the Twilight books – though not the quality of the writing – where I absolutely loved them when I read them, but if I were to have discovered them now, I might not feel the same way.

It also might have had to do with the fact that I saw the film before reading the book. I know – HUGE mistake. And because I wasn’t blown away by the movie – which may have been because I hadn’t yet met the characters, but was more likely because I don’t connect with movies like I do with books – it did initially affect my reading experience. I had to set the book aside for a week and start it all over. And that actually helped, so in the end I don’t think the film had much of an effect on my opinion.

And while I wasn’t totally amazed by this first book in The Hunger Games trilogy, I will leave my final judgment about my reading experience until I read the entire series. Because sometimes it takes more than just the one book for me to become so caught up in the characters’ lives that I don’t want to let them go. Or become so submerged in the world that I am devastated to have to say goodbye. It is very likely that will happen, as I found myself immediately picking up the second book the moment I set down the first.

I found that Katniss was a tough one to like. I know she was written that way on purpose and I think the author did a wonderful job with her character, I just didn’t develop any connection with her. And while I sympathized with her plight, I didn’t feel an emotional connection to it or to the fact that she was undergoing it. At least so far in the series. Though, I think that, too, will change. She is starting to show more cracks in her armor and I think the more I am able to connect, the more likable she will be.

The loss of Rue, however, brought me to tears. The way the author described her, I instantly adored her. I immediately felt afraid for her, as I knew right away that she wasn’t going to be among the final contestants. She was just so young and innocent and fragile.

While The Hunger Games didn’t leave me in a daze, with my head spinning, what it did do was make me want to read more. And the longer I sit with the story, the more curious I am about where it’s headed.

There was plenty of action in the story. A quiet sort of action. And I did get caught up in it, but I didn’t feel it was as pulse-pounding as I thought it might be from having heard the chatter. Nor did I feel that sense of heartbreak or devastation for the characters who didn’t make it – aside from Rue – as I thought I would.

I was always hesitant about reading this book because of The Running Man by Stephen King. Their descriptions just sounded so similar – both have a dystopian setting, though King’s book is not YA, and the games themselves have more than a few similarities. Though not as many as I thought there would be. The film versions of both had more in common than the book versions. Especially as regards the televised portions.

And while I also felt the society was similar to that in The Handmaid’s Tale, I found myself making more comparisons with Divergent, which I wouldn’t have, had I read this when it was released. I don’t like to compare books, but in this case I just couldn’t help thinking how much more exciting I found that story and those characters to be.

But what surprised me the most was how often I thought of Stephen King’s The Long Walk, which happens to be one of my favorite books of all time and one that I read once a year. I hadn’t really thought about the parallels until I started reading The Hunger Games.

In both stories the characters were young adults who were put in a pretty horrific situation – they entered a contest in which there could be only one winner and the only way they could win is if all the other entrants died. In both, the families of the contestants were in desperate need of the prize – riches that would allow them and their families to live in comfort.

But where I didn’t feel a connection to twenty-one of the twenty-four contestants in The Hunger Games, I did feel a connection to many of the one hundred in The Long Walk. Their back stories were more fully developed, making them much more sympathetic, making the loss of each one that much more heartbreaking.

Though perhaps it was because this is a young adult story that those other characters weren’t as developed. As this is aimed at a young adult audience, maybe the brutality of the situation had to be softened. Although having been assigned Lord of the Flies to read in grade school, I’m not sure if the age of the audience was the reason here. But I had almost no sympathy for the other contestants who lost their lives. And regardless of how cruel they may have been, I felt that there should have been something in the story that made me feel the loss of their deaths.

Another difference that kept me from becoming as emotionally tied to The Hunger Games as I’d have liked, was that the characters were chosen by lottery whereas in The Long Walk their participation in the event was on a volunteer basis. Which made The Long Walk that much more heartbreaking because the characters didn’t know what they were getting into until it was too late. Their youth, and the invincibility that comes with it, was used against them. Facing the reality that their lives would end based upon their own choices made that story much more devastating.

As mentioned, I don’t typically compare books. If I were to compare the bones of the various books I read, I’m sure I’d find quite a few similarities. But I don’t look at books with that level of specificity. And I never make comparisons if I can read a book and connect with the story or characters without feeling a sense of deja vu while reading.

But there were so many instances in this story where I did find myself thinking about The Long Walk and the fate of the characters in that book. I found myself missing that emotional connection that I had to Ray Garrity and the other Long Walkers. I kept waiting for some kind of depth to the story that either I missed or that just wasn’t there. And where I found myself haunted by The Long Walk, I didn’t have nearly as strong of a reaction to this one. But I did love it.

If I were to write a review for this book, I would judge it solely on what I thought it had to offer and not how it compared to another book. And my rating reflects this.

I thought the writing was gorgeous in The Hunger Games. I found myself intrigued by just what happened prior to the events in this book – with District 13 and how the world got to be the way that it was. I am curious as to just what repercussion Katniss will face in Catching Fire for doing what she did. And I would like to get to know Gale a bit more.

I think Katniss is someone I could grow to like. I already know that she is strong, she is smart and she has a vulnerability that she doesn’t like to show. And I think that now that the series has moved past the arena I can begin to see it as its own story.

I just think I got to this one too late to feel amazed by this book rather than simply being in love with it. But again, I have a feeling the longer I live with these characters, the more deeply I might fall for them. So I am reading Catching Fire and will see just how connected I become.

Posted in Book Thoughts, Fiction | Tags: , ,

19 Responses to “Book Thoughts: The Hunger Games”

  1. blackplume says:

    I haven’t read much dystopian book like hunger games prior reading the series. So at that time I don’t have anything to compare it to. But I understand your side, having read all those similar books you mentioned. When I saw the Japanese movie Battle Royal after reading THG, I also did compare the two. The plot of teenagers fighting to survive is basically the same. Though Battle Royal is much brutal version which I honestly like better. But I also understand that THG is for YA audience!

  2. LOL…
    I have not yet read it OR seen the movie!!
    I do like your review though :)
    Its on my need to read list but so are about a gazillion others, and I’m way above the YA demographic…………

  3. Ashna says:

    You’re not the only one! I got the book after the movie release and it’s sitting on my bookshelf, but it’s the one I look forward to reading the most! I’m kind of waiting for some exams to get over, till then I’m sticking to some light reads. :)

    I hope I’ll like it too. I’ll be reviewing it even later :P

  4. I liked Katniss in the 1st book, but with each book I liked her less. I can’t wait to hear what you think about the next two books, I still can’t get myself to rate the final book. If I base it on how happy I was with the ending and the events that unfolded I would give it a 2, but I read it in a day and I was really intrigued by the story. I agree though overall I wasn’t blown away by theses books, but I was completely captivated by them.

    I also didn’t really like the movie, I didn’t connect with the movie like I did with the book. I HATED all the close up, unfocused, unsteady camera angels I had a major headache after it and even the the beginning of the movie I wanted to leave.

  5. I think that for sure the movie ruined it for you. Read Catching Fire…it’s my favorite. The beginning is a little slow but there is a lot of symbolism to the story that connected and still connects me to it.

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      I don’t know. I thought it did, but then I took time away and was able to get caught up in the story without thinking about the characters. I couldn’t even really remember what they looked like, except Haymitch, so that was good. But it really was having read Stephen King’s work – The Long Walk – so many times and feeling such a strong emotional connection to it and not having any emotional connection to this.

      Plus, I found I loved Divergent so much more. I found the world much more intriguing than this one. I think Panem wasn’t really talked about that much, there was just this vague outline of the dystopian society whereas in Divergent I really felt I knew the world. I just didn’t feel that this had a strong enough punch to really wow me in the way I’m used to being wowed.

      That being said, I’m about 25% of the way through Catching Fire and I love it a LOT more. While I still am not finding the depth that some of the other books I read have, I am enjoying the story itself much more than THG. I think Catching Fire will be my favorite of the bunch. I just haven’t yet had that feeling that my heart was being ripped out, though I am hopeful that there will be one of those moments in this sequel.

      I think if I had read this a long time ago, even with the Stephen King book for comparison, I would have had a stronger connection with it. But books like Divergent set the bar pretty high and therefore I don’t have that “first love” feeling with THG. My friend Nic is going to KILL me.

  6. Once again, I always love reading your posts. I am one of the few who did not love the Hunger Games. I did go see the movie and although it’s rare for me, I actually liked the movie better than the books. Thanks for your thoughts Rachel!

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      Thanks! I thought the movie was good. Though I think my terrible seat may have affected my enjoyment of that a bit. It did cover almost everything from the book which made it sort of a surprise because I would have thought they’d veer off from the book a lot as films tend to do. So the fact that they stayed pretty much true to the story was a nice surprise once I’d read the book.

      And yeah, I just didn’t make a connection with this book though I loved certain elements and I thought the author had a wonderful flow to her writing style. It was very easy to read, get caught up in the story, I just didn’t feel an emotional connection to it. And maybe because I saw the film first I was expecting the book to have more – depth, world development… something – but it didn’t. It was pretty much like the film in that regard.

      If I hadn’t restarted it after gaining some distance from the film I might have given it a two (OK) or three (LIKED). But when I stepped back I was able to notice a bit more about Katniss and how there was a bit more to her than I initially thought. But if it weren’t for the scene with Rue I may have ended up giving this a 3 regardless.

      And thanks for sharing your thoughts! I almost didn’t post this because I felt like I was the only one who wasn’t bowled over by this book. I know it’s so many people’s favorite and I thought I was the only one who didn’t think it was the be all to end all.

  7. Nina Reads says:

    Can I just say how much I love that you brought up The Long Walk here? It is one of my favorite King novels, and I definite see what you mean about being more emotionally connected to the characters there. I haven’t read The Running Man yet, but I am trying to fit it in this month:)

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      Thanks! I love that book. I was devastated when it wasn’t in eBook format for the longest time. But I was heartbroken over those characters. The boy with the blister, the brothers, the fact that even the strongest person could succumb to something like a cold and be eliminated was a harsh truth and one that sticks to me. Always. And while THG talked of things like the weather affecting previous contestants, they didn’t go into it in the same way that King did. Even the realities of the stomach cramps, the insanity of the crowds and their fascination with the walk were just so much more powerful. I hate making comparisons but TLW is one of those books that made such an impact. Especially that end. King is definitely cruel.

      The Running Man I didn’t particularly like. It was just okay for me. And don’t watch the movie if you haven’t, it’s pretty dreadful. If they redid it today I think it’d be a LOT better. But that plot has been done so much in film – competition, only one survivor, killing your competitors, dystopian society – that only stories like TLW really stand out in the crowd for me.

  8. Caitlin says:

    This is a really great post! I totally get you about not comparing books, I try not to as well but sometimes it IS impossible. Katniss….I really liked her. But mainly because I could see some of her in myself so I think that’s why….but yeah she can seem fairly unlikeable I think. What I liked about this was how intimate it felt reading it. You felt like you were there with Katniss, like you WERE Katniss and I loved that.

    Gotta say tho, I haven’t been insanely bowled over by it, either. I did love it, absolutely love it, but I actually preferred Divergent as well.

    Really great post Rachel, really enjoyed reading it. You should do these more often

    The Cait Files

  9. Kristin says:

    Great way to handle the “review” that isn’t a review!! What a tough one!! Thanks for sharing the inner workings of your brain ~ totally makes sense to me why you’re enjoying Catching Fire better! I read Hunger Games about 6 months ago with no expectations and I still liked Catching Fire better than the first one and I NEVER connected with Katniss….

  10. Nice to know that I wasn’t the only one entirely thrilled with the book. Like you, I really liked the first book, but it didn’t wow me as much as it did everyone else. I think a lot of that had to do with my coming to the series so late (I read the book back in Dec of last year I believe). And I’ll admit, the only reason I read it was because of the movie.

    I like this idea of a review that isn’t exactly a review. With your permission, I’d like to do something similar when I get around to posting my thoughts on the books later this month. =^-^= Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on books 2&3.

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      Yep, I think I’d have fallen head over heels if I came to this series when it first was out. It would have felt much more endearing. Though it is still too close to my favorite author’s ideas that I just can’t separate the two.

      The movie is what pushed me to read it. I never liked any of the covers. Too militant. And the colors didn’t catch my eye. I always walked past those displays wondering what the attraction was. Even when my friend said I had to read them I was unconvinced. But I’m glad I did.

      Of course you can do something similar! I am sure that tons of people do posts about their thoughts on books. Some call them reviews and I suppose it’s a sort of review. I just write mine a bit differently. But absolutely!

      Just posted book 2 today. Have another book to read then I’ll be doing Mockingjay. Hopefully on Monday.

  11. First of all, I can’t believe that you read Lord of the Flies in grade school!! I read it my freshman year honors English!!

    Our views on THG are so similar it’s a bit comical. I also didn’t connect much with Katniss. I found her too aloof at times and more than a little blind to what was happening right in front of her. This applies to both Peeta and Gale.

    Like you, I’d also like to get to know Gale better. I’m really looking forward seeing more of him in the next two books. Or rather I hope he’s in them.

    What I really hope and pray and wish is that when I get to the rest of the series it won’t disappoint me the way THG kinda did. Because the more I think about it the more I feel like I was a bit let down. There was such a build up that I now feel a little deflated by the whole thing. Especially after reading Divergent and it’s sequel, Insurgent. As both of those books blew my mind. In fact I used to stay away from all dystopian but Divergent changed my mind.

    I am so glad that you hadn’t read this series yet as I felt very much alone in the world. lol. I look forward to the sharing of our thoughts on Catching Fire.

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      It did seem odd for school reading. Though I read Crime and Punishment when I was in the sixth grade. But that was for pleasure. Don’t ask, LOL. I think you and I have quite a few similarities in terms of our likes and dislikes and how we think about books. Which is why I never go near your reviews until I’ve my reviews have posted. Unless they’re books I won’t read any time soon.

      She was blind – I go into that a bit more in my CF “review.” She’s blind to other things in that book.

      Don’t read my CF “review” because I may say something about Gale. Not exactly spoiler-y but you will want to form your own opinion on the Gale side of things.

      With the amount of hype this book got it will disappoint. Even the next book wasn’t as perfect as the hype lead me to believe. But I loved it a lot more. Though as I wrote my thoughts out I found more and more to pick apart. Ugh. I hate when that happens.

      Deflated is the perfect word. That’s exactly how I felt. I didn’t really want to read these books because I was worried it would happen. But when I read Divergent – having those same worries – and I loved it, I hoped I’d love these even more and that didn’t happen. And while Divergent isn’t my most favorite dystopian – King’s The Long Walk will forever hold that top spot – it had so much more richness, depth and character development than THG and CF. And while the idea of the return to a more pious society isn’t wholly unique, the author’s characters really made it feel new and exciting and well-developed.

      I don’t know that my mind was completely blown by Divergent but It was beyond amazing. (Divergent didn’t have that earth-shattering loss, which is what usually does me in!)

      I can’t wait to see what you think about CF. I’m curious if it will rise in your estimation or if it will fall more flat. Can’t wait to check out your thoughts… once you read it that is.

  12. Erin says:

    So glad I read this un-review. I didn’t like THG at all, but I hadn’t heard of The Long Walk, but you are so passionate about it I’ll be checking that out soon!

    • Fiktshun009 says:

      It’s very character driven. Even though it’s in a dystopian setting, it all takes place over a few days on a long walk. It’s haunting and heartbreaking and horrific. It’s not YA though the writing feels like it could be. But the subject matter might be a bit too harsh. Though I read it long before adulthood. But the concepts behind the story are what haunt me the most. The idea that most of these boys choose this without really understanding what it means and when they do it’s too late. Absolutely heartbreaking. And the ending is an absolute killer. I hope you get the chance to read it.

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