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Sam Dobson Writes: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Review

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Review

* Caution: May contain spoilers!
The previews for the new Hunger Games movie has me reverting back to the first two movies and, of course, the book series. I never really hopped on to the Harry Potter train and was a begrudging reader of the Twilight books, but the Hunger Games series got me hooked and I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense of all three books. All the hype for the new movie give me nostalgia for the first book of the series. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
The Hunger Games Review
A rebellious uprising and the war that followed has torn apart what used to be known as North America. The nation of Panem is what remains, comprised of a metropolitan Capitol surrounded by the twelve outlying districts it controls through oppression. To keep the citizens under control and to avoid another rebellion, every year each district is forced to sacrifice two children, one male and one female, between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. These 24 children are taken to arena where they are forced to fight to the death while the entire nation watches until there is only one left standing. These are the annual Hunger Games.

Sound grim? It gets better as Katniss Everdeen, only 16 years old, volunteers as tribute after her younger sister was randomly selected at the District 12 Reaping Ceremony. Taking her sister's place in the arena, Katniss must fight for her life amongst 23 other children, some trained, savage, and lethal, others innocent and fragile. The harsh reign of the Capitol forces not only Katniss, but all of the district citizens to weigh their survival instincts against humanity. Bottom line, it's pretty brutal.
One of the strongest pieces of the novel is the heroine. Suzanne Collins not only writes a refreshingly real heroine that doesn't annoy us with her vulnerability (a la Bella Swan), but she creates a Katniss that can be respected for her intelligence and courage. The world in which Katniss is captive is harsh and unjust, a world many can relate to. She shows real emotion, compassion, and incredible strength when forced to fight for survival. To sum it up, Katniss is a badass.

If there is one thing Collins can do, it's keeping the reader coming back for more. Collins kept me one edge, biting my nails at times, with shocking surprises and stressful dilemmas. However crafty Collins is with creating anticipation, the first novel in The Hunger Games series does not steer clear of criticism. Collins has drawn a lot of scrutiny for the amount of violence she has portrayed in a young adult novel (Even my mom refused to read about "teenagers killing each other"). This is where I call bullshit. This novel is no more graphic and violent than hundreds of different video games played by even younger children. Yes, it's hard to imagine that you would actually be cheering for a 16 year old girl to kill 23 other children, but Collins gets you there multiple times throughout Katniss's ordeal. Of course, basic literary analysis tells us that Collins is simply using the text to portray an unjust society with a corrupt political system by using an extreme example. It is graphic, but that's how the novel makes us think about important things regarding "real life", versus a mindless read meant only to swoon women into fantasizing about vampires. 
The thing I struggled with was the relationship between Katniss and Peeta and how it was handled in the novel. It wasn't the ill-fate of Peeta being sent to the arena with the girl he loved, it was more so how the conflict was resolved. While I was captivated by their conflicted relationship, it was just a little bit too convenient when the Capitol decided to let them both live. For most of the second half of the book you are left with nail-biting suspense and the assumption that Katniss will in fact, have to kill Peeta. When they "trick" the Capitol into sparring both of their lives, I found myself rolling my eyes a bit at how simply their heartbreaking fate was eradicated. I will admit I was relieved too because, well let's face it, I love Peeta's earnest character. The only detail that saved the ending from becoming implausible and annoying was the set up for the second novel, in which it is made apparent that the Capitol now holds a grudge against the District 12 winners.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the suspenseful story of Katniss Everdeen. Anxiously turning page by page, I felt the emotional conflict she shared with her sister and the feelings she developed for Peeta. I was kept on the edge of my seat and fully expected the death of Peeta (maybe I even shed a few tears too). I was left all too eager to run out and grab a copy of the second book and I think you will too. 

What, if any, are your qualms with The Hunger Games novel? What did you enjoy most about it and what could you have stand to see done differently?

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