The first thing to say about The Hunger Games is that it borrows significantly from other works, most notably Battle Royale by Koushun Takami; a far more complex book, aimed at a slightly older audience. Whether the hugely derivative nature of The Hunger Games is a problem, is a matter of personal taste, but as it’s written for a YA audience, adult readers may find Battle Royale a more satisfying read overall. Having said this, both deal with similar themes on different levels; rebellion from conformity, the Darwinian struggle to survive, and the strength of the human spirit when set against unspeakable horrors and impossible odds. The Hunger Games also explores the banality and voyeurism of reality television. However, it has to be said that none of these potentially interesting ideas are developed to the extent they could be, and most are vague themes, rather than well-observed critiques of society.
The novel is cleverly paced, with around half the book devoted to the build-up to the games, creating a connection between the reader and the central characters as they are, before the barbarising effect of the games. On the whole the writing feels too simplistic for the adult reader, with uncomplicated sentence structure, and little characterisation beyond the very central characters. Indeed, the potential for moral ambiguity is entirely shunned, with characters either being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. On the plus side, Katniss is a strong, rough, and yet at times, vulnerable heroine – a refreshing combination for a female YA protagonist. However, the central relationship didn’t work particularly well, with very little chemistry evident between Peeta and Katniss. In fact the book itself is oddly sexless, particularly when compared to YA fiction like Twilight. This strikes a discordant note with both Katniss and Peeta having reached sexual maturity and coming from an area of impoverishment; such areas often experiencing high levels of youth sexual activity.
Some parents have expressed concern that the book is too violent for young readers, but more troubling than the violence is the characters’ response to it. There is very little horror expressed by the contestants as they brazenly murder their fellow tributes, and even the ‘good’ characters show little hesitation in delivering the killing blow. There could and should have been so much more emotion attached to the gruesome situation and the horrendous acts that the children were forced to carry out; this is a huge failing morally and, more importantly, dramatically. There is also a strange juxtaposition to the central theme of rebellion against authority, as Katniss spends most of the novel killing the other contestants, each of whom is being exploited in the same way as herself, as required by the Capitol. It’s not until her final act in the games that Katniss truly begins to rebel against the Capitol, and there is a sense that this is building the momentum for the next book in the series.
The Hunger Games is an addictive read, and the dynamic between Katniss and Peeta as they try to engineer their survival is interesting, however adult readers may well find the book unsatisfying on the whole, with too simplistic approach taken for the most part, and some lazy plot contrivances. For young readers a fun and involving read, but for those desirous of something more complex and satisfying, Battle Royale is a far better option.
Reviews of The Hunger Games on Amazon (UK)
Reviews of The Hunger Games on Amazon (US)
|Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2, The Hunger Games)|
Catching Fire (2009) is the second book in Suzanne Collins’s best-selling Hunger Games trilogy. Having escaped from the 74th games with both Peeta’s and her own life intact... [Read More]
|Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Book 3, The Hunger Games)|
Mockingjay (2010) is the final book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy. Having escaped her second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is cared for, with her family, in district 13; stronghold of the rebels. As she recovers her strength Katniss... [Read More]
|Word Search #002: The Hunger Games Characters|
The Hunger Games is full of fantastically named characters. Hidden within the word search below are the names of eight characters from the series (first names only). How many can you find? (Hint: this is very difficult, so I have posted the 8 names... [Read More]
|Anagrams #002: The Hunger Games Characters|
Suzanne Collins created some memorable characters in The Hunger Games, with a range of unusual names. But, how many characters from the series can you recognise from the list of anagrams below?... [Read More]
|Review: Katniss the Cattail by Valerie Estelle Frankel|
Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (2012) is Valerie Estelle Frankel's guide to The Hunger Games series, most specifically the symbolism used within the trilogy. This is... [Read More]