Name: The Hunger Games (Book One)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Amazon: Paperback £3.85
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Themes: Romance, Oppression, Rebellion
Rating: 4.5 Stars
The plot follows a gripping love story as Katniss and Peeta find themselves fighting for their lives in an epic battle to the death. Condemned by the Capitol, 24 young teens participate in a gruesome battle, whilst the rich in society place bets on winners, splashing money on fancy clothes, extravagant make up and outrageous hairstyles, while the districts starve to death in extreme poverty, working as Capitol slaves if only to survive.
We begin in the moving scene where Katniss volunteers to die instead of her little sister Prim…
I volunteer as tribute…
Then we meet the extravagant and efficient Effie Trinket, the drunken and sarcastic Haymitch Abernathy and the caring and expert Cinna. The mansions, the lavishing decorations, the parties and banquets are a massive contrast to home, and this only adds to the overwhelming reality that 23 of the young hopefuls will die.
Enter into the arena and we see the desperation of contestants in a massive bloodbath, the cunning of others and hypocracy and cruelty displayed by many district members. The ‘career’ packs have an unrelenting nature, and the Gamemakers under careful monitoring of President Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee, only add to the heart pounding action fabricating unlikely obstacles that the contestants can barely overcome.
Sibling bonds and allies form as Katniss protects young Rue in the arena…
If you hear the Mockingjay’s singing it you’ll know that I’m okay…
It is then that the unforgettable love story begins, as Katniss and Peeta find that themselves put together against all odds, discover feelings deeper than imagined, and face the worst possible challenge ahead: death.
May the odds be ever in your favour…
Main Characters: Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Primrose Everdeen, Effie Trinket, Haymitch Abernathy.
Katniss Everdeen: She is 16 years old and lives in District 12. She really finds herself after taking part in the games: she is much stronger than she thinks, and is driven by the promise she made to her sister Primrose that she would win. Also driven by the fact that she has been controlled all her life by the authoritarian President Snow, and is still being controlled in the games. Her every action is to protect her sister and their future. She is also confused by her feelings towards Gale and Peeta: she has always assumed that herself and Gale would end up together, however the Games change her perceptions of both characters and she sees a different side to ‘The boy with the bread.’ She is very much an independent character, left to fend for herself and her sister from a young age, due to a mining accident killing her father, and then her mother breaking down, so years of hunting in the woods with Gale set her up with vital survival instincts. He is her hunting partner, and the only person she feels truly comfortable around. The woods are also her place of comfort, mainly because her father used to take her there and she feels closer to him. The woods are notably the only place where the Capitol aren’t surveying every movement, and she doesn’t have to watch what she says. She has a naturally reserved nature, so appealing to crowds isn’t one of her strong points, and neither is making friends. Her stylist Cinna becomes one of her closest friends, due to his laid back and calm nature, and the fact he accepts her for exactly who she is and doesn’t try to model her into a Capitol citizen. Katniss also heavily despises the Capitol inhabitants, mainly for their lavish lifestyles, not in jealousy but in disgust. The fact that the poorest in society are working for the richest in society, allowing the rich to thrive and become richer, and the poor to suffer and become poorer. Overall, she has a pathological need to do the right thing, and is a good ally in the Arena simply due to her excellent survival skills and her maturity, which sets her ahead of other characters.
Peeta Mellark: He is 16 years old, a quiet and insecure character, yet completely selfless and is madly in love with Katniss. It is evident as the plot develops that he has remembered every single detail of her life, from younger years in school, to her family, notably her father, and her actions towards her sister and her hunting. He is in competition with Gale Hawthorn, Katniss’ hunting partner, who also happens to be his polar opposite: Gale is tall, brunette, skilled in hunting, and the heart-throb of many girls in school, whereas Peeta is smaller, stocky and quite reserved. He is a skilled cake decorator, and we soon discover his desire and love towards art, due to his family being bakers. We soon learn that his family has more faith in Katniss winning the Games than they have in Peeta. Initially, Peeta allies with the ‘career’ pack; we soon discover the plan was to save Katniss after all. As the roles are reversed, he publicly declares his love and tells passionate tales, winning over the hearts of the Capitol and earning much-needed food and medicine from Sponsors. His selfless nature carries him all the way to the end, and he is even prepared to die if it means that Katniss can return home.
Primrose Everdeen: Katniss’ little sister, very naive and deeply affected by events of the past. She is not as sturdy as Katniss, and admires her big sister for her strength, her hunting and sees her as more of a mother than her birth mother would ever be. Described as ‘Little Duck’ she owns a cat called ‘Buttercup’ and a goat, would never step foot in the woods and has always been doted on my Katniss. She is very sweet, and the main priority of Katniss from the start.
Effie Trinket: Citizen of the Capitol and has been assigned to guide Katniss and Peeta through the process right up until the Games. To being, she seems extravagant and very patronising, almost looking down on the District 12 tributes, but as the plot develops we gain a certain love for Effie, who although dresses flamboyantly with outrageous hairdos and ushers them everywhere under a very tight schedule, is very sweet and does truly want the best for the tributes. We discover that she is a Capitol made person, influenced heavily by the words and teachings of President Snow, and is only doing the job she has been told to do, following the teachings and views embedded into her. It is obvious the totalitarian society sees nothing wrong with the nature of the Games, because they have been brainwashed into this manner.
Haymitch Abernathy: Victor of District 12 after winning the games a few years previous, drunken man with no family and no life ambitions or motivation. He takes an initial disliking to the hostile personality of Katniss, and eventually welcomes Peeta into discussion after realig=sing a desire to succeed in the games. He is never completely sober, however manages to control himself enough to form a somewhat efficient team with Katniss, Peeta and Effie, and really understand what it is he needs to do to help them to succeed. He is fairly cryptic, and works psychologically with Katniss to reach the unspoken agreement that successful interaction with Peeta earns them Sponsors.
Romance: It isn’t a huge factor of the book, however it is interesting to look at how perceptions of people and circumstances can change the way you look at a person. In The Hunger Games, Katniss has clear feelings towards Gale and feels jealousy when he talks to other girls, as much as she does not like to admit. Gale is the character who she feels comfortable around, has experienced the same past as she has, and who also seeks the woods as a safe haven and is skilled at hunting. She spends the majority of her time with Gale, and is able to speak freely in front of him, with many of her views about the way that they’re treated reciprocated back. Gale has a family to look after and younger siblings similar to Katniss, so knows the struggle of finding food and money. As a boy, he is also forced to work in the mines, the place where their fathers died, so day-to-day life is difficult. In the arena, the only person from home is Peeta, the complete opposite to Gale, with no siblings to feed, he has never been in the position of starvation due to living in the bakery, and his past time was baking or cake decorating. He has lived quite a sheltered lifestyle in comparison, but all the same he has openly critical views about the Capitol and the way they treat people. It is also clear how much he has taken notice of Katniss over the years, and how much he would do anything for her. Gale experiences heartache as he watches Peeta kiss Katniss, Peeta’s desperation but also acceptance that he just wants Katniss to be happy, and Katniss’ confusion as she discovers her love for both of the characters.
Oppression: Needless to say oppression is a massive theme in the series, it is major in this book but only gets worse as the story develops. President Snow is the man who is worshipped by the citizens of the Capitol, the ultra rich in society who know no different, have no idea how the other half live in extreme poverty, and see their deaths in the Games as pure amusement. The districts on the other hand all work for the Capitol, 12 districts each assigned a different product to manufacture, whilst living in the simplest and poorest of conditions, and many dying purely from being malnourished and starved. Peacekeepers are Capitol guards and effectively stop anybody from stepping out of line, and ensure that Snow’s wishes are met with the greatest efficiency. It represents an undemocratic society by which the poorest have to work hard in order for the rich to thrive, and namingly for President Snow to be a popular leader.
Rebellion: Finally, rebellion isn’t so much a major theme in the first book, but having said that there are a few notable moments. For example when Peeta voices that he wants to be more than just a piece in the game makers games, and towards the end of the book as well (Fans you’ll know what I’m on about , hint: berries…) however the lack of rebellion in the first book perhaps represents the sheer force of oppression the districts face and the fear that has been embedded into society.
My Personal View
I received The Hunger Games as a present off one of my cousins, and, having read the blurb, and the first chapter, I must admit I wasn’t too enamoured and I cast it aside for a few months. Now usually there aren’t many books that I don’t like, so I tried it again, and immediately fell in love. I loved the writing style, I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and I loved the good mixture between action and romance and other themes twisted in. Since then I have read the series about six times over, the books have travelled to many places with me. They are easy reads, the language is very simplistic and the characters easy to understand. It is a modern dystopian, and comparing it to a novel such as 1984 – George Orwell, for example, which is also a heavily Dystopian novel with the same sorts of themes, it is clear the difference in language and ambiguity. But The Hunger Games are definitely a fantastic series, nice light reading, and it’s very easy to fall in love with the characters. It is definitely my all time favourite series!
Compared to the Film
Now, I must admit I didn’t understand the hype about the film when it first came out, and as much as I love films I would much rather sit and read the book first for a multitude of reasons, mainly because I appreciate the imagination and ambiguity of reading a book first, letting the imagery the author creates surround me and building my own picture. After watching the film I always find I can never remember my original perceptions. Now, with the Hunger Games, as much as I enjoyed the film, and thought it was fast paced in the right places and portrayed the relationship of Katniss and Prim, and Katniss and Rue, and Katniss and Peeta perfectly, there were other places where I felt it fell down. Firstly, the Hunger Games is written from a first person perspective, so all of the thoughts that Katniss has, and all of her reasons for doing particular things, and all of her confusion and feelings are lost in the film, and some actions seem a little pointless or unintentionally rebellious. Also, other rather symbolic aspects are lost, such as the Mayor’s daughter Madge giving her the Golden Mockingjay token as a symbol of luck in the book, rather than Katniss finding it herself in the market in the film. Also the fact that in the film she finds water so quickly, whereas in the book she takes days to find water, and nearly dies as a consequence. Having said that, I feel the way that the Game Commentators explain to the fake ‘audience’ some of the game features is effective so that first time views aren’t confused, and also the way they physically show the Gamemakers altering the Arena so that there isn’t confusion in this area either. All in all, I think the film is good, but the book is much much better so definitely read this first for those new to the Hunger Games.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the Hunger Games first book, I will post about the second and third in coming weeks, and also some other dystopias and my other favourites. Any thoughts? Please feel free to leave comments of your opinions!