The Cover: Upon first glance, the cover is really boring. Being a reader that loves pretty, glossy covers, this one just isn’t appealing. A gold bird holding an arrow in its mouth and a black background with a design that looks like a crop circle. Very androgynous and just blah. But once you get into the books, the bird symbols will take on a lot of meaning and become very important to you. Don’t judge this one by its cover!
Back Blurb: Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun….
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel 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.
The Book: Confession: I had never heard of The Hunger Games before the movie came out, and there was no way was I going to see it. It just sounded so disturbing: twenty-four children are locked in an arena and forced to compete in a televised fight to the death. How completely sick and twisted must this writer be? But after a year or two of listening to the hype, I was on a Dystopian kick and decided to give it a go. And wow. Was I wrong about how completely incredible this story is! I was utterly mind-blown. This story is nothing at all like I thought it would be. Instantly hooked, I immediately bought and read all three books. If you have seen the movie but not read the book, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.
While the movie was absolutely amazing, but the book was absolutely amazing to the nth degree. The movie will satisfy your craving for a world-shattering Dystopian fix, but the book will do that even better. It will also explain everything the movie is missing. Obviously, like most movies, the narrative is omniscient. The book is told from Katniss’s first-person perspective, so we get a lot more of the backstory of her life and more of the history behind the Hunger Games. There are some important scenes that are symbolic to the story but absent in the movie. Best of all, we get a whole lot more feels that will make you want to grab the nearest cuddly animal and never let go.
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss so perfectly I can’t imagine any other actress playing her. While JLaw is divinely talented, the Katniss that Suzanne creates is captivating. Katniss is strong and fierce from beginning to end, but she grows in her boldness and determination. In the beginning, she is a quiet, observant fly-on-the-wall; crafted from the Capitol just like all citizens of Panem. The Capitol breeds the people of its districts like specimen rats: they deny them their basic rights as humans and keep them captive within their districts. They restrict their movements, their access to food and medical supplies, and worst of all, their voices. The people of Panem, especially the poorer districts, are under total control, like prisoners in a barren concentration camp.
The people of the Capitol are a completely different ilk. They resemble a ridiculously expensive circus sideshow with the way they surgically decorate their bodies, the Lady Gaga-esque costume clothing they wear, and their inflecting accents. The Capitol has incredible futuristic technology, but the poverty-stricken districts are deprived of power except when it benefits the Capitol. Its citizens have never known anything other than opulence and abundance, which makes it easier for them to dehumanize the citizens of the districts. While the Hunger Games exist purely to oppress the districts, the Capitol actually enjoys watching the Games, watching children who are basically kidnapped plot against and kill each other in horrific ways. They are not required to reap children, so they’re clueless to the pain and anguish the Games cause. They don’t even realize that the rest of Panem, besides the Career districts, despise the Games. It’s just entertainment for them, like watching the Olympics. They love the Games so much they treat the Tributes like celebrities.
The richer districts, like District 1 and District 2, are not that different from the Capitol. While some of their rights are restricted, like the right to petition the government, their citizens are wealthy and consider the Games to be a way to gain fame and fortune within the Capitol. Kids called “Careers” actually train their entire lives for the Games in hopes that they will be reaped. If they are not reaped, they volunteer. To be picked for the Games is a great honor, even if it’s done by lottery, and to die in them is highly esteemed. To win means never-ending glory. The Career enter the Games ready to kill; the poorer Tributes enter hoping their death is quick and painless.
For the poorer districts, the Games mean certain death. The catchphrase of the Games is, “May the odds be ever in your favor,” but for the working class districts, the odds are completely against them. The Careers are always at a greater advantage than the poorer tributes, and the reasons for it are absolutely disturbing. The Capitol and the government of Panem are like Nazi Germany. The whole set-up makes you sick because, although the plot is really out there, it’s completely possible that a world like this can exist in the future.
Katniss Everdeen, a poor girl from District 12, volunteers as Tribute when her little sister Prim is reaped. Before the reaping, she lives a simple but sad life in the Seam, the poverty-ridden outskirts of the poorest district. Her relationship with her father and his actions before his untimely death play a large role in who she becomes. He taught Katniss how to hunt, which is illegal and punishable by death, but gave Katniss an edge in the Games. When he died in a mining explosion, Katniss’s mother broke down, leaving Katniss to fend for the family and make sure her young sister Prim always had enough to eat. Katniss became the family’s sole provider, much like her hunting partner, Gale. Gale also lost his father in the mining accident, and he has to help put food on the table for his several young siblings and their mother.
The movie implies that there is a romance between Katniss and Gale, but in the book, Katniss makes it clear that there is not. She has very few friends, and the Seam is such a depressing place that a social life or romance are the last things on her mind. She focuses on one thing: feeding her mother and sister. Katniss trusts nobody besides her sister and Gale. He is like a brother to her; a hunting partner who she opens up to, but nothing more. The “real” romance in this book is between Katniss and Peeta, her partner tribute. It’s shocking and unexpected, and ultimately determines how the Games play out.
To know Peeta Mellark is to love him. His family owns a bakery in the better-off-but-still-poor section of town. Years before the reaping, he and Katniss had one small but significant interaction. Katniss was on the brink of starvation when Peeta risked a beating from his mother by “accidentally” burning some bread to give to Katniss. This small gesture saved her from death and fed her family for the night, keeping her alive just long enough to keep going. Katniss is still ashamed and feels forever indebted to Peeta for his kindness, even though the two never speak again until they are reaped for the Games. It’s not until they are in the arena that Katniss learns Peeta’s true feelings for her. Although they are technically enemies, she finds an ally in him in a way she never expected.
One great thing about this book is, being a YA novel, romance is not a main theme of the story. There are so many different elements to the story, including political corruption, humanism, sacrifice, survival, and relationship of all different kinds. The Big Deal over the three books is rebellion and a revolution against the Capitol, but this book starts small by examining the psychological elements of right, wrong, good, and evil. You’ll start questioning why certain people are good or evil, but then realize that in their world, what’s considered wrong in ours is completely normal in theirs. In the twisted universe of Panem, we’re just hoping that our heroine can survive without breaking, instead of hoping she gets her prince at the end. And if she can’t survive, that her actions in the arena stand for what she truly believes in, rather than conforming to the cruel Capitol. Katniss is so fierce that she doesn’t need the “prize” of a man to make it to the end. She knows there are things so much bigger than her, and that the only love she needs is the love she has for her family and herself. With her bravery and determination, Katniss truly lives up to her nickname, “The Girl on Fire.”
Katniss and Peeta, “The Boy With the Bread”, are unforgettable characters. In fact, many of the characters in this book are ones you will fall in love with. Katniss’s little sister, Prim, doesn’t get a lot of real face time, but Katniss’s stories of her are endearing. Prim is smart, compassionate, and loyal. Katniss loves her so much that she is willing to die for her. Their father, who died many years ago, might have seemed just a simple man of District 12, but he did great things in his short life. Gale, who works tirelessly to feed his family, swears to take care of Prim, no matter what happens in the Games. To Gale, Prim is as much of a sister to him as his real siblings. He is truly a great young man who is brave and selfless. Effie Trinket and Haymitch Abernathy are both lovable in their peculiar ways. Even some of the other Tributes, as despicable as they may seem at first, will tug on your heartstrings and leave you grieving.
Aside from the incredible story she’s written, Suzanne’s brilliance in creating the Panem universe does two big things: it makes you despise the people of the Capitol, and then it makes you act like them. When you first learn how the Games work, how 24 innocent children are forced to slaughter each other, you are sickened. But when the killing starts and Katniss turns to pure survival mode, you begin to favor her over the other innocent Tributes, especially the Careers, just because you’ve gotten to know her. You internally cheer her on when she makes her first kill. You don’t stop to mourn the Careers that are killed, because they’re built up to be evil and deserve to die. But do they really deserve that, just because they see it as an honor? They’re persuaded by the Capitol to believe that murdering is entertaining and dying is glorifying. It’s all they know. It’s what they’re taught from the very beginning of their lives. The people of the Capitol, the Gamemakers, and President Snow are masters at brainwashing, just like Suzanne Collins is. Even the name Panem, which comes from a Latin phrase meaning “bread and circuses,” is perfect. It describes precisely what the Capitol is: unlimited wealth and wastefulness inside a dazzling fantasy world.
The Hunger Games is categorized as Young Adult, but it touches on so many issues that older adults will understand and enjoy. This book is a true masterpiece that will make you think, cry tears of pain and joy, and change your outlook on things that you have been taught to believe. I highly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a good story, but be prepared to have your heart wrenched. The next book in the trilogy is Catching Fire, where the Capitol increases its oppression and the citizens begin to rebel. Stay tuned for the review!
What did you enjoy more, the book or the movie? Sound off in the comments below!