Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is the first novel in a trilogy (by Suzanne Collins) aimed at young adult readers. Like so many titles of this genre - the series crosses over to adult readers as well  and was recommended to me by several friends.

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
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, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 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 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 


16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, 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 struggled with the subject matter for most of the book - for one, the concept of "The Reaping" is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" - like "The Lottery" I had some trouble envisioning a society that so blindly follows the rules of the capital, organizing a random draw to choose which of their children to send to the games - to represent "the district" but also to almost certain death - for the purposes of entertainment. This is not the past - this is the future of the United States...District isolation and the bulk of humanity serving as sheep - as pawns in this "Brave New World". Yes, it's a work of fiction, yes the subject matter is aimed at the teen audience - but still....the whole concept of "willing suspension of disbelief" just isn't there.

Along with the young adult content - Katness (the female district 12 representative) is so unbelievably clueless while readers are assured that she's this brilliant survivor type. It was intriguing to me that some of the other Hunger Games competitors were actually more compelling than our young protagonist.

The Hunger Games was narrated by Carolyn McCormick - who in large part saved the book for me. Clear inflection and a fantastic narration voice - this audiobook was very well performed and produced. Yes, I expect this kind of quality from a publisher like Scholastic Audio - but I'm always pleased with productions live up to my expectations.

In all, I'm reserving judgement on the Hunger Game Series. I've downloaded and plan to start Book Two (Catching Fire) tomorrow. There is a lot of potential in the series and I do feel like I need to stick with the series - if only because of the stellar recommendations of the series. It's not a heavy read - even with the subject matter it's easy to work through the eleven or so hours of content (I finished the audiobook in four days - and approximately 400 miles).

The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Carolyn McCormick; published by  Scholastic Audio. The Hunger Games (unabridged) has a running time of 11 hours 10 minutes and an Audible release date of October 1, 2008.

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