Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Hunger Games: Book Review

WARNING: The following contains lots of SPOILERS. Only continue if you have read the Hunger Games trilogy.

I'll be honest with this one, I had not read any of the books before I went to see the Hunger Games movie in the theater. For some reason I missed the initial Hunger Games book craze. Suddenly, when the movie was announced, everyone was going crazy and was super excited for the upcoming movie. That's when the books caught my attention. Did I read them then? Nope, not yet. I waited for the movie to come out and saw it opening weekend along with the rest of the world. Some people claimed the movie, or at least the back story of the movie was hard to follow without having read the books. Nope, not the case for me. I followed perfectly fine and came away from the movie officially sold.

After being very impressed with the movie, I eventually grabbed the book and read it over the course of the Summer. Yes, I take my time reading sometimes, especially when I already know everything that happens. But nonetheless, I was super impressed with the book. Although the movie did a great job in following the book, the book was better. And it was because of the perspective of the book that was obviously really hard to duplicate in a movie.  I've seen the first person style done before, but I've never seen the first person present. You are literally inside the head of Katniss. You are reading her thoughts the whole series and everything you see the way she sees things. Writing like this would obviously take some talent and effort to pull off and Suzanne Collins does just that. It is one of the more brilliantly written books because of that uniqueness. If the movie tried to pull that off, quite honestly it be a horrible movie, but they did a good job displaying it film the best they could. The advantage that the movie has is that because they aren't limited to Katniss's mind, they can show us more. They can show us things from Gale's perspective that we don't learn until the second or even third book. They can show the rebellions that went on during the games that Katniss doesn't know about until later. Lastly they can show us things from the gamemakers' point of view, specifically the storyline between Seneca Crane and President Snow, something that we don't about at all until Snow talks to Katniss personally in book two. Speaking of Snow, we get an early look into his evil ways, which we also don't get in the first book. But even with all this, the first book is still better than the first movie, although the tide could change in later movies, but I'll get to that later.

Beyond all this, the first book does a great job of setting the scene for everything, like the first book in a good trilogy should do. We are set in the distant future in the United States, but long after the United States has been destroyed and a completely new civilization has been set up. There is a capitol and 13 districts, although we don't learn about the rebellious district 13 until much later in the series.  We essentially have a dictatorship that is set up and has been going on for quite some time. 74 years before the first book took place, there was a rebellion that the Capitol suppressed, supposedly destroying District 13. The other 12 districts were punished by the setup of the Hunger Games, which consists of each of the 12 districts selecting one boy and one girl ages 12 - 18 to fight to the death with only one winner. The winner in theory gets spoiled by the capitol. However, we learn later that the victors actually get abused by the Capitol, making this worse.

 Is this a gruesome premise? Probably. This is definitely not a children's book and certainly doesn't have a fairy tale ending, which I will get into in greater detail in later books. But here in this first book, we have Katniss Everdeen fighting in the 74th annual hunger games after bravely volunteering for her 12 year old sister Prim. A fake romance is set up between her and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark that causes tension between her and her long time friend Gale. Does she mean for that to happen? No, she's just trying to stay alive. In the end when it comes down to her and Peeta, after initially being informed that both of them could survive, they are informed that only one can survive. Katniss pulls out some poisonous berries and comes up with a double suicide plan. Does she mean to defile the capitol by doing this and in turn spark a rebellion that spreads throughout the whole land? No, but this is exactly what happens and that beautifully sets the tone for the rest of the series as we end with Peeta learning her romance was all a game after it is all said and done, while Katniss gets to go home and face whatever consequences her actions have caused.

Continue with my Catching Fire review, followed by my Mockingjay review.

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