The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I’ve had a copy of Suzanne Collins’s novel The Hunger Games since September, but there are two reasons I’m just reviewing it now: one, I’m still recovering from the massive let-down that was the final book in Collins’s otherwise-excellent Underland Chronicles, and two, I wasn’t exactly leaping to read a book as unmistakably grim-looking as this one. It would probably still be languishing in my “to be read” pile, but Nathan eventually picked it up, and watching him charge right though it convinced me to give it a long-overdue shot.

Collins’s book, the first in a new trilogy, introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world where a totalitarian government requires each of its territories to send them a yearly tribute: two children to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. When her younger sister is selected, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen offers to take her place. Katniss hopes that her hunting and trapping skills, along with the unorthodox alliance she makes with her teammate, will be enough to keep her alive—and while she’s not excited about the “kill” part of “kill or be killed”, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to win.

If I had never read another book by Collins, I expect I would have recommended The Hunger Games without reservation*. It is outstanding—dramatic and action-packed, emotionally riveting, topical without being preachy. Collins illustrates her characters with a deft hand, and allows her heroine’s intense desire to survive to speak for itself, rather than falling back on a lot of long-winded exposition about the horrors of her post-apocalyptic world. There are a few minor missteps (I was underwhelmed by a fresh horror introduced late in the book. It was plenty gross, but I was too emotionally exhausted by the rest of the story to care), but 99% of this novel is straight-up awesome.

However, I have read another book by Collins—Gregor and the Code of Claw, the book that I’d nominate as 2007’s biggest disappointment. Gregor and the Code of Claw simply petered out, ending the once-excellent Underland Chronicles with more of a whimper than a bang and permanently damaging my trust. The Hunger Games might be amazing, but I’ll never open a Collins book with uncritical excitement again.

*Well, for older teens. This is not a story for the young’uns.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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