My brother and I just saw the movie based on this book on Friday. I first read this book when I was 12, so I vaguely remembered the characters, setting, and plot. I tried and tried to find a copy of any book in this series at the two local libraries, but then I heard one of the librarians say to someone else, “Sorry, we have over 110 requests on The Hunger Games… want to put your name on the waiting list?” So I figured I’d wait until the summer or maybe even the fall to reread the first one and read the next two.
And then yesterday (cue dramatic music here), while I was getting some books that I’d just dropped off (I hadn’t finished reading them), I saw that the librarian had just put The Hunger Games back on the shelf. So I ran for it like it was a great weapon near the Cornucopia, killing anyone who got in my way… whoa, time to come back to reality! Time to stop rereading The Hunger Games! But I did get it right away.
So I went home and spent the next 5 hours reading. I even blew off working on Screnzy and working on my 4-H projects, but I made up for those today. I’m going to talk about the plot a little in this review, but I already wrote about it in my review of the movie (link above, for those of you who are forgetful). Actually, I’m going to copy part of what I wrote for the movie review and condense the rest.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The world of The Hunger Games is Panem, what used to be North America. Many years before, the thirteen Districts of Panem rebelled against the Capitol. District 13 was the driving force behind that rebellion, and when it was destroyed by the Capitol, the other 12 surrendered. Every year since, to entertain the Capitol citizens, punish the 12 Districts, and remind them that the Capitol controls everything, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games. Each District chooses one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 – the ‘tributes’ – at a Reaping. The tributes go to the Capitol, where they train for a week, and then go into an arena to fight to the death. The last child alive is the victor.
16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, the main character, volunteers in place of her younger sister, Prim, when she is chosen as a tribute. Katniss travels to the Capitol along with Peeta Mellark, the tribute boy, and a few others. When the Games start, she is forced into the arena along with all the other children and must fight for her life. But will she survive, winning the Games? Only one tribute can win.
I didn’t really remember this book too well. Actually, I remember reading the first half or so straight through, then I skipped around to the tributes’ deaths to figure out when they all died, and then I read the last chapter all the way through. Reading it straight through made everything make a lot more sense.
I could identify with Katniss better, too. No, I don’t have to hunt for my family’s food, and I don’t live in District 12. But I’m 15 and she’s 16. I couldn’t really imagine being 16 when I first read the book.
One of my favorite characters is Haymitch (the District 12 tribute mentor, previous winner of the Games, and drunkard), and while I read The Hunger Games, I wished they had left more of his scenes in the movie. They did a decent job with him, but why didn’t they leave in the scene when he wanders onto the Reaping stage in a druken stupor, hugs Effie Trinket and knocks her wig off, and then falls headfirst into the crowd?!
The book is more violent than the movie, which doesn’t usually happen. I’d forgotten about Titus, a tribute from a few Games past, who began to eat the bodies of the tributes he’d killed. I’d forgotten about another Games that Katniss mentions, where tributes were given only spiked maces and had to bludgeon each other to death. I’d forgotten how disgustingly swollen, deformed, and pus-filled the once beautiful Glimmer becomes after the tracker jackers kill her. I’d remembered the muttations from the book and how each one looked like a dead tribute, but I’d forgotten how shocked Katniss is to see the Rue-muttation. (Rue is the little girl she’d allied with, who was killed by another tribute. Rue reminded Katniss of her sister.) Yes, this is only a YA book.
I realize that there are some things the filmmakers had to edit when they made the movie, but when I read the book, I couldn’t help wishing that they’d included the scene with the Avox girl (they never even mentioned Avoxes in the movie – Avoxes are people who had their tongues cut out for speaking against the Capitol) and kept Clove’s death scene the same (with Cato). I also would have liked to see the scene at the tribute training center in the Capitol where, one evening, Katniss orders a ton of food, eats herself sick, and then throws a temper tantrum in her room, throwing dishes and food at the walls because she’s angry at the Capitol for making her be in the Games. I didn’t remember that scene at all from the last time I read it! I didn’t mind that in the movie, you see quite a few scenes with the Gamemakers that aren’t included at all in the book, because it was easier to explain the Gamemakers in the book. In the movie, it was easier to just have you see them at work, thinking up new terrors and ways to die for the tributes.
One thing I’ve read in quite a few reviews of The Hunger Games is that Katniss is annoying. Some people thought she was a terrible protagonist because she acts like a jerk or is moody or whatever. But I didn’t think she was too bad. She may not be nice all the time, but there are reasons for that. When her father died, she essentially lost her mother as well, because her mother was too depressed to even take care of Prim and Katniss. So she misses her father and resents her mother for not even trying. When she is at the Capitol, she is disgusted by how everyone there is preoccupied with fashion, or some other stupid thing, and they don’t even care that the tributes are going to die. During the Games, she’s terrified, worried, stressed, wounded and in pain from her injuries, hiding constantly because she is being hunted by the others, mad at the Gamemakers for all of this, and struggling to pretend that she loves Peeta, the other tribute from District 12. (Haymitch wants Katniss to act as if they are ‘star-crossed lovers’ to win favors from the audience. The trouble is, Peeta does love Katniss, Katniss doesn’t love Peeta but acts like she does, and after a while, Peeta realizes that she’s only been pretending.) So I’d cut her some slack. Yes, sometimes she does act like a jerk, but come on. She’s being forced to participate in a children’s contest where only one person comes out alive. If you were in that situation, would you be perfectly nice all the time? However, I haven’t yet read the other two books, so I don’t know if Katniss gets worse. Perhaps those other reviewers were talking about her behavior in those books; I’m not sure.
Basically, this book was great! I loved it much more than I had when I read it 3 years ago. It really makes you think about war and violence. After all, what would you do if you were in the Games? If you say, “I’d never kill people!”, well, the only other alternative is to lay down and die.