Sep 8, 2010

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Here's how it started:

"You have to read The Hunger Games," my little sister, Melanie, said over the phone. "I just finished the first one, and the last book just came out."

I miss her. So I said, "Of course I'll read it," and put it on my mental list. I just didn't think I'd pull out that mental list so soon.

Inside Barnes and Noble's coffee shop with 30mph winds outside and a hot chai in my hands, I pick up the bent copy of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Clearly, someone read it before me.
For some reason, I imagine this book is about animals. It's a weird title and not very catching (same with the cover....). I shrug. Melanie liked it and this wasn't the first time I'd heard the book title. When I hear a book mentioned more than 3 times, I need to read it. It's growing popular. Reviews are needed for those parents who will soon be peppered with, "Mom, can I read The Hunger Games?" and "Dad, but Bobby's reading it. Why can't I?"
Inevitably, the reply is usually, "Because I don't know what it's about." or "I don't know if it's safe."

The Hunger Games is unique. It pulls an idea from books like, We (Yevgeny Zamyatin)and 1984 (George Orwell), and movies like Equilibrium--the idea of a overruling government--and makes a similar story with thrilling twists, a very believable character, and geared toward teens.

North America has returned to a somewhat primitive state years in the future due to revolts, natural disasters, and the growth of the all-powerful government. The common people live in 12 different Districts surrounding The Capitol. To keep the people in line and in fear, the Capitol created The Hunger Games 74 years ago, forcing each district to send one boy and one girl into an arena to fight to the death. Each district is required under law to watch the entire game on television live as the contestants (called "tributes") are forced to battle each other and the government-programmed environment for survival.

How do you win? Be the last one alive.

Katniss Everdeen, an eligible teenager and our heroine, ends up in the games through a cruel twist of fate. We follow her as she struggles with the idea of killing someone, but feel her desperation to return home alive as promised to her 12-year-old sister, Prim. Can she resist the strong hand of the Capitol, or does she need to play into it to win?

This is a serious book with its funny moments. The main character is very likable and, as the book is written brilliantly in first person, it's hard not to feel like you are Katniss Everdeen. I almost cried in the second chapter, not because it was hugely sad, but because it was intense and well written.
I've never cried reading a book, and I can only remember one time that I've come close. The fact that The Hunger Games got me to the point of tears when I was in the middle of a crowded Barnes and Noble and only on the second chapter (it did it again in chapter 9), says a lot about the book. Now if a tear actually drops, then this book has accomplished the impossible.

The writing is exceptional and Katniss's character development is very thorough. The reader understands her drive, her reasons behind things, her thinking. I enjoy being in her point of view. The story keeps you on the edge of your seat. I sat in Barnes and Noble for over 6 hours and read through the whole thing--clearly it's a page-turner (book two is already in the mail on its way to my itching hands).
The author has a habit of backtracking--stepping back into Katniss's thoughts and reliving a bit of history. I have always found backtracking horibbly annoying in books--all books but this one. Collins does it in a way where I think, "Oh good, I wanted this information." I've never seen a book accomplish that so far.

*deep breath*

Now for the negatives:
This book has many violent areas. Look back to the plotline--it's a battle to the death with 24 teenager contestants. Many are going to die. There is fighting, brutality, blood, death, wounds, some poison-induced hallucinations, etc. It's harsh and I cringed a few times, but Collins never goes into grotesque detail. She always keeps it at an age-appropriate level. PG-13.
There is also romance--only kissing so far, but there are several instances of it. Also, at one point in the book, Katniss shares a sleeping bag with the boy from her same district in order to keep warm. Nothing happens and there's not even insinuation, but it's good to be aware of it.

I do not recommend this book for young readers (13 and under). Think of it as an appropriately rated PG-13 movie and whether or not you like to watch/read that content.
There are no Christian themes or mentions of God (or any other "worshipped" source), but the novel carries good themes of fighting for freedom. The next few books continue on to address the issue of the overruling Capitol.
Age-appropriate? Yes. Uplifting and spiritually feeding? No.
I enjoyed this book because I enjoy the thought of overthrowing bondage. I love the search for freedom because it is built into our souls--and I have the ultimate freedom through Christ. The idea of "freedom" has always been a favorite topic of mine--to read, to write, to watch...and so I enjoyed The Hunger Games.

Many people are calling The Hunger Games the next Twilight. Personally, that bothers me because I think they are very different novels. One is well written, the other not so much. One is completely focused on action, the other completely focused on romance. One I would recommend to people, the other I wouldn't. One makes you think, one makes you want your brain cells back.
So, I will comment more on this topic once I have finished The Hunger Games series and I will compare the two appropriately.

If you choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it and share your opinion in the comments area. I look forward to hearing other views on the subject matter and writing. And I thank you for allowing me to share my completely honest opinion with you.

(For those still wondering, I did not drop a tear. But I still haven't read books 2 & 3).

Violence Level: ****

Romance Level: *** (Still at an age-appropriate level. Aka. safe.)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: *** (easy to understand in appropriate age-group)
Story Depth Level: ***** (Very adult and deep--makes the reader think...which is unusual)
Recommendation: **** (Only to teens and above with discretion)

For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at


1 comment:

  1. I agree. I started reading the Hunger Games because I actually like the cover, and was immediately sucked in. The second book is not as good, in my opinion, and I haven't started the third book yet (I can't wait to though!)