Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is the first book in a planned trilogy. Book two is due out in Sept. 2009. And I've heard rumors of a movie! I really liked this book, I had a hard time putting it down! It reminded me of others in the genre- Unwind, House of the Scorpion and The Giver. The United States in a post-apocalyptic time, a very scary time- a great cautionary tale.

I thought the book was very well drawn out, I was at times anxious to read to see what would happen next, but then again nervous about what would happen next. It was tense and filled with constant suspense. Under all the action and adventure there was still the age old plot of the love triangle...almost hidden between trying to avoid being killed by the other contestants and surviving in the wilds.

I came to like the character of Katniss- again I am drawn to the strong females in a novel. She saves her family, provides for them and takes her sister's place in the games. And, as one reviewer said, what teenage girls wouldn't love a story whereas the heroine gets to choose between two hunky guys- Peeta and Gale??!! Hmmm! I have to say, towards the end I couldn't believe she didn't realize that Peeta really cared for her! Did she really think the kid was faking it? I felt terrible that she didn't feel the same. Come on, he gave her that loaf of bread!!!

One of the things that bother me about the novel were the devices the author used to help move the plot along- they were unrealistic, as if she was taking an easy way out- for example, when Katniss needs burn cream or medicine for Peeta, and the stuff floats down from the sky on silver parachutes. I also thought the scene at the end with the berries and the aftermath of that situation was a bit contrived.

I really think that our students, who have been raised in the reality TV/Survivor era will love this book. I think it speaks right to them. It has adventure, action survival, competition, a love story, strong characters...a sure fire hit with the YA crowd. It would be a great book to pair with other dystopian novels- 1984 etc...

Looking forward to seeing what you all thought.


Cherie said...

I loved this book! I really couldn't put it down or stop reading! When I first picked it up it reminded me of a combination of a short story by Stephen King called "The Long walk", and of course TV's survivor. As I read, I found myself constantly wondering "what if". What if this could happen? what if this future could hold some truth? What would I do in that situation, and more importantly, would I be able to survive?!

I immediately was drawn to Katniss-I am also drawn to strong female lead characters, and I did get sucked into the love triangle of her and Peeta and Gale. I think I am pulling for Peeta!

I thought that Collins did a good job explaining Katniss' background and how she came to be the person she was. At times I thought that the story was a little far fetched (the giant dog/wolves that were created from the dead contestants) but for the most part it captivated me. I admit I panicked for a moment. I looked to the end of the book and saw that it was a 2 parter and I feared that Collins would not tell who had won the hunger games until the next book! I honestly can't wait to read the second part!

Dawn said...

I loved this book. I could not put it down. When I first began reading, I thought Katniss was a male. It took me a chapter or two to really see things from a female’s perspective vs. male. The very beginning of the book (the reaping) reminded me of the short story “The Lottery” too. Initially I thought that Katniss and Gale would run away. I figured they would be hunted due to running away but obviously that did not happen.

I have to say that there was never really a moment when I thought Katniss would not win the games. It seemed like the entire book set her up to be the winner. Yes, there was some doubt at times, but I could really see the happy ending for her from the start. With that said, I still loved reading every chapter.

My favorite character in the book was Peeta. I really thought he was a genuine person from the start. I am not really into teens telling each other they love one another, but I have to admit I liked how Peeta professed his love for Katniss in the interview. It was sweet. Whenever Katniss doubted Peeta, I really had this feeling that he had another plan in mind that included her. He just seemed like a good person. I was happy that they both lived in the end.

I would like to learn more about Haymitch. I assume he is a drunk because of what he had to do in the games when he was a player. District 12 did not win often, so I wonder if he felt responsible for every loss while he was a mentor to the players. I wonder if he will clean up his act in the next book.

Overall I would recommend this book to a variety of students. I think they would enjoy the action and, like me, have a hard time putting it down. I can’t wait to read the next one when it is out.

Mary said...

I too really loved this book and can't wait to recommend it to others!I had fun thinking of all the parallels from the ancient gladiators to current reality TV shows like Survivor and Project Runway.The concept of using the games not only as a form of twisted entertainment but as a means of suppression and a vehicle of propaganda was thought provoking.It made me really question all aspects of the game.

I liked that the love triangle was downplayed. Katniss approached life from the standpoint of survival and she had developed very strong feelings about romantic love and marriage at a young age. To have her explore her feeling more deeply than Collins did would not ring true. I expect now that has reason to believe there may be hope for her future, she can afford to let down her defenses and face her feelings for both Peeta and Gale.

I also really enjoyed the character Rue. She allowed us to see deeper into Katniss' character while providing a contrast to the other contestants. Katniss' relationships with Rue and Peeta were an opportunity for her to directly defy the Capitol. In some ways a simple act, but for a girl who prefers isolation and who guards her few relationships with a fierce protectiveness, this is an act of great strength. That concept is really appealing to me.

One criticism is the use of the present tense. It's my personal taste, but I usually do not like to read books written in present tense. It took me a chapter or two to get over myself, but the action was so strong and my curiosity took over, and I was able to forget about the tense. I

I agree with the previous posts, I am really looking forward to the next book. Many questions are still left unanswered!

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I loved this book. I read almost the entire thing in one day. I couldn’t put it down. I think it was very well written and the story was intriguing. The book offers so many great topics for discussion. Katniss character is a great female role model. She was such a strong individual, taking care of her entire family when no one else could. Peeta showed a different kind of strength, and was willing to sacrifice his life for another. His only concern was Katniss safety. Everything he did was motivated by the love he felt for her.
I also liked the character of Rue it added a new dynamic to Katniss' character that the reader only got a glimpse of in the beginning.
I did not like the part towards the end of the games when the three remaining contestants were attacked by wolf-people made from the failed contestants. I felt this was an unnecessary detail and my only hope is that it may be explained in future books??
The worst part about this book was that it is a series book and I didn’t realize it until the very last page! I hate not being able to read the next book right away. I think there are a lot of possibilities about how the next book may go and can't wait. I have been speculating with others who have also read Hunger Games.
I would definitely recommend this book to others and have already!

rebeccakryger said...

The beginning of this book made me think it was going to be too much like Unwind or The Dead and Gone, but I really loved it! I found myself constantly thinking, "okay, just one more chapter." It definitely kept my interest from cover to cover.

Part of what I loved about Katniss was that she was a strong contender in the games because of her cleverness and skill, not for her beauty or physical charm. I loved that she seemed ordinary--struggling to act "cute" at the interviews anda her general awkwardness made her seem real. For these reasons, I think she would be appealing to teens.

The concept of the book was very appealing as well. The idea that the government would use the games to demonstrate their power of the people, and that teenagers were force to kill each other in fight for survival kept me on edge throughout. Collins shows you the human side of many of the contestants, yet you know they cannot all survive, building the readers personal connection to the text.

I am still not sure whether I am pulling for Peeta or Gale. Because we were able to witness some of the touching moments between Peeta and Katniss, I was somewhat disappointed when she said she didn't like him that way. The story about Peeta and the bread was what really got me--especially when it was coming down to the end. Until the twist with both surviving, I was so sad that Peeta might die.

Cherie, your comment about the mutant dogs/contestants is true--it was a little over the top for me. However, some of the other parts--the preparations for the games, the fire outfits, the way the games were manipulated by the officials--helped me to overlook some of those moments.

Kathy, I think the balloons with medicine or other "help" items were an interesting touch. They were sort of a necessary reminder that the games were a complete manipulation of the people watching at home and the contestants by the government. It's not just a survival story, but a game they have to play in order to survive.

I agree with Dawn that the reaping reminded me of "The Lottery." That would be a great preread for this novel if it was used in a class. This would be a great addition to a unit on dystopia. Kathy, I hope you will be ordering a copy or two of the next book in this series! I can't wait for it to come out. :)

cvanslyk said...

I totally agree that this was a great book and it would interest many of our students. As I read it, several other stories came to mind. "The Lottery" as Dawn and Rebecca observed, "The Most Dangerous Game" and also "Rollerball Murder" all had similaries to "Hunger Games". I loved Katniss and admired how she took responsibility for providing for her family. Her mother was very disappointing. As the story went on, it pointed out what an intelligent and capable person her mother had been before the death of her father. I really wanted to see her pull herself together for the benefit of her children. But then maybe Katniss would not have developed all the survival skills she had to for self preservation and for Prim, who she loved very much. I felt sorry for Peeta at the end of the story but Katniss had stated that she would never be able to afford the kind of love that leads to a family and to children. This is very understandable. Who would ever want to put a child or even an adult through the cruelty that this society was entertained by. This book could be easily related to senior government class. It would be an interesting project to compare the government of Panem to our government today. There were numerous civil rights violations that would be totally unconstitutional in our present society. "The Hunger Games" might be a very good book for my English 4 students to read and discuss in class. I am looking forward to part 2.

Chris K said...

I enjoyed this book as well, Like everyone has said, Katniss' character is a great female role model. I really liked her and made connections with her since, she was such a strong individual. Especially the way she was taking care of her entire family when no one else could. I was disappointed with the mother, I understand her husband's death was an event that changed her, but at the "cost" of her family? I really wanted to see her pull herself together. But that would have changed the entire storyline and Katniss' character. I felt sorry for Peeta but Katniss had stated that she would never have the kind of love for a family. I think students will enjoy this book and want to read on.

Jen said...

I did the wrong thing again. I promise I am not a total idiot all of the time. I will have Kathy erase it when she returns from Chicago. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR AWARD KATHY... YOU DESERVE IT.

About the book, I loved it. I finished before Kathy did(which I was impressed with) I feel that it is a great possible read for kids. It makes me think of a combination of all of these: The Lottery by Jackson; The Most Dangerous Game; The Truman Show, and The Condemned.

I am honestly not overly into the love triangle thing. I do love the strong,main character. Catniss is well developed. I am very interested to see where the relationship with her mother goes upon her return. They had to have her relationship with her mother be so strained because we had to believe this girl was tough. It is funny how we need to buy into that kind of strength in a female. I wonder if the relationship with the mother was stronger if we would have believed in her toughness as much. I am a little concerned with the Science Fiction feel this book seems to have; however, I really think it could fly without problem.

I am curious about Haywithch and the woman in charge. I felt that there might be something shady about the entire thing. I am also curious about Peeta's family. It seemed like there might be even more to develop there.

I want to read the next book and am thinking of getting this for the department. Loved it!

Kathy J. said...

"The Lottery"! I had forgotten about that. That would be a great short story to pair this with! And after thinking about what Rebecca said regarding the "dropping off of packages", I have to say, that makes sense...a way for the government to control things. And I too like the fact that Katniss survives and triumps because of her skill and intelligence, not because of her looks. And I agree with several of the comments regarding the mother. She frustrated me too, but if she were not so incapacitated Katniss would not be so strong...I had to keep reminding myself of that.

Maria said...

I read The Hunger Games in a couple of evenings and can’t wait for the second book, Catching Fire, to come out. Although it is a futuristic setting, which is not my favorite genre, the idea alone kept my attention. It appeared to be a mix of Survivor, The Olympics, and Roman gladiators all mixed into one. This story line included likable characters, suspense, and some romance. As Katniss questions her ethics, morality, and need to survive, the reader begins to question his/her own if the reader was put into a similar circumstance. From the beginning, would I, in my teenage years, volunteer to take my sibling’s place? Or would I secretly be glad it wasn’t my name called? Would I be able to feign interest in my teammate for the sake of the cameras? Would I really be able to kill someone in cold blood? Or was Foxface’s elusive survival tactic more my style? Could I have even lasted a day? What about the fear and hatred of the Capitol? Why do the Districts allow this to carry on? Katniss shows all of these conflicting thoughts and judgments throughout the novel while trying to survive, a feat adults could not handle. She shows compassion to fellow tributes, and, at times, other tributes are just as surprising by showing similar emotions. She is cunning, brave, witty, smart, and skilled. I think this book would easily hold a young adult’s attention and could bring about interesting dialogue and discussion.

I wish Rue lasted a little longer, as she was so likable. I am interested in the love triangle, but, in the end is there really a winner in that situation? Katniss has a history with Gale with which Peeta cannot compete. She needed Peeta, however, for survival, and they just pulled off the biggest event in their lives together. Can Gale compete with that? Katniss at the end appears confused about her feelings, and, although I was sad for Peeta, she did realize she needed time to figure it out. I agree the muttations were a bit over the top, but it is a sci-fi piece, so we have to be willing to expect some weird ideas. Also, I think the author didn't want Katniss to be picking people off in cold blood throughout the book, so other ways were found to kill some of the other contestants. I don't think Katniss would have been connected to the reader if she killed everyone she ran into. I liked the little parachute things because it showed the purpose of the sponsors and why the kids had to work so hard in the beginning of the games to get the sponsors' attention. The "gifts" may have been a sign of hope and help from the community.

Anyway, I can't wait for the next one.

Mary said...

I wanted to add that I think this book does not easily fit into the "girl book", or "boy book" category which is very appealing.

rebeccakryger said...

Maria, I like the point that you bring up about siblings--secretly being happy your name wasn't called vs. jumping right up to take a sibling's place. I think that Katniss only jumped up to take her sister's place because she really took on more of a mother role with her sister than a sibling one. If Katniss didn't feel so responsible for her sister the way a mother would, then I think she wouldn't have been so quick to take her place. Your question would definitely generate a great discussion in class!!

Maria said...

Rebecca....good point. The maternal role Katniss has for Prim most likely was the reason she so quickly jumped in for Prim. If you look at Prim as a symbol of innocence that Katniss was trying to save, there would be a great connection to Catcher in the Rye. I wonder if Katniss will go on to rebel against the games to save other children; in addition, I wonder if Haymitch, too, will support a rebellion against the games to save other children. Going from Dawn's blog, the reader has to wonder if Haymitch's drinking issue is a self-medication response to not being able to save more children through the years. One must feel helpless knowing every year 23 kids will die at the hands of other children brought upon with the support of adults. Sick thought!

Kathy J. said...

I agree with you Rebecca and Maria about the maternal role Katniss has for her sister. While reading this book I too thought, would I have done that for my sister??? I'm not sure, but I do know I would throw myself in front of a bus for one of my kids. And, I agree, this would definitely generate a great discussion in class!! Another interesting tie in could be My Sister's Keeper.

I am intrigued with the conversation about Haymitch. As a character I didn't give him much thought. But Maria brought up some interesting ideas about him. I wonder if his role and history will be featured more in the upcoming novels? Hmmm...

And I too love the fact that this book is not "gender specific."

rebeccakryger said...

Kathy, I didn't think much about Haymitch as I read either. His drinking is definitely a defense mechanism for his role in the games, but I'm not sure how important he is beyond that. I don't really see him as much of a rebellious force in future books although Katniss and Peeta do have to go back to their district and join Haymitch as future trainers for the games. Hmmm, time will tell!!

Lisa said...

This was a great book!! I loved every aspect of it. It really provoked me to think about how I'd react in the given situation. I love how the author portrayed each character. This would definitely be a novel I would consider for our students.

Katniss was one of my favorites from the very beginning. She had certainly been through her share of difficult times. I had a feeling she was going to want to go in place of her sister. What a difficult situation for Katniss to face...leaving her mother and Prim to survive on their own when she was the one who was mainly responsible for their survival. I also liked the connection between Katniss and Gale. I have to admit that I could not stop thinking about Gale after Peeta professed his love for Katniss. However, I also thought Peeta was very sincere. I remember the author describing how he gave her the bread and risked a beating.

I have to admit that I was shocked at how Katniss treated Peeta when the games were over and they were on their on their way home. Poor Peeta!! I am so excited to read the next book. I also thought that Collins stretched it a bit at the end when the mutts attacked and resembled each of the tributes who had died. I know this is a futuristic novel, but...

Mary said...

I just read on Linda Sue Parks' blog that she read the second book "Catching Fire" (the galley) and recommends it. I'm excited that it seems to live up to "The Hunger Games"! We'll have to wait until September.

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