This review will contain spoilers!
In many sentences:
Early on in The Hunger Games I was disappointed by how similar it was to Battle Royale, a Japanese novel where children are put on an island and forced to fight to the death. The similarities (only one is supposed to survive, but in the end a boy/girl couple are able to beat the system) are certainly present throughout the novel. However, Collins's execution is so good that any similarities in terms of subject are completely forgivable.
A few of my favorite parts: first, when Katniss decides to volunteer for the Games in place of her sister, and the townspeople give her the sign of respect, admiration, and goodbye that are given to loved ones at a funeral. This was quite moving. I also enjoyed the whole setup of the Games where the tributes must garner the support of sponsors and, if they act properly, they can get the sponsors to actually send them items in the arena. This isn't the first "battle to the death entertainment" work of fiction, but it's the first I know of where the contestants are able to leverage this fact to their own advantage.
Katniss's ability to play the game (understanding how to manipulate the sponsors, to understand her mentor's motivation, and so forth) was extremely cool. Combined with her hunting and survival skills, she was certainly the ultimate player, even though she wasn't a trained Career. The scene where Katniss "buries" Rue, and is then compensated by Rue's poor district, is also quite lovely. This small act of rebellion, plus the larger one at the end which saved both Katniss and Peeta's lives, excite me about reading the sequel. I hope that is deals more with Katniss and others rebelling against the Capitol. If the focus is only on the love story aspect of the book, I will be extremely disappointed.
I read The Hunger Games in just two days, and as I was finishing it, I couldn't help but think of the Twilight series, the last books I read as quickly and as obsessively. This upset me at first (because in hindsight are don't think Twilight is good enough to deserve this treatment), but as I considered it further, there is a depth to The Hunger Games that I think qualifies it for such marathon reading.
First, unlike Twilight the love relationship is far more realistic and believable. Furthermore, the love triangle is subtle, to the point of not even being mentioned outright. Instead, it is up to the reader to imagine how Gale must feel watching Katniss say and do these things with Peeta. (I actually love that the book sets itself up that the whole time we are imagining what other characters must be thinking about what is happening to Katniss, without actually telling us what they are thinking. I think this shows great skill are Collins's part. It would be much easier just to tell us what they are going through, but it's satisfying and sophisticated to force us to just imagine it ourselves.)
Second, Hunger Games deals with far more than just love. It makes us confront how we would act in a life or death situation, the political commentary on a government that would control their people in this way, and the way it forces us to look out our own views on entertainment. It also deals with family and friendship in a way that Twilight never does. It may not be fair to compare the two, when there really aren't a lot of similarities, but I couldn't help but thinking about it when I finished reading Hunger Games and I'd like to capture that here.
I obviously recommend this book. It is captivating, action-packed, and full of memorable characters. I am extremely excited to read the sequel (which I purchased immediately after finishing this book), and can only hope that it maintains the multiple, layered themes and does not break down into nothing more than a love story.
Suzanne Collins the Last Line of in The Hunger Games