Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

I wrote this review awhile ago, but I held off on posting it, thinking both, "do I really want to do book reviews?" and also "do I really need to tell all my smart readers that they need to read the Hunger Games? Hasn't everybody read it?"  However, my friend recently admitted to reading The Hunger Games and her husband said, "sounds like a chick book."  And then on Facebook, a friend gushed about it and somebody commented on her wall saying, "is that some dumb twilight sh*t?" [sic]

Let's just start out by disabusing the notion that a book that has a female main character is a chick book, mmmkay?  It's also not really a kids book, although the three books are all short and read really fast (you should have all three on hand before starting the first one.)

The Hunger Games is, at it's core, about politics, revolution, power, poverty, friendship, and survival.  There is a romantic story to it, but kind of the way James Bond movies have a romantic story.  It's not a romance, the way Twilight is.  It's much more Harry Potter, but instead of good vs. evil, everything has shades of gray. 

Hunger Games is about a society in which there are 12 districts and a Capital.  The 12 Districts once tried to rebel, and they lost. So now, every year, each district sends 2 children to the Capital to "The Hunger Games" in which the 24 participants are locked in an arena and fight each other to the death.  The books are incredibly creative, and not quite like anything else I've read.  I spent each book trying to figure out what would happen, and I never saw it coming. 

In most epic tales, you have a main character and a Gandalf/Dumbledore/Obi Wan Kenobi type guy.  Eventually that guy gets killed off and the main character has to finish what the old wizardy/advisory guy started.  You also have a main character that is a boy who goes on an epic quest to rid the world of evil.  Here, you have a girl who is simply trying to keep her family together and fed amid serious poverty and a hostile political environment. The Hunger Games turns the modern epic trilogy on it's head.  You also have a true partnership between the characters, in which both have strengths, weaknesses, and enormous respect for each other.

If you like:
-good stories
-strong female characters
-cautionary tales (think Oryx and Crake)
then you will probably like The Hunger Games.  Note - I did not put romance on the list.  That is because I think that if you are looking for a romance, you're going to be disappointed.

If you like Twilight, you will probably also like the Hunger Games.  This is because I believe the popularity of the Twilight books and the Hunger Games has a lot more to do with the fact that there aren't enough books that feature young women as the main characters, and a lot less to do with the fact that the Twilight books feature sparkly vampires.  However, if you hated the Twilight books and/or you subscribe to the belief that "if women like it, it must be stupid", you will probably also like the Hunger Games because they're awesome.

Have you read the Hunger Games, or are you holding out because you think it's a chick book?  Or perhaps a young adult book?  Do you agree with my assessment that it's not a romance, or were the romantic aspects of it a big draw for you?  Should I do more book reviews?


  1. Prior to the movie coming out, I'd only heard of the Hunger Games in passing. And since the hype surrounding the movie, I've been a bit put off by the whole Hunger Games franchise because it was way too reminiscent of the Twilight frenzy that we've all been struggling to wade through for years. If anything, the possible romantic associations were a reason for me to avoid the books. But I completely agree with you on the lack of books with strong female characters so I may have to give these a try. And yes, more reviews, absolutely!

  2. I completely agree with your review of the Hunger Games! I very much like that there aren't really any purely evil characters. I enjoy the Twilight series but far more as a "so bad it's good." Hunger Games and Harry Potter are legit, in my opinion. I think there's actually a lot really enjoyable reading to be had in what might be classified as "young adult." You might also enjoy "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" though that's more of a younger coming of age story set in a boarding school with far less at stake than a good vs. evil battle.

    Anyway, more book reviews or suggestions would be great! Are you on goodreads?

    1. I am on Goodreads! I'm not totally sure how it works yet though - I'm Tea For Two, using our wedding4two at address.

      Does the Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks include a discussion of hyphenated last names? That would make me super happy.

    2. Cool, I just requested to be your friend on Goodreads! I use it mainly to track what I'm reading (a couple years ago I found that I started forgetting which books I had or hadn't read before) and what I should request from the library next based on blog/friend book recommendations. I find the updates from others about what they're reading to be much more interesting than generic Facebook wall updates since we might not necessarily talk in real life about what books we're reading but seeing the update could spark a conversation later about it.

      TDHOFLB doesn't touch upon the hyphenated last name too much, I think her parents are actually divorced and there's a little bit of a theme around parental expectations and gender vs. determining for yourself what you want but it's more a story that shows its viewpoint rather than tells, if that makes sense.

  3. In all honesty, I'm just a bit irritated by the "OMG!!! Best book ever!!! Let's make films and cupcakes and clothing lines!!!" phenomenon - Harry Potter, Twilight, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and now this. I've steered clear of all because I just don't tend to like stuff that becomes hugely popular. Not that I'm remotely special - I'm an accountant - but every time I like a show, it gets cancelled; whenever I fall head-over-heels for music, the singer fades into obscurity. My favourite restaurants close down. I might be a jinx...

    Still, should probably give it a go. I'm still pissed at JK Rowling for wrecking my planned baby girl name forever, though. No more can a girl be called Hermione without someone saying "ooh... Like Harry Potter?"

    1. I used to avoid stuff that was super popular, and then I decided that avoiding stuff because it was popular was as silling as only liking stuff that is hugely popular. I agree with the whole phenomenon in which it feels like EVERYONE is talking about a particular book - but if you think about it, all of this more recent book-craze is in part due to social networking and people talking about books on facebook or people throwing out requests for books somewhere - so it's so much easier for everyone to get all caught up about a book than it was when say, Jane Eyre came out.

    2. You are so right. I do just need to man up and give them a try! After all, it turns out that I love Taylor Swift...

      What certainly helps is the reviews of the Hunger Games. The quality of writing seems really top notch - strong but subtle character development rather than trying to push a particular message or genre. I read quotations from Twilight and it just seemed a little too Mills and Boon for this day and age! And my generation definitely had the supernatural love triangle down already ;)

    3. Gah with the whole consumeristic side to The Hunger Games. It's so antithetical to the message in the books (or at least the first book, because that's all I've read so far).