Usually I review books on Goodreads and then click the "post to blog" button. But this book is special enough that it deserves its own post.
It seems like everyone has been doing a review on the Hunger Games lately. Here are just a few I've come across:
Rose at Read Room
Josiah from Biblical Beginnings
A guest post at Scripts, Scribbles and Such
I'm still waiting for Daniel's review (which I believe he promised us).
It's also the most read book on Goodreads right now.
The Hunger Games was first recommended to me by my friend Micah. She's a huge Doctor Who fan, so I knew I could trust her on sci-fi recommendations. Then I read Rose's review, and then my mom downloaded the ebook, and I knew I had to read it. Besides, I wanted to see the movie when it came out in March, but not without reading the book first.
I got three chapters into the book and put it away for a couple of days. I mean, the first sentence isn't exactly thrilling.
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
Also, the fact that it was written in first person present was a major turn off for me at first. But I was determined to read it, so I plowed through the next five chapters.
And then I was hooked.
If there's one word to describe this book, it's suspenseful. There is almost no way you can't read it in one sitting.
From the moment the tributes enter the arena to begin the Hunger Games, the action is nonstop. I stayed up much too late flipping each page quickly with no thought of putting it down. There were several heart-stopping moments (no, no, no, this can't be happening!) and almost the entire part of the arena is edge-of-your-seat action. At some parts I remember thinking (my heart pounding) how on earth is she going to get out of this? Or, run, Katniss, run!, or oh no, they're coming!
And when I say it's edge-of your-seat thrilling, I do mean edge-of-your-seat. Like, if you go watch the movie then expect to fall out of your chair. I just know there's going to be at least two or three of those parts where everything goes quiet before someone jumps out of the bushes. I will scream.
But back to the book. It's a hard book to review, because there's really not much you can say without giving the plot away. I can say it was suspenseful, and it was thrilling, and I didn't really like Katniss until the end, and that I liked Peeta from the beginning. That it's excellent storytelling, and that I could see everything that was happening so clearly that I'm excited to see what the movie portrays it as. Actually, from what I've seen in the trailer, it looks very close to what I imagined.
But I think that, without giving it away, I can also talk about the violence. I knew from the premise (twenty-four kids get stuck in an arena and are forced to kill each other) that it was going to involve death. I guess I just didn't expect how much there would actually be. We don't see every one of the tributes die, but the ones we do see are either very sad or somewhat gruesome. Katniss is not cold or callous to the deaths, which is good, although having grown up watching the Hunger Games, like she has, I don't quite see how you couldn't be.
Of course, there's the dilemma of the morality of killing to stay alive. There can only be one winner of the Hunger Games, which means every other contestant is an enemy. Everyone must be dead for one to live. It's this kind of suspense that drives the book. Everyone's out to get Katniss. It also left me thinking - what would I do in this kind of situation? Most likely I would try to hide somewhere until everyone else had been killed. I don't think I could kill anyone. Not even to win.
With the dilemma in mind, I liked the theme that Peeta brings up.
I want to do something to show them [the Capitol] that they don't own me.
What's interesting is that the whole point of the Hunger Games is for the Capitol of Panem to show the other districts that they are in charge. That they can murder their children any time they want, and they enjoy watching them die. That the districts should not, and cannot rebel. It's almost an Assyrian way of government.
Most likely in our lifetimes, civil disobedience will never bring as grave consequences as the one the children in the Hunger Games faced. But it's good to ponder what we would do if we had to face such a choice - conscience against survival. We are not owned by the government. As Christians, we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and our citizenship is in Heaven. We cannot serve two masters, and to fully serve one we must sometimes disobey the other, insofar as their decrees contradict those of our true masters.
It's good to think of in the light of the recent contraception mandate controversy. Here are Catholic Bishops who would rather disobey the government then violate their consciences. It's sad, because it should not happen in a country that values religious freedom. We've been blessed to be free from this kind of tyranny. But if it does come to that choice, if we do have to choose between obeying the government and doing what we know to be wrong, or disobeying and risking the government's wrath, I hope we're prepared for that choice. The Hunger Games, though it never provides a direct answer to that question - what should a right thinking person do in that situation? - is a good start to thinking about and pondering this dilemma.
I haven't read the entire series yet - I'm still trying to find a copy of Catching Fire, the second one - so I can't comment on the trilogy as a whole. But I can recommend the first one. It's a thrilling, suspenseful read, and a thought-provoking one as well.
(You can read my review of Mockingjay here.)
If you still aren't convinced that you should read the book, then watch this trailer. It's very well-done, and just might change your mind. Oh, and the actor who plays Gale is the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth (Thor!)