* This review is originally from 2009
The Hunger Games is something of a rarity- A book specifically aimed at pre and early teens which has fully formed characters, is not patronising towards its audience, and aims to thoughfully inform rather than preach. Already garnering rave reviews from literary critics, writers as big as Stephen King, and now most importantly, from everyday readers, Collins’s book is an entertaining, action packed, ominously realistic read, portraying a fictional world which only seems a few close districts away.
Our narrator and protagonist is 16 year old Katniss, protective sister, loving daughter, fearsome hunter. She has learned to be a survivor in a world where the rich control the poor by the sword. After an unsuccessful rebellion, the rich lords of the Capitol invented an exciting solution/punishment- once a year one girl and one boy from each area of the new America are chosen to fight to the death until one survives. The prize for survival is food for your area and family, and heroic status. Watching are the millions that were not selected. Katniss volunteers herself into the Games to protect her sister, but is equally horrified when her only friend is also picked. Can they trust each other? Can they survive, and is there a future for a world so filled with injustice?
After a slightly slow and bleak start, The Hunger Games kicks into a high gear and rarely slows down. There is action and horror, but never exploitive, there is romance, but true to the plot it is never sentimental, and there are vital and unsettling lessons to learn. Collins has taken clear inspiration from other great works- 1984, Battle Royale, and to a lesser extent Lord Of The Flies. While not reaching those heights, The Hunger Games aims similarly, and doesn’t miss by much. We have empathy for the characters who are refreshingly distant, and are not people you would like to meet. The book itself is fairly long for the target audience and will definately keep readers engaged under the blanket, though there is great energy throughout ensuring the long read is also a quick one. You will be left wanting more- part two is on the way.