“Deep in the meadow, hidden far away / A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray. / Forget your woes and let your troubles lay, / And when it’s morning again, they’ll wash away. / Here it’s safe, here it’s warm. / Here the daisies guard you from every harm. / Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true, / Here is the place where I love you.”
The first in a trilogy of novels written by Suzanne Collins, originally published in 2008, The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future of North America called Panem, where, in order to maintain peace in the 12 districts, 24 young representatives are forced to compete in an annually televised game known as The Hunger Games. Two tributes are chosen at random in each district every year, and must fight to the death until only one remains. The story centres on Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in the poorest of the districts who, when her sister Primrose is chosen to compete in the games, volunteers herself as tribute alongside fellow district competitor, Peeta Mellark.
The following post is a review of the book only. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.
From very early on, The Hunger Games has been compared to the likes of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises because of its young adult themes and characters, as well as the Japanese action thriller, Battle Royale, because of the dystopian setting it introduces. It’s an odd combination to imagine, since dystopias usually centre on much older characters, and young adult stories don’t tend to be filled with much violence. But what Collins creates with The Hunger Games is incredible.
Whilst it’s impossible to deny any comparisons, The Hunger Games succeeds in differentiating itself from such films and franchises by portraying a dystopian future where there is still hope and something to strive for Battle Royale shows the more sinister and pessimistic side of such a world, killing people for pure entertainment, but Collins has created a world that is believable enough to provoke an emotional response to both the setting and the people within it.
For that reason, we should be comparing it to George Orwell‘s 1984. It’s not a literary classic, let’s not go that far, but in reading Collins’ novel I was able to imagine a dystopian and totalitarian regime in the same way that I did when reading Orwell’s classic.
The Hunger Games has a sense of reality to it and, for that reason, it is easy to relate to, something not completely possible with franchises such as Twilight and Harry Potter, which have found it hard to escape their teenage audiences. The Hunger Games, however, has a maturity to it, centering on socially relevant themes of politics and government. You can really feel the desperation and hatred towards the government for what they are doing. These tributes are fighting for a better life and, because of this, Katniss becomes a heroine.
Told from Katniss’ perspective, the book holds the brilliant message that you can stay human even in the most inhumane conditions. Through her character, we are given a strong female lead to relate to and emphasise with, which is a bonus in itself compared to the likes of the female leads we have on offer at the minute (*cough* I’m looking at you, Bella Swan).
Setting up an incredibly promising franchise, The Hunger Games is an excellent first instalment with so much left to offer. If you haven’t started reading these books already, this is definitely a series you want to be up to date with.
The Hunger Games was adapted on to the big screen in 2012, which you can read my Book vs. Film Review for here, and watch the trailer for below: