The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
IQ " 'I remember everything about you,;" says Peeta, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. 'You're the one who wasn't paying attention.'
I am now, I [Katniss] say.
'Well, I don't have much competition here,' he says.
'You don't have much competition anywhere.'" Katniss pg. 382 So cute!
I was so focused on finishing this book, desperate to get to the end and see that everything turns out ok but at the same time trying to savor each page. Does everything turn out ok? That's the question left in my mind as The Hunger Games ends in an air of suspense. One of the perks of reading this novel nearly a year after it came out is that I don't have to wait for the sequel, Catching Fire (although I believe the third book comes out in August so I will have to wait for a while after finishing the sequel). Ironically, I've owned the ARC of Catching Fire for some time. My sister got it at ALA this summer and read it first, not realizing it was a sequel. Neither of us had even heard of The Hunger Games or really noticed it at bookstores. Then once I began reading book blogs it popped up all the time. Especially now during the holidays, I've seen Catching Fire on many a Best YA Books of 2009 list. It just goes to show you that the books many people are obsessed over on blogs, aren't always the same books people are obsessed about in real life (personally, very few of my friends read books so they certainly aren't going to be raving about any one in particular so I may be a little off base in my assumption. Justine Larbalestier talks about something similar Internet famous vs. World famous here). I'm not sure if I would have picked up The Hunger Games were it not for all the positive reviews on it and the countless times it was recommended to me (I swear I would see all these Team Peeta or Team Gale buttons popping up on blogs and be totally mystified!)
With that being said, on to my review. I really don't know what to say about this extraordinary novel. It's literally almost all been said. I'm pretty sure I may have been the last person with a blog to read this book. In fact, I'm not even going to summarize the book since I guarantee everyone knows what the book is about. Now if you haven't read the book you shouldn't read my review since it's basically all spoilers.
I love Katniss. One of new favorite YA heroines. She's brave, stubborn, a bit cranky and all-around fierce. She is also utterly unaware as to the fact that she has on people. We learn that guys think she's gorgeous but that people are intimidated by the sullen, angry look on her face all the time (there's an amusing scene where Katniss is being prepped for an interview and her mentor Haymitch says "you have as much charm as a dead slug." That pretty much sums it up, but how can you not love a character like that?) I was so engrossed in her struggle, completely spellbound. And the fact that she took her sister's place in the Hunger Games? True love right there. She'll do anything for her family. I also sympathizes with her confusion over which boy to choose. Although the choice has seemingly already been made for her. Throughout the Games she thinks about Gale all the time, wondering about his reaction to this or that. But she also gets closer to Peeta and grows to admire him.
Now for the ultimate question: Team Gale or Team Peeta? The bad boy vs. the good guy. A very tough choice, since I really like both of them. I'm not at my love stage with them, I think both guys are great, but I'm not obsessed nor do I feel inclined to go argue about who is a better match for Katniss, especially since I have mixed feelings toward them both. I like Gale because he's strong, rebellious and a good friend to Katniss. I think his nickname for her "Catnip" is cute and shows that he has a softer, teasing side. He's independent and the fact that he automatically volunteers to watch over Katniss' family speaks volume about what a great guy he is. On the downside we don't know much about him and he's more of a fighter than a thinker. He doesn't always think about how his words and actions could be taken as a form of rebellion and get him and his loved ones in trouble. But I think some of the best romances start out as a friendship, so I wouldn't mind seeing him with Katniss. However, I do wonder at what's taking him so long to proclaim his feelings to Katniss. It's clear (at least to the readers if not Katniss) that he likes her and wants to be more than friends (talks about running away together, kids). Katniss does seem to realize that Gale has feelings for her and she has feelings for him too since she doesn't like to think about Gale and Peeta in the same thought. I like Peeta because he's such a sweetheart. The soft spoken baker's boy has a few surprises in him. He gets done what needs to be done when necessary and even though he can frost a cake he can also wrestle and camouflage himself extremely well. He's not afraid to share his feelings with Katniss. He's smart, strong and hates being helpless. He's even a bit cunning whether he knows it or not and he knows how to play to the crowd (a fine actor in the making). However, I don't know how long their relationship would be able to last since it's based on pretense and necessity. Ultimately, I'm on Team Peeta because he's got so many great qualities and is really a surpise throughout the Hunger Games. This could change of course since in Catching Fire we spend more time in District 12 with Gale and Peeta. So I'll get to know Gale better and perhaps see an unflattering side of Peeta?
I also remembered reading a blog post over at Steph Su's blog about whether or not YA Literature Should Be Used in The Classroom. I definitely think YA literature should be used in the classroom and The Hunger Games proves my point. You could easily use a book like this in a classroom to discuss modern issues to really get students. This book asks tough questions about family and sacrifice (be honest would you take your loved one's place in The Hunger Games, knowing in all likelihood that you will die? An excellent essay question!), reality TV (the games are a form of reality TV in the future. Do you think reality TV would ever be like that?), violence in society (the Hunger Games isn't particularly gruesome but it's not fluff either, the question would be do you think teenagers should read more books with violence featured in them. While many people would assume all teens are violence thirsty maniacs who would say "yes more violence!" I think the number of Nos, you would get from teenagers would be a large number with interesting reasons) and the future in general (especially a manipulative government, is this a possibility in the future?) These are just a few questions that ran through my mind that would make great discussions and essay topics.
I was fully confident this book would meet my high expectations and it did. I'm sure Catching Fire will exceed all of my expectations and I'm eager to read it. I highly recommend The Hunger Games as it's entertaining and thought-provoking. The characters are fantastic and furthermore, I liked how the issue of race never comes up in that I didn't automatically assume all the characters were white. Characters of all races abound in this novel, Katniss herself has olive skin and dark hair (her sister, Prim is a blonde with blue eyes). This novel has it all; tough issues to tackle (class, government, war, reality TV, etc.), romance (Gale vs. Peeta), adventure/violence (23 people to kill in order to be named the victor) and small bursts of humor that kept the novel from getting too heavy (especially from Effie and Haymitch).The world Suzanne Collins has created will suck you in and be completely authentic and believable. High school and up.
Sidenote: The Hunger Games is being made into a movie and I would definitely go to see it, especially because the author is the screenwriter so it shouldn't be butchered like other books into movies. I don't really have any ideas for casting picks so feel free to share your choices for the characters. From what I've seen, many people aren't casting olive-skinned actors, just suggesting people use make-up which is annoying, I'm sure there are some great actors out there who aren't white (for the latest example I can think of see Slumdog Millionaire! Fantastic movie). Also since Katniss loves to sing, I'm thinking of creating a music playlist for the book :)