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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I was told for about a year that I just had to read this book. And it certainly sounded like something that would be up my alley. I love children's literature and a dystopian future situation is always appealing. The idea of this book was a classic idea, oppressed society under the thumb of a cruel government.

But it seems that Collins leaves a lot to be desired.

For a book with such intense promise it had a surprising lack of heart and soul. This should have held a lot more humanity, but instead I was treated to a rather dry battle of kids trying to kill each other and not much else.

How did this happen? For one thing, Collins has yet to master the art of characterization. These characters were nothing but flat descriptions to whom Collins doesn't even pretend to give personality. I could tell you absolutely nothing about the nature of anyone. Even the protagonist Katniss is sadly two-dimensional. She cares for her sister and she can fight. That was all I took from her.

Then on top of this a romance is forced with zero chemistry. Granted, situations were provided where reasonable romance can come in, but emotion to back it up? Nothing.

The storytelling is weak. Collins relies far too much on summarizing events to keep the story moving, a bad choice that does "get on with things" but misses an opportunity to build world, drama, and characters. Much of the plot is indeed devoted to the games--which means battle, of course--but that's it.

The writing itself is not bad. It's simple and straight forward, a style I've always liked, but the rest of the necessary components of story and character are missing, so the writing becomes just a dry account of an emotionless story. The violence is fun, and there were a select few moments that captivated my interest, but that was it.

The sad thing is that "The Hunger Games" is not a bad idea at all. But the delivery was poorly executed.
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152 of 191 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
While I will say that I wanted to keep reading, it just is not a great book.

The Hunger Games is a mix of Roller Ball, Death Race 2000, and The Running Man. The plot is well-documented in other reviews.

My issues with the book are few, but are significant enough to justify a two-star rating.

The Ending. I believe it was too abrupt and almost 'tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of.....' aka 'buy the next book'. The book lacked complete, or at least adequate, resolution.

The Psychology. The story centers around children, most being randomly chosen by lottery, who fight to the death in "The Hunger Games" as a penalty for a past rebellion against the ruling Capitol. They are dressed up, trained, and prepped for the spectacle which is broadcast to the nation on television. Speaking for myself, being placed in this position, I would be in a state of stunned shock - even if the games had become an accepted but despised evil in society, as I'm sure many readers would argue. The author set the main characters off on psychological tangents, such as admiring how good they looked in their costumes, how well their interviews went, how good the food was, etc... Being placed in the same position, did not ring true to me.

The Morality. The book creates a very strong moral dilemma: "as an unlucky participant in the Hunger Games, I'm going to have to kill innocent children, like myself, simply to survive". The book sets up a horrible situation for the main characters and then, I believe, lets them off too easily. This is especially annoying when the 'rules' of the Hunger Games are changed (three times!). I could give many examples, but want to avoid spoilers.

This really is a Young Adult book, which unlike many, will not satisfy the majority of adults (but apparently I'm in the minority).

I will say again, the book was compelling enough for me to look forward to my nightly reading sessions, but has some major flaws.
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147 of 186 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
I find myself at a loss to explain why so many people like this book so much. The premise sounds interesting enough, but it has been done before, is practically cliche in Japanese media, and Collins has not done it well.

The book is boring. Most of the first third is made of infodumps. They're not even well-executed infodumps. The writing style is simple and straightforward. Such a style can be fantastic when done right, but in this case it (with the exception of a few nonetheless forgettable passages) has no elegance or flavor; it's just plain boring, and it is incapable of rendering the infodumps anything more than snooze-inducing.

The plot is very predictable, and the author throws in a couple of plot twists that, rather than ramping up the tension, excitement, character development, or any of that, slaughter what little tension the plot possessed. They are deus ex machinas that save the main character from having to make the tough decisions one would expect from a book with this premise.

And the main character never has to make any truly tough decisions. She is never conflicted by anything except the book's contrived love triangle. Even when she is forced to kill, she feels little to no remorse. She just spends a sentence or two thinking about it with no particular emotion, and then forgets about it for the rest of the book. The author never lets her kill preemptively, only allowing her to act in self-defense, and her opponents are so poorly developed that the reader has no real reason to care about them.

The main character does not act consistently her age. At the beginning of the book, she acts in a reasonable manner for a sixteen year old subjected to poverty. But later in the book she seems more like a ten year old, both in the way she acts and in the way she is described (she apparently looks like a "little girl" in one particular dress, which is quite a feat considering her age). At almost the same time, she acts like some sort of hardened veteran in her utter unflappability.

All the characters are unflappable. For goodness sake, even the twelve-year old is unflappable. Where is all the emotional distress that should result from the threat of death and the necessity of killing innocents? From being suddenly and forcefully separated from family and friends? From being constantly monitored, starved, and injured?

Despite the book's unbelievability, predictability, and general terribleness, the second and third thirds of the book are admittedly somewhat entertaining. But still, I found myself skipping over large chunks of boring text even in the middle of the best of the action scenes. And the very best part of the book, the only part in which we are shown a relationship that feels relatively real, is all too brief. The mockingjays are cool, though.

I notice that many of the bafflingly few other low reviews cite the book's disturbingness as a reason for their low rating of it. I disagree with these people; this book needs to be more disturbing, not less. There's violence, but it is hardly graphic, and it happens to people the reader knows little to nothing about. This premise has so much potential for emotional turmoil, horror, and difficult decisions, but the book completely fails to deal with any of that and is presented in a sparkling clean and bloodless (and lifeless) manner. I actually find is disturbing how the book glosses over what should be a horrific situation.

In short, I have no bloody idea why people like this book so much. It's derivative, predictable, poorly written rubbish.
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51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I must disagree with the glowing reviews this novel has received. As much as I loved The Underland Chronicles, I didn't like this one.

First of all, it is written in the present tense. I know authors sometimes do this to give a "sense of immediacy", but I'd far rather have the story written compellingly enough not to need to use this crutch. So, to me it was just an irritating gimmick.

Furthermore, having the protagonist narrate from moment-to-moment stifled character development. The author tried to work around that problem with some flashbacks, but even those were put in the present tense. Also, the ending is given away by the fact that it is in first person: the narrator cannot die because she is around to do the narrating. Perhaps Collins' thought that writing in present tense would solve that weakness of first person narration inevitably revealing that the narrating character cannot die, but I was not able to suspend my disbelief quite that much.

I found the premise to be cliched: a dystopian society in which coming-of-age rituals have been turned into something sadistic. While used effectively in "The Tripod" trilogy, in this story the device didn't work as well for me. If the bottom age range of those whose names were placed in hazard were a couple of years older, this might have been more plausible. But, as it stands, I found that the premise was stretching it.

So, overall this novel was a major disappointment. I hope that Suzanne Collins' future endeavors will surpass The Underland Chronicles, but for me this wasn't the project that will do so. Had I not read and loved her previous novels, I would have considered the writer of The Hunger Games to be an amateur.

I will give the novel the small credit it deserves for being just interesting enough to cause me to finish reading it. However, I won't be reading the future installments in this series.

The one redeeming value of the book was the character Peeta. I really did like him. It is too bad that the first person present tense narration so greatly limited Collins' freedom to explore this character.
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144 of 183 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I don't believe in censorship, I let my kids read omniverously, but I'm grateful I picked up this series and checked it out. We'll be having some long conversations this weekend about the culture we live in and that produces books like this.
At first I thought these books would be a critique of Reality Television, of a corrupt and decadent society where some toil ceacelessly, and others amuse themselves endlessly like late-empire Romans. I hoped as I turned the pages that Suzanne Collins might have something real and important to say about how knowing that we are constantly being filmed changes the way we behave, even when we are in mortal peril. I hoped she'd have something to say about courage and love and the meaning of life and death.
Forget about it.
Where J.K. Rowling is an alchemist, collecting dross and ore from everwhere, and turning it into gold, Collins is a petty thief, stealing hamfistedly from Battle Royale, Survivor episodes and Project Runway. This series has the feel of something concocted by an editor a writer and a marketing director. Be sure to put in a bridal gown...the girls love bridal gowns! What upsets me the most is that she herself is a manipulative Gamekeeper who can make anything awful happen at will to her characters to move along her plot and she invites her readers to be like the audience who watches the Hunger Games, turning the pages to find out who will be slaughtered next and in what exciting way. Did she have any sense of irony or humor or satire (as Battle Royale does) that asked kids to question their experience, I'd forgive her everything, but she doesn't. It's all delivered very seriously. We are allowed to mourn for the very young and the very old but as to those trained for the gladitorial combats they are brute killing machines and we are allowed to cheer their demise. When Katniss kills...it's always in self-defense and she's killing someone who clealy deserves to die...she never is tortured by her own lack of morality. How convenient...
I am reminded of the zen story: You are having a dream that you are on a lifeboat with your mother and your father. You are told that the situation is such that you can only save one of them. Which would you choose? In the Hunger Games, the characters struggle and wrestle with this question but Suzanne Collins hersel doesn't know the answer...the answer is "you are having a dream." Wake up!
Wake up Suzanne Collins.
In the second book she attempts to make it seem like Katniss will inspire or even lead a revolution in this corrupt dystopia...and maybe sort of she does. But it's all completley unwitting. She's a pawn even of the revolutionaries. Besides, since we don't really know anything much about the society, its governmental system, its foundation and maintenance, this is NOT 1984 (although I'm sure Collins would like to imagine for herself that it is.)
Finally, I am left thinking of Harry Potter, how J.K. Rowling wants her readers to feel the weight of each death in that book, of the good characters and the bad, the complex and the simple. Cedric Diggory is a minor character in some ways but his death is not minor. Harry will die to return his body to his parents. This is fiction that raises us up, that asks the best of us, the believes in the best in us.
Collins treats most of her characters like figures in an X-Box game, choosing one or two for us to mourn a little and then focusing on dispensing with her legions in all kinds of creative and inventive weighs.
My final take on these books? Plenty of action, the kids will gobble it up, bu they'll be as morally hungry when they are done as if they had been playing Mortal Combat. Let 'em read them, but please, parents, read them yourself and start a discussion about real revolutionaries, real courage, and real sacrifice.
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50 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Perhaps having read 'Battle Royale' by Koushun Takami before reading the Hunger Games somewhat ruined the novelty of the storyline. For those unfamiliar with it, Battle Royale was a Japanese cult classic (that eventually gained mainstream recognition) with the following premise;

The totalitarian nation of Japan has collapsed. At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence and, fearing the youth, eventually passed the Battle Royale act. Every year, a high school class (42 students) is selected at random by the government and taken to a secure location, where they are forced to kill one another until a single victor emerges. It is meant to quell rebellion and create fear in the general populace.

Somehow, Koushun Takami makes me care more about over twenty individual characters than I cared about Katniss Everdeen. The premise of Collins' novel is hardly original and she does not add any truly unique aspects to her story that capture my attention. I've already read to death the whole 'utopia ruling over the distopia' cliche... I was also unable to relate on an emotional level the trials Katniss faced. If the whole book was supported by the awful reality of forcing children to kill one another... that requires the reader to care not only for the main character, but the victims as well. In a melee that supposedly contains 24 children, Collins decides early not to focus on more than three of them, two of them being the main characters. As this is a young adult book and the first of a trilogy, that detracts heavily from the suspense that otherwise might have been garnered over the fate of the main character.

It is in this fashion that Battle Royale shines and The Hunger Games falters. I felt nothing at all while reading The Hunger Games as young children were murdered one by one without the reader learning so much as their name, let alone any sort of back story. Katniss could very well be prancing through the prairie cutting the heads off of dandelions for all I care. There is exactly one character that creates emotional impact, other than the main two characters.

The book is rather short, and the wording simplistic. I have read my fair share of young adult novels, and Collins is not that impressive in her prose. Also, and call me nitpicky, but I didn't read any sort of review or book summary before reading this book - therefore, I spent a large portion of the beginning of the book unclear on the gender of the main character. There is also no mention made of her looks. From what I can gather, she is white and has long hair. That's it. I could not tell you what color her hair is, what color her eyes are, how tall or short she is. I like to be able to hold a picture in my head of the people and places I am reading. Collins assigns very few physical attributes to her characters, and having finished the book I cannot describe to you what the Capitol looks like, or what her District looks like, or what Katniss' home looks like. No great effort is made by the author to develop her characters and settings into things you can see. I find this incredibly frustrating.

I will not be reading the rest of the series.

In all, I'd recommend someone read Battle Royale over reading this.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
I've read the entire series, but I'm leaving my review here for those interested in picking it up. I'm not sure even where to start with this one. Oh yeah:

WARNING ********** SPOILERS *************

Anyhow, I avoided this series for a while because of it's YA status, I prefer darker and more serious matter. But I thought I'd give it a try when a friend dumped the books on my doorstep. Besides, it's got the main elements of some of my favorite stories: post-apocalypse, dystopian dictatorship, rebellion, the unlikely hero, tragedy, and survival. But what it lacked was character development, a believable plot, a likeable protagonist, or a satisfying conclusion.

First book: Hunger Games

First off, she didn't make the hero, Katniss, very likeable. I give this one a pass on the first book, because we're given to understand she's had a hard life and has trust and daddy issues. The lead up to the Games, everything in the book to this point was awesome. I was into it, and couldn't wait to get to the actual Games. But it started going downhill from there. The action in the Games was very abbreviated, to the point that we did not even know who some of the competitors were, or how they died. The book is from Katniss' point of view, so I assume since she's not privy to how the others' died, we won't be either. However, the book spends a great deal of time describing how every detail of the Games is recorded and broadcast, so I assume at some point we will be watching some broadcast with Katniss and find out what happened to the others, but not so. After the main emotional death in the arena (Rue), Katniss decides to seek out Peeta and team up with him. And everything pretty much derails from there. Katniss is saved from death several times by various deux ex machina plot devices, and the rest of the book mainly follows their tepid are-they-or-aren't-they romance.

By the end of the book I am annoyed mainly by two things:

1. That Katniss does not seemed emotionally moved by either Gale or Peeta. You would think that a nice character arc would have her at least leaning one way or the
other by the end of the book, but she stays in a perfectly boring limbo while at the same time leading two guys (who have risked their lives for her) on.

2. That Katniss doesn't seem particularly skilled, likeable, strong, or interesting. In books like this, I would expect that the "trial by fire" portion of the story would refine the main character's view of themselves, and create a sort of improved person, having been refined by the fire, so to speak. But not Katniss. She makes mistake after mistake, every time being saved from death by either a plot device or a person. Other than being able to track food, she doesn't seem to be good at making plans, following orders, or thinking ahead. She's not strong or particularly clever, she can't handle gore (??), and shuts down emotionally at the slightest provocation. It seems like during most of the Games she's laying around while other people kill each other off. Even in the end, she doesn't win by defeating every last victor - she wins by default because everyone else is dead (except Peeta, which you know how that ends). She's basically a very good woodsman (woodswoman?) with a significant amount of luck and inexplicable friendships.

Second book: Catching Fire

I hardly remember what it's about, it was that uninteresting. The author continues to doggedly bore us with the teetering menage-a-trois. And in a completely not-at-all-expected plot twist, the President orders a second Games for Katniss and Peeta to compete in. Add a few more characters, change the scenery, and it's another battle. Yawn. More of the same surly, abrasive, impulsive, reckless Katniss, that now for some reason has got the entire country holding her up as a rallying point for the rebellion. The book ends with them breaking her out of the arena and flying her toward the unknown District 13, where we expect to see the Final Battle in the third book.

Third book: Mockingjay

This book actually made me angry. Katniss is, if possible, even more dislikeable. She has so far managed to: endanger her family, get herself injured on the point of death several times, get other tributes killed on her behalf, had the entire District 12 wiped out, play head games with the boys, and be as uncooperative as possible. They are taken to the District 13 where she refuses to help and stays high most of the time. Then she decides to go fight, but as usual, messes everything up and does not follow order, acts recklessly, and gets a lot of people killed or injured. For whatever reason, they decide to send her to ANOTHER battle, where once again, she screws everything up and does not follow orders, and gets injured to the point of death AGAIN. Then they find out that Peeta is brainwashed somehow, and he does not love her anymore. Gale is fed up with her games, and hangs around to...make her feel bad? In any case, Katniss spends most of this book being shot or blown up, high or hiding in closets. Peeta spends most of this book absent, being tortured back at the capital, or heavily brainwashed, in which case there are no friendly words between him and Katniss. And once again, for the biggest battle of all, Katniss manages again to convince the people she has ignored and disrespected from Day 1 to let her go out there. And once again, she ends up somehow messing everything up and taking her team of camera men and one deranged Peeta on a direct assault on the President's mansion. Like I said, she's not much for planning.

Surprise, surprise, she manages to get almost everyone killed, including her sister Prim, who made enough of an appearance in the book to inexplicably materialize ahead of the invading force and be blown up (and the scene is handled so vaguely, I wasn't even sure it was Prim for a few pages), and Finnick, who grew as a character (shocker!) enough to become a major character, only to die in a throwaway line when they counted heads later. And what happens next? Katniss gets injured to the point of death. And spends the rest of the book moping around and being high. And killing someone else, but not the President, and oh lord this review is boring me worse than the book.

This book reminds me of the MST3K movie, "Agent for H.A.R.M." during which at one point, one of the guys says, "It's more like 'Old Guy Who Sort-of Helped Agent For H.A.R.M.'" There seems to be virtually no redeeming quality about the main character. Her surviving the plot has nothing to do with her talents, abilities, or personality, and everything to do with the Plot Gods resolving to keep her alive, but only barely. It's pathetic, really. And so are the people around her who seem to enjoy suffering death for a glimpse of her back as she ignores them or stomps out of the room. I gave this series 2 stars, because I love a good post-apocalypse, survival, Thunderdome, phoenix story, and this series served to, if nothing else, give me a framework to use when I'm re-imagining how it should have gone in my head.
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35 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I finished the novel thinking that this entire book was comprised just to sell other books. While books like The Giver force you to think and evaluate humanity, morality, society, etc. this book simply alluded to some of those issues and let them fall flat. SPOILER: There was much predictability here (except for the surprise robot/wolf/dead kid attack out of nowhere). I sincerely hoped that after all the initial build up at the beginning of the story and later touched on about individuality winning out over the controlling government that the kids would have given the cameras, audience, and leaders the finger and made some proclamation that you CAN revolt... THEN actually killed themselves to prove it. Instead, it ended with some sappy, team edward v. team jacob, buy the next book to find out what happens gimmick. Yuck. It's a page turner for the action. Teens of both sexes will find something appealing here. I just wish that Suzanne Collins had the guts to write a book with a real message. The potential was there, however, I'm still hungry.
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48 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Hunger Games is one of those painful books, an excellent premise ruined (or almost ruined) by very flawed execution. The story sounds promising: 16-year old Katniss Everdeen (yes, really) is forced to compete in the titular Games, which involves 12 boys and 12 girls fighting to the death on live television. The world that this grisly tournament takes place in is suitably distopyian, and there are a few scenes near the beginning of the book that manage to effortlessly create a sense of tension and unease.

Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. The story is told in first-person present tense, which I'm assuming was meant to leave the reader in doubt as to Katniss's ultimate fate. If that was the case, it didn't work, and I found myself wishing I could take a break from living inside Katniss's head. She isn't the most endearing character in the world, and her frequent (and intrusive) flashbacks do little to flesh out her personality. It doesn't help that the writing can be stilted in places, particularly during the action scenes.

There are further disappointments when we get to see the Games themselves. The other Tributes, or contestants, are mostly given quite sparse characterization, which makes it difficult to care (with a few exceptions) when they start dropping like flies. The pseudo-love triangle between Katniss, her fellow Tribute Peeta and her longtime friend Gale also feels extremely forced and unnecessary, as if the author felt the need to put it in because she thought readers would expect it.

Actually, that explains another of the book's major flaws: it's status as a trilogy. It's painfully obvious throughout that certain plot points won't be explained until future volumes, but the story itself feels as if it should be self-contained. Did we really need the subplot about the Avox girl, which comes out of nowhere and just sits on the page lifelessly for the rest of the book? And what about the Capitol's 'muttations'?

All in all, The Hunger Games feels like wasted potential.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I was puzzled (and, I'll admit, annoyed) to find that so many of the lower-rated reviews of "THE HUNGER GAMES" were all concerned with the book's content rather than its quality because, in my opinion, there wasn't anything to complain about on that front. Suzanne Collins had an excellent idea here, and as a storyteller, she's got some amazing potential.

I've had this book sitting on my shelf since it was released in 2008, long before the sudden explosion of popularity that "MOCKINGJAY" ushered in. So maybe it's all the recent hype that's paved the way for my disappointment. All I know is that by the end of this book, I wasn't impressed.

Nothing about Collins's writing stands out to me. In fact, her voice ranks as a low C on my grade scale; there was something incredibly remote and lifeless about the description, something flat in her dialogue and the story's tone. Collins build herself a fantastic world here, yet it came across as totally uninteresting through the protagonist's eyes. And after looking forward to seeing for myself all the good things I'd heard about Katniss, her lack of depth really surprised me. There wasn't anything I particularly liked about her supporting cast, either; cool names were everywhere, but there was a startling lack of cool development.

Overall, there's nothing wrong with "THE HUNGER GAMES". Not really. It was just a boring novel, plain and simple, another brilliant concept executed poorly. I had a relatively good time reading this, but unlike my friends, my experience with this trilogy ends here.

(Also, it would be awesome--AWESOME--if we could all stop comparing every YA dystopian/speculative fiction book to "THE HUNGER GAMES". Please. Please please please. It is absolutely killing me to see other novels bashed because, unlike the dozens of identical siblings in the paranormal genre, they've got so little in common with the "leader". Surprise, but dystopian fiction existed long before Suzanne Collins. )
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