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677 of 853 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling premise, but not for the thoughtful reader, January 13, 2012
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This review is from: The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I'll be honest and say that I wanted to love this book. I was breathless with excitement when I downloaded it, and couldn't wait to start reading. With the rave reviews coming from almost everywhere I turned, right down to celebrities gushing their love for this series, I went into it with high hopes. The premise sounded fascinating. In fact, I'm pretty sure I turned to my husband and said the plot sounded "brilliant" when I first read a synopsis.

Brilliant, it was not. It was interesting, and I strained to stay awake late at night a couple of times just to read a few more pages. But for every moment of excitement, I felt an equal moment of letdown.

Let's face a few facts:

~ The main character, Katniss, is dull. She is thoroughly useful, to be sure, using her skills and determination to hunt outside the Seam to feed her family (and then to outwit opponents in the Hunger Games arena), but there is nothing about her that is riveting or even relatable. She seems almost void of feeling throughout most of the book, tossing aside emotions and flitting from one mental capacity to the next without much notice. I find it hard to believe that any human being could be horrified by the thought of killing their fellow Tribute one moment and then mesmerized by their own beautiful appearance the next. These dissonances make Katniss seem silly and almost irritating at times.

~ The writing style is frustrating. While I am all for the use of fragments to create drama and suspense, they are OVER-used in this book, to a point that is infuriating. I found myself irked within the first few paragraphs. Fragments for dramatic impact are one thing; fragments used repeatedly on every page are just insulting to the reader. I realize this is a young adult book, and I am above the intended audience age by a good decade or so. But even a teenager with average reading skills should find the continuous use of poor grammar to be unacceptable.

~ The premise, as a whole, lacks authenticity. In order to enjoy this book, you MUST accept everything at face value. You must accept that the people of Panem are so resigned to - or, in some cases, so engaged by - the barbarism that is the Hunger Games, they never question it. In fact, in seventy-four years, not even one Tribute has questioned the mandate that they must fight to the death in this arena, until Katniss Everdeen does. Not one parent has stepped forward and tried to stop this horrific massacre from occurring. Suzanne Collins wants you to accept that the Capitol is so powerful, so impenetrable, that the districts of Panem are held under its thumb as if by a powerful drug. And, really, wouldn't they have to be drugged to behave in such a fashion?

Without any expansion on the characters other than Katniss herself (and perhaps Peeta a little bit), the climax of the book does not reach its full potential. I would have liked to see a prologue or any type of flashback to a time before now, to get a more vivid sense of the evil that is the Capitol. The book lacks a tangible, detailed villain. That is my primary complaint. There is something to be said for a mysterious, menacing presence as a villain - as in Stephen King's "The Stand", for instance - but even in The Stand, the villain is eventually expanded upon to make him seem more real a threat.

The Hunger Games is a good book. It's interesting. It certainly keeps the reader at rapt attention. I think the violence is too much for a young adult novel, but it is also necessary to the premise. I just wish the author had given a little more thought to human nature and not expected her readers to so willingly submit to the plot without question. Perhaps she really believes this is a representation of human nature. Based on the number of rave reviewers who can't seem to find fault with the book in any way, perhaps she is right.
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Showing 1-10 of 167 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 17, 2012, 5:22:30 PM PST
I agree with your review,except the part about too much violence for a young adult book.It seemed like not much violence.These questions were also flowing around my mind every time we had to read this in class.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 7:30:32 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 9, 2012, 7:30:53 PM PST]

Posted on Mar 10, 2012, 5:43:57 PM PST
Kevin Allen says:
Ever heard of Ukraine and Stalin?

Posted on Mar 15, 2012, 8:22:32 PM PDT
LisaD77 says:
You would think that we live in a world where once a dictatorship could brainwash a group of people into trying to wipe out a whole race of people..and without fancy surveillance and gadgets. You're right, totally outside the realm of possibility. Take the book for what it's worth, highly entertaining and action- filled.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 16, 2012, 3:41:59 PM PDT
Deep Thought says:
I think what's harder to swallow is the length of time that the majority of Panem citizens remain in complete poverty while still being completely aware of how despicable their leaders are. With a country that large (I assume), control that tight, and people that resentful, something would have broken prior to the 74 year span. You mention brainwashing, and yes, governments retain power over a large number of people by doing so, but government of Panem seems to spend more energy toward flaunting its cruelty, and it does a poor job of brainwashing its subjects, if Katniss and Gale are any indication of the general attitude toward the Capitol. Logically, the political system would have hit a wall, the way it did in the Soviet Bloc.

I did in fact enjoy the book, but I think I would have found the Capitol's control more believable if I'd actually SEEN some of the brainwashing techniques not only employed, but WORKING. The way Collins writes it, it seems like nobody in Panem buys the Capitol's BS, with the exception of maybe the Career Tributes. I would've liked to understand how the Careers view the Capitol, since they seem to get so excited about the Games (this in itself is difficult to buy, especially since the Games are so overtly designed to be a shaming punishment rather than a chance for glory, which is how the Careers seem to interpret it), but the reader is never given this information.

Posted on Mar 16, 2012, 10:47:35 PM PDT
Joe Burks says:
I don't know how much history you've studied, but humans would, humans have and HUMANS ARE accepting such a fate. You have an overly romantic notion of human nature. Whether it is ancient Sparta and the Helots or modern day North Korea, such conditions are not unheard of. Of course people question and resist, it happened in Messenia and it happens in North Korea. They are kept under thumb by brutal suppression.

What happened to a Helot who trained to fight their Spartan rulers? The exact same thing we're told happens in the districts of Panem: they're executed.

When do Katniss and Gale talk of their disgust of the Capirol? When they're hunting outside the fences. To do otherwise invites a public flogging if the Peacekeepers are kind enough not to just execute you. It seemed pretty clear that the poorer districts were not the least bit happy about the games, but the Capitol used them as a form of psychological warfare to firmly plant the idea in their minds that the Capitol has significant power over their lives.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2012, 7:40:29 AM PDT
Deep Thought says:
Let me explain things a little better. It's not that I don't think oppressive governments can and do exist. I know that they do. The problem I have with the novel is that Collins's writing isn't very subtle, and the relationships between totalitarian governments and their subjects are much more complex than what we're given in The Hunger Games. Modern totalitarian states typically do not announce that they are totalitarian. They are more insidious than that, presenting policies under the guise of being beneficial to the country while gradually taking away rights and privileges of their citizens. This is how we get Orwell's notion of "doublethink," in which a government says one thing and does another, convincing its subjects that reality is not what they witness with their own eyes, but what the government tells them is true. Maybe this is happening or has happened in Panem, but Collins chooses to focus on the fear tactics, which are a part of totalitarianism, yes, but that alone doesn't make the system work.

This is why I wanted to know more about the Careers and how they viewed the Games. It seems that Collins would rather we just buy the Careers' enthusiasm without question rather than understand it, and this seemed to happen a number of times in the book where the Capitol's politics were concerned. Part of it is because we are limited to Katniss's perspective, and honestly, I think the story would have been better served with either a third person point-of-view or a more observant narrator.

So in close, it's not that my view of human nature is overly romantic. It's that I see people and governments as being more complicated than how Collins presents them in The Hunger Games. Books like The Giver, Animal Farm, and The Handmaid's Tale do a much better job at presenting the nuances of oppressive power in alterno-societies. And while not every YA Book can be The Giver, I guess I was just expecting a little bit more from the first novel such an acclaimed trilogy.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012, 10:49:00 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2012, 10:52:02 AM PDT
Brinor says:
This sentence says it all." Modern totalitarian states typically do not announce that they are totalitarian. They are more insidious than that, presenting policies under the guise of being beneficial to the country while gradually taking away rights and privileges of their citizens."BTW, we are experiencing the beginnings of that in our own country today
Thank you for pointing it out.

Posted on Mar 23, 2012, 12:26:36 PM PDT
K. Shimer says:
Does North Korea ring a bell? Some people do accept starvation, deprivation and dictatorship routinely.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012, 2:52:58 PM PDT
While you state that surely a country as large and as cruel as Panem "would have broken prior to the 74 year span," the example you cite in support of this claim, the Soviet Bloc, makes the opposite case.

The Soviet Bloc, with a combined territory and population that likely exceeded that of Panem several times over, held together for a remarkable 46 years following World War II. Moreover, the Soviet Union alone existed from 1922 to 1991, and it spanned a territory more than twice as vast in square miles as the present-day USA. That's 69 years, which makes 74 years seem a lot less implausible.
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