Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor! - Effie Trinket
Released in 2008, The Hunger Games is a gripping start to a memorable trilogy. Even on its own, it is a thrilling read. The Hunger Games serves primarily a strong build up to Catching Fire and Mockingjay and that is not a bad thing. I have feelings for the characters and what happens to them in the sequels made me invested in them because of how well they were established in the Hunger Games. This is a novel that has stood the test of time, adapted to a film series, and became a global phenomenon for much of the 2010’s.
The plot is engaging and thorough. Katniss Everdeen volunteers in place of her sister to avoid being sent to the annual Hunger Games, a battle royale of sorts consisting of 12-18 year olds who battle to the death for entertainment. It may sound simple at first, but we begin to realize how cruel the Games truly. It seems no one in the Capitol is quite bothered with teens murdering each other in an arena. It truly is a tool for entertainment for the rich and wealthy. That immediately strikes a cord to the majority of the audience since we can’t possibly think this is morally correct.
The story is really well paced. It doesn’t feel to slow nor too rushed. During the quieter moments, we get to know about the characters. My only quarrel is the scene with Katniss and Peeta in the cave. Although this is a vital scene demonstrating that their relationship is staged, it does feel incredibly sluggish midway through. It takes the majority time from the Hunger Games, extending over multiple chapters perhaps more than needed. The Games themselves are the main event of the book which properly takes about half of the novel’s length with nothing but buildup preceding it.
Overall, the plot is rather simple yet effective. It is about survival of the fittest. The characters don’t shine as much as in the sequels. If anything, the Hunger Games sets up the sequels quite well. It does feel like a lot of build up in the bigger picture. The biggest takeaway from the book was the concept of the Hunger Games themselves. At first glance, they sound intriguing, but then you realize they are nothing more than a torture chamber.
Plot Score: 4.50/5.00
I only review characters who I can discuss into some detail or who intrigue me the most.
Somewhat one-dimensional in terms of her personality, but she is believable to win the Hunger Games because of her hunting abilities. Very relatable when she speaks her mind on others. Katniss may seem harsh, but it is in due part because of the Hunger Games and the government she is living under. She obviously doesn’t trust the government, however at the same time, she undesirably wants to start a revolution against them.
Katniss lacks trust in others, but eventually begins to trust those closest to her. For example, after Peeta declares that he wants to be self coached by Haymitch, she distrusts him to the point that after his interview, she gets into a scuffle with him. At that point, I don’t think Katniss wouldn’t hesitate to kill Peeta. Regardless, during the Games, she begins having feelings for Peeta. She grows worryingly for his safety because she begins to realize he teamed up with the Career Pack to protect her, swaying them away from her position.
Even in her most ruthless moments, Katniss shows some sympathy towards her opponents in the Hunger Games. Rue is the epitome of showing us a different side of Katniss. Even Katniss roots for her to win over Peeta if she were to die in the Games. They bond with one another mainly because she sees her like her surrogate sister since Prim originally was supposed to be in Katniss’s place. After Rue’s death, Katniss feels defeated. At this point, Katniss vows to win in her memory at all costs which ultimately brings her back with Peeta.
Overall, Katniss is somewhat one-dimensional with the exception of her moments with Rue and Peeta during the Games. However, her aggressiveness and toughness is smoothly conveyed making her a suitable winner and figurehead of the revolution. Her role with Peeta is somewhat reversed as she saves his life and does most of the killings of the other tributes to help them win. Both have chemistry as “lovers” even when Katniss is worried that she is betraying Gale over Peeta. In summary, Katniss is a strong protagonist, likable, and most importantly relatable to me and the audience specifically at her age.
Character Score: 4.75/5.00
When I read the Hunger Games back in high school, Peeta was the most relatable character to me because A) I was about his age B) He is a boy/young male C) He is unselfish. Peeta is perhaps the friendliest and most humble character in the Hunger Games other than Rue. By his expressions and words, it is clear he is accepting his demise in the Games. His biggest strength is his charisma when it comes to the interviews admitting that he has a crush on Katniss. He isn’t someone who would beat Cato one on one. Peeta would also probably get beaten by Katniss with ease if it actually came to a fight between them. That’s why Katniss saved him for the hundredth time, although he too put his life on the line traveling with the Career Pack to keep her alive.
Rarely do we see Peeta get frustrated or ruthless like Katniss. He wants to at least sacrifice his own life at the expense of allowing Katniss to win the Games. In a way, that does him make him a very weak character because he wouldn’t be too hard to kill. To my knowledge, he doesn’t kill a tribute except Foxface which was an accident. He may be the first winner to win without actually intentionally killing at least one other tribute. It is easy to criticize Peeta for not doing much and being second fiddle to Katniss. Ultimately, his character and personality is what sticks with Katniss. She begins to like him more and more because of who he is as a person serving as a motivation to win the Games.
I think the Hunger Games is actually his weakest point in the series. He peaks in Catching Fire and Mockingjay showing how powerful his words and presence can actually be. Sure, he would probably lose to all the other tributes without much effort, but his vulnerability and him being a guy makes it intriguing. Not every guy is tough like in other books, movies, and video games love to portray. Some will get their butts kicked every once in a while with ease. I find it very relatable that he isn’t strong as Katniss or Cato, although one could make an argument he is too weak.
Character Score: 4.50/5.00
Haymitch is the most humorous character in the series. Being a former winner of the Hunger Games himself, he serves as the mentor of Katniss and Peeta to help them win the games. His drinking problems perhaps coincide with the death of his family which makes sense. You can’t blame him for doing so. At times, he might seem careless about Katniss and Peeta hiding a lot from them, although he says enough to them which proves valuable. At the same time, you begin to realize why he is doing this over time. He is perhaps the biggest beneficiary to the revolution and perhaps the unsung hero of why Katniss and Peeta won specifically with the goodies from the sponsors.
Character Score: 4.50/5.00
Gale is a close friend to Katniss and it is assumed that they probably have a secret crush on each other. Still, they are just friends and are simply hunting partners. Although his appearance is limited in the start and he serves no purpose other than a possible lover. However, Gale’s role is magnified in the sequel that he eventually becomes more than just a friend to Katniss. His name is brought up several times by Katniss suggesting she has feelings for him. She fears she will lose their friendship after the Hunger Games because of her “love” towards Peeta.
Character Score: 4.00/5.00
Effie simply starts as the person who reads the names during the reaping. However, she does serve as an assistant to Katniss and Peeta trying to do her best to keep order. Being from the Capitol, she may be just somebody else to the audience, but she is determined to help however she can to help District 12 win. Behind all the makeup and hairstyles is a woman who wants to be the best at her job.
Character Score: 4.25/5.00
Katniss’s stylist who like Haymitch is essential to her becoming the figurehead of the revolution. His job is simple, to give Katniss an impression to Panem. His dresses and costume designs are on point giving Katniss an identity. He’s simple and to the point while being a very good human being.
Character Score: 4.25/5.00
Collins does a great job of portraying how we can be desensitised with reality TV. No one in the Capitol seems to bother that teens die in the Hunger Games in the most brutal ways. It’s nothing but entertainment to keep us busy from the real problems. It is almost treated like a Super Bowl or World Series of some sort, except with death involved if you lose. And what about the families of the tributes who perish? They above all suffer the most during the Hunger Games.
Orwell’s 1984 Oceania is pretty much intact here. A totalitarian police government like Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, and North Korea that has heavy survellience. It adds a frightening tension knowing that the characters are being watched 24/7 by a government that is fearful of a revolution by the poor. It is also a warning on how dangerous governments can become if the people fail to keep them in check.
Katniss sacrifices herself volunteering in place of her sister in the Hunger Games. Peeta endangers his own life with the Career Pack to keep Katniss alive almost dying in the process. Both Katniss and Peeta are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another even if she doesn’t want an intimate relationship with him. This adds an interesting conflict making the reader unsure who would sacrifice themselves first.
Ultimately, the Hunger Games is one of the best Young Adult novels I have ever read. It is easily one of the best novels of the 2010’s. The main characters are unique and intriguing. They have their own flaws but are also strong in their own right. My biggest gripe is that it somewhat holds back because of what it does in the sequels. The biggest takeaway of the first part is the Games themselves which does force the plot to be one-dimensional. The Hunger Games is a novel I have liked ever since I first read it in high school. Now that I’ve reread it several years later, a lot of the themes stick to me more than before. I’ve always liked the characters especially since they’re around my age and looking back, I like them even more. There’s a good reason why this was adapted into a film series. Maybe someday, some of the previous Hunger Games will be adapted into a Netflix show. I would surely be intrigued.
Overall Score: 4.50/5.00