Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Teens and pre-teens are currently reading The Hunger Games trilogy with enthusiasm. Children you would not expect to be reading, are setting aside play (and, yes, even school work), to read the pages describing Katniss’ adventures. I have to admit that curiosity led me to read this story. I wanted to discover what would encourage non-readers to become engrossed in the written word. As a teacher, nothing pleases me more than to see children wrapped up in a world that has been created by an author.

And I also wanted to find out whether the content was appropriate for my pre-teen daughters. I had heard the novel was violent – and I wanted to read for myself the extent of death and murder in the story.

The story takes place some time in the future during a period after the world, as we currently know it, has been destroyed. Set in what we call North America, the novel describes Panem as consisting of 12 districts (formerly of 13) that are governed by the Capitol. The Capitol’s rich lifestyle is contrasted, in the story, with the lifestyle of district 12, the poorest district of Panem. In remembrance of a former rebellion against  the Capitol in which district 13 was destroyed, the rulers of Panem have created what are called the Hunger Games. Two participants from each district, a boy and a girl, are chosen by lottery to participate in the games. During these games, each tribute (participant) need to fight to the death in an outdoor arena that has been created by the Games Master. The games are televised throughout the country and serve, not only as entertainment, but also as a grim reminder to the populace that they should not rebel against the current regime.

English: A picture of Suzanne Collins.
A picture of Suzanne Collins. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In book I of the trilogy, The Hunger Games, Katniss and her fellow tribute from district 12, Peeta, participate in the games. It is not expected that these two tributes will get very far as they are from the poorest district and have had no training for the games.

In book II, Catching Fire, Katniss discovers that her actions during the Hunger Games has ignited a rebellion in the districts of Panem. Leading up to the Quarter Quell (a 75th edition of the Hunger Games) she attempts to quell the rebellion. She cannot escape, however, participating in the Quarter Quell in which she has to once again fight for her life.

In book III, Mockingjay, Katniss becomes the symbol of the rebellion. A refugee in district 13, she becomes a tool of rebel propaganda to strengthen the rebellion and the uprising against President Snow, the leader of the Capitol.

My thoughts:

The story is fast-paced and grips the reader right from the start. I can easily understand why a child would forgo recess in order to find out what is going to happen in the story. Collins does not take the reader on forays into another plot; or introduce us to characters that are not essential to the main storyline. Instead, we run with her through fast-paced action that slumbers at the end of book I and II; and then picks up again when we begin the next volume.

Is the story appropriate for pre-teens? The language certainly is: sentences are short and succinct; and the dialogue is written in an easy-to-understand form. The writing is descriptive without the use of complicated analogies and vocabulary. Is there violence in the novel? With rebellion and revolution running throughout the story, it cannot be avoided. Death, killing and violence is a thread that is woven into the fabric of the story. Yet Collins deals with the subject delicately. Unlike in adult murder stories, the act of killing and death is not described graphically. I found the action in the novel no more graphic than many of the animated cartoons on television that pre-teens watch.

As an adult and voracious reader, I enjoyed reading Collins’ trilogy. Fast-paced and easy to read, this story has a theme that is relevant to modern-day society. I would recommend this story for adults – but be prepared to set aside some serious reading time as you may not want to put the book down!

Have you read The Hunger Games trilogy? What is your opinion on this story?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

33 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

  1. Sounds by your review this book has a lot for both children and adults as entertainment , I guess some will relate to its storyline and probably those of a younger age as opposed to us older people who still live in the world of Dickens.
    A very thorough review Colline and I applaud you on reading the material that your children peruse
    Cheers
    Emu

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    1. Thank you. I don’t read everything that they lay their hands on otherwise I would not get to my section of the library! However, I had to read this trilogy to find out what made it so interesting to them. It has a brilliant storyline that keeps even adults entertained.

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  2. I loved the books! I have just finished reading the trilogy and was surprised how much they drew me in. I couldn’t put them down. I think they would be fine for a pre-teen with a little guidance and dependent on maturity levels. There would be some subtletities of the storylines that would go over there heads but they would be interested in the fast paced and gripping plot. There is no explicit content and although the whole story centres around violence, as you said, it is not graphically depicted. Similarly, the romance side of the story doesn’t go into graphic detail. They really were very thrilling and exciting books!

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    1. Glad to know that you agree with me 🙂
      I know I was pleasantly surprised by the plot and appreciate the way in which Collins dealt with the subject matter.

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  3. Since one of my teen sons is not an avid reader, I do a lot of reading of the YA genre in an attempt to scout out titles that will tempt him away from yet more screen time. This was one series he took up himself, a couple years ago, and he was eager to read Mocking Jay when it hit our local book store.

    When our youngest son turned 11 and wanted to read the series, I gave it a read first, to assess its suitability – much like your circumstance. I think your plot summaries and review are spot on. Not only is the series engaging to young and not-so-young, but it provided a great starting point for a conversation with both boys about how the norms of society can change, what might trigger that change, etc.

    Please keep the book reviews coming. I’m always looking for new titles to suggest to my 16-year old.

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  4. Hi,
    I have heard of the books, but this is the first time I have read a review of them, they do sound very interesting. A very well written review. 🙂

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  5. I think I must read them. I am interested in younger peoples literature. I worked 8 years in a library and had to look after the juvenile side and help in the study library. Very interesting years.

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  6. Very helpful reviews. I must read these if for no other reason than to keep in touch with what has current appeal, as I did with Pullman and Snickett when I found my teenage grandchildren entranced with those. An aspect which I find saddening is that it needs, I gather, a ‘dumbing down’ of presentation for novels to catch on these days, which is definitely not my style. Books Twitter-fashion?

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    1. One must remember that these novels were written for teens – and as such have the relevant vocabulary and imagery. What I find astounding is that so many teen lit novels (Harry Potter, The Twilight series, The Mortal Instruments series) have garnered followers from adults. Makes you wonder, as you suggest, why they are reading novels that have been written for a less sophisticated audience.

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  7. This trilogy is on my list of must-reads after being recommended by my 12-year-old son, friends and co-workers alike. I went to see the movie so that may have spoiled it a bit for me. I hope not. From what I’ve heard from others who have read it, it is a captivating read. One co-worker spent her entire day off reading it from cover to cover. She ssid that she could not put it down.

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    1. If you are a fast reader and you spend the day just reading, you will be able to finish all 3 books in one sitting. That is how much Collins draws the reader in.

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  8. Yesterday I had to pick up a parcel from the post shop. Our post shop is in a book shop,which I love. I always browse around when I am there. Guess what? On one shelf were your mentioned Trilogy!This was so exciting! I am really going to read them.

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  9. I can’t wait to read these books. This is an excellent review Colline, and just an additional positive review I have heard, in addition to my friends who have read it. I REFUSE to see the movie until I have read the first one! I am currently reading Steve Jobs biography, but the first Hunger Games book is next on my list!

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