Book Reviews

‘The Hunger Games’ Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Jennifer Lawrence in film 'The Hunger Games'

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’

Jennifer Lawrence; she’s everywhere at the moment. From her fashion faux pas at the Screen Actors Guild Award back in January, to her new stunning Dior photoshoot – she’s Hollywood’s new sweetheart. Lawrence’s role of a lifetime came when she was cast as Katniss Everdeen, the main female protagonist in the 2012 hit film ‘The Hunger Games’. Based on the best-selling books by Suzanne Collins, this big-screen adaptation become one of the highest-grossing movies ever recorded, earning over $407 million at the domestic box office. The second film, ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’, is due out in November this year.

So what is it about these books that caught the public imagination to such an extent that the films are simply a natural result riding off of the back of the book success? Because that’s what has happened here – the books did so well and were so popular that a film version was always on the cards and was always going to do well (just look at the same pattern for the ‘Twilight’ saga). The first book in the trilogy, ‘The Hunger Games’, was published in 2008. It was quickly named as one of Publishers Weekly’s ‘Best Books of the Year’, and the second book, ‘Catching Fire’ followed in 2009. The final instalment of the trilogy, ‘Mockingjay’, was released in 2010. Despite these earlier release dates, it wasn’t until 2011 when the trilogy really took off over here in the UK, with it becoming one of the Summer’s best-sellers, and with ‘Hunger Games’ mania on everybody’s lips.

'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins book jacket

First book in the trilogy – ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins

The first book in the trilogy introduces you to futuristic land in North America called Panem. Panem is split into 12 enclosed Districts where the people inside are kept as prisoners. This is meant as a punishment imposed on them by the Capitol (free people/the other side) due to their ancestors rebelling decades ago. Each district has its own specialty – whether that’s electronics, fishing, or even transportation.  In Katniss’ hometown of District 12 this is coal mining.

Every year for the past 74 years, the annual Hunger Games tournament has been held. Every district sends two ‘tributes’ (willing or unwilling) to participate in a fight to the death. This is one boy and one girl, both under the age of 18. As the contestants struggle around the arena which varies from year to year (a mountainous terrain, a desert, a jungle), there can be only one winner. With the Capitol watching their every move on television (think an extreme Big Brother) and sending obstacles and monsters to make their plight even more deadly, the contestants finally end up turning on each other. The winner returns to their hometown victorious, bringing more wealth than the townspeople can imagine back with them, despite the cost to their soul it may have taken.

When Katniss’ little sister Primrose is selected from this years’ lottery, Katniss knows she would never survive so automatically offers herself in her sister’s place. Together with the baker’s son, Peeta, they travel to the Capitol where the sick show-bizz nature of the tournament is made all the more apparent.

'Battle Royale' book jacket

‘Battle Royale’ by Koushun Takami

We won’t divulge more than this in case you haven’t already read this trilogy. But we think it’s fair to say that Suzanne Collin’s novels (officially aimed at teenagers) will have you hooked from page 1, and it’s that very captivation that the filmmakers are also now able to cash in on. Echoing Koushun Takami’s ‘Battle Royale’ which was published in 1999, the books offer up an alternate reality, whereby the ‘Big Brother’ element of our own society is magnified and vilified. Themes of love, friendship, survival, inequality, poverty and freedom are all present across the three titles – yes, they may be aimed at teenagers, but they’re equally gritty and moving for an adult as well. One key element that we loved was that Katniss, although obviously meant to be the ‘Good Guy’ and the Capitol the ‘Bad Guys’, never seems to have the right or wrong answers ready, her actions are controlled by her instinct. Furthermore, when you get to know some more characters from the Capitol, such as Katniss and Peeta’s stylist Cinna,  the Capitol’s complete representation as ‘The Baddies’ isn’t as resolute and morals between the two sides begin to get shady.

Although we have some qualms about the last book in this series such as the consistently frustrating and non-committal love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, so as not to spoil the journey for new readers, we’ll keep the rest to ourselves.

To coin a common phrase which we feel is apt enough to sum up these books – they will have you on the edge of your seats until the very last word. Although the packaging may scream “teenage saga”, adults (men and women alike) have also been sucked in by Suzanne Collin’s Trilogy – so why don’t you join them and

Let the Hunger Games Begin!”  

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