Review of The Hunger Games (the book, not the movie) | Teen Ink

Review of The Hunger Games (the book, not the movie)

February 12, 2023
By DarkTetra GOLD, San Jose, California
DarkTetra GOLD, San Jose, California
10 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"We can't hide from the reality of what anti-vaccine conspiracies do: they kill babies too young to be vaccinated. They kill healthy children that are just unlucky. They bring serious diseases back from the verge of extinction. And, the biggest side effect of vaccines is fewer dead children."
-Kurzgesagt-In A Nutshell 2019

Today, I’m going to review the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, The Hunger Games. I’ll do this similar to how I rank video games, by looking at a few major aspects of the book, ranking each of them, and coming up with an overall ranking. For books, I will rank them by backstory, plot, and characters. Just to clarify, the backstory is everything that happens before the actual events of the book, shown to the reader in flashbacks, callbacks, and memories. This includes norms, rules, and everyday happenings that were implemented or started before the plot. Plot is everything that happens during the book, from when the character first introduces him/herself to the end. Character interactions, minor scenes, and the personalities of different characters will fall into the character category. Got that? Ok, without further ado, let’s go!

The Hunger Games takes place in the dystopian country of Panem somewhere in the ruins of North America. In the far future, after countless wars, most modern countries are presumably destroyed, and while the existence of other countries in other parts of the world is not revealed in this book, there seems to be very few, if any, as no regular citizens seems to know of a place outside Panem. Panem was split into 13 districts and a capitol, and each district had a certain product that they mass-produced either to use for themselves or export to other districts or the Capitol. But then, after a failed revolutionary war, District 13 was completely obliterated, and The Hunger Games began. A brutal game where two tributes from each district go to the Capitol, train a few days, and then be thrown into an arena of an unknown biome and fight to death, armed only with weapons and supplies from the golden Cornucopia, at the center of the starting place, and gifts from sponsors (managed by your mentors, who are previous winners from your district. If you die, you die. If you live, you get incredible wealth and fame, and all the people in your district gets an entire year of extra food. By the times The Hunger Games takes place, 73 games have gone by, with most of the winners coming from an ambitious, well-trained and well-fed group of tributes called the Careers from districts 1, 2, and 4. District 12 has only ever had 2 winners, and only one of them is alive. So that’s the backstory. Enter Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old girl who single-handedly supports her family (her mother and her younger, 12-year-old sister Primrose) through hunting in the woods outside the borders of Dristrict 12 with her best friend Gale and buying and selling goods from a trading hub called the Hob. Luckily for everyone in the district, the law enforcers (called Peacekeepers) and the Mayor are way less strict then Peacekeepers in other districts or the government officials living in the Capitol, buying illegally hunted meat like everyone else does every day. Most less privileged people go to work in the coal mines where hard work is the only thing that will keep you alive, as coal is essential for lighting fires. Harsh working conditions cause some to collapse of exhaustion, and accidents and explosions don’t happen every day, but aren’t very rare either.A few other men and women get more lucky and find better jobs, perhaps a baker or a shopkeeper. Now, already this excellently establishes just how poor District 12 is, so poor that people resort to performing crimes on a daily basis for food and even the people of highest authority are much more casual and friendly. This even subtly hints at the fact that the people of District 12 have it easy, as there a fewer punishments and everyone knows everyone in their neighborhood, creating a more interconnected web where people can support other people in need. Now, I really think that the author definitely could’ve done a whole lot more with this to strengthen the idea that District 12’s poorness has caused its community to be unique. Maybe she even could’ve hinted that other districts had it much worse, that the Peacekeepers there were much more strict, cruel, and unforgiving, and maybe even what life would look like in the richer districts. But that’s more like a slight suggestion than a major complaint. The only real thing that bothers me is that there isn’t a real explanation of what happened to the world that caused even the all-mighty United States to collapse and how the country of Panem came to be, but maybe she did that on purpose so she can reveal it in a later book (I haven’t finished reading book 2 yet). I give the backstory an A-.

The problem with The Hunger Games is that it’s obvious Katniss is going to win the game because she’s the main character. I was surprised a bit when Prim’s name got pulled instead of Katniss, but she volunteered and took her sister’s place anyway. I guess you could say that all of the stuff that happened in the arena leading up to her victory made it more interesting, but I think the author focused way too much on her performing risky plans and fighting the Careers. There’s also way too much emphasis on the Katniss-Peeta fake love arc, as it makes it obvious that the author isn’t going to let neither of them die. The fact that Peeta is initially working with the Careers surprised me at first, but when I thought about it, it’s actually pretty cliche and predictable: Peeta pretends to ally himself with the Careers so he can earn their trust and betray them later and join Katniss. And the way Foxface and Thresh died is so lame. We don’t even get to see them die, which is pretty dissapointing. Foxfaced died because she ate a few poisonous berries that she thought was safe, and we just assume Cato somehow killed Thresh. The author could have done so much more with them, and since they all have distinct personalities and strengths but didn’t get to appear much in the book, I feel I would’ve had the finale be a dramatic battle royal fight to the death between Peeta and Katniss, Cato, Foxface, and Thresh. One of the parts that I did like was Katniss’s partnership with Rue, which I was very grateful for since there wasn’t much friendly character interaction (besides Katniss and Peeta) anywhere else in the book. But then they only get to be together for, like, 2 chapters and then the author just kills her off. I mean, I get it was for the dramatic, emotional moment where Katniss sings that song and covers Rue’s body with flowers, but the author couldn’t come up with ANY better ways to do the  dramatic-and-emotional-scene-just-before-the-finale cliche? Overall, almost all of the stuff that happens in the arena was pretty dissapointing to me. It had some good moments, but it was still not even close to as good as it could have been. I give the plot a B-.

The main character of the Hunger Games is Katniss, followed by her best friend Gale and the other competitor from District 12, Peeta. Now, maybe the Gale-Katniss-Peeta love triangle was enjoyed some people, but it just seemed overcomplicated and a really weird side plot overall. I mean, Katniss is pretending to be in love with Peeta, but is Peeta also putting up an act or not? Because the book isn’t really consistent. He cleverly stages the whole love confession thing during the interview and makes it clear that it’s just a tactic to get more sponsors, but on the train to District 12 he seems betrayed when Katniss says she won’t be with him anymore. And I don’t get Gale’s role in this triangle at all. Literally the only way he’s in it at all is because Katniss wonders a few times about how Gale feels about Katniss and Peeta’s supposed love, and because it is implied that he is jealous or feels betrayed in the next book (which is stupid because they were just best friends and nothing more). Really, the last things people like me want in a book about surviving in an unknown environment and battling others to the death is a confused, half-baked romance side plot triangle. And it only gets worse. Katniss’s friends and family in District 12 (her mother, Prim, Madge, the Peacekeepers, and the people at the Hob) do get a pretty decent introduction, but there’s no time to really show off their full personality and characteristics because within a few chapters, Katniss gets hauled away to the Capitol. I mean, everyone knows that the characters you introduce at the start of the book should at least get as much attention as other minor characters in the book. Then there’s also the other contestants. Only a few are mentioned more than one time (the ones who will appear later in the book), and most of their names aren’t revealed. There’s just the handful of Careers, Rue, Thresh, and Foxface. Really, this is where the majority of side characters should come from. Obviously the author doesn’t want to introduce the people who are eliminated on the first day, but there were plenty of others left. They could’ve been allies, enemies, or even just been encountered by Katniss even once. But no, the author got lazy and grouped 6 competitors into one generic group, introduced 3, and never had Katniss encounter, fight, or team up with anyone else other than Peeta until the end of the book. Really, Katniss’s short-lived but well-written allyship with Rue is one of the only thing preventing this category from getting a D. Instead, I give the characters a C.

Overall, The Hunger Games had the potential to be a truly excellent book, and many people consider it to be one. But for me, the emphasis on Katniss and Peeta’s shaky, confused relationship kind of ruined it for me. I mean, the concept was great. Wonderful, even. A fight to the death between 24 teens in the wild, equipped with nothing but primitive weapons, their wits, and the occasional supply drop? Completely unique and original for its time. But the execution was poor. So the Hunger Games goes at the very bottom of B-tier, dangling off the edge, barely holding on so as to not fall into the bottomless pit that is C-tier.

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