The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins Categories: dystopia, survival, humanity, war, poverty, class issues, children, brutality, relationships, romance Grade: B+ (Especially since this is YA Lit, a stronger message of redemption and hope is needed to push it into the "A" range for me).
This book took me much longer than I had anticipated to read, mostly due to my incredibly busy schedule, but also partly due to how uncomfortable this book was to read! I should preface this review with the fact that my curriculum coordinator (my boss, essentially) asked me to read this book because one of the eighth grade teachers wanted to use it in class. My response was to ask the age of the protagonist, since matching the age of the audience with the age of the main character is usually the easiest and quickest way to determine the appropriateness. Katniss is 16, so I had some serious reservations. Honestly, reading the book has upheld those reservations.
Classroom applications aside for a moment, this is a very well-done book. It's captivating, and honestly, a little too realistic for my taste. The fact that it is so riveting is in itself disconcerting. I'm not comfortable with realistic fiction that depicts children fighting to the death in a government-sponsored (and required) "sport." I don't want any sense of realism attached to this concept, and that's why this book is uncomfortable. That's also why it's good - it's nothing if not convincing. The fact that it's set in the indeterminate future did not actually make me feel any better - if anything, that's more disturbing and almost more realistic. The thought of a film version is frightening, since I don't want to add any further level of reality. That said, Katniss and Peeta are very well-developed, concrete characters, and the imagery is striking (also problemental for me - again with the uncomfortable realism). I enjoyed Rue's character quite a bit and thought her situation was handled well. I have to admit, however, and I'm not necessarily a glass-half-full kind of reader, but I really thought there would somehow be a more redemptive end, something that could circumvent the inevitable, so my disappointment that The Hunger Games were carried out as usual (with only one small, though noteworthy exception) added to my horror of the concept. The "wolves" at the end of the book were terrifying, and frankly, unforgiveable.
It's no doubt that my review of this book is filtered through the lens of a high school English teacher and by my original intention of determining if this book is appropriate for 8th graders (13-year-olds). I maintain that it isn't, unless they're very mature readers. At a higher level, in high school, it could absolutely be paired with 1984, Animal Farm or other similar books and perhaps do a much more effective job of prompting critical thinking about government control, humanity and survival.
Will I read the sequel? Yes. I do root for Katniss and Peeta and I do want to know what becomes of them. I'm also secretly hoping for some more thoroughly embedded optimism, or at least a shred of hope in the next book, so I will stay tuned. But will I let my daughter read this before she's a teenager? Absolutely not. This one will definitely be shelved on the adult end of the Young Adult shelf.
Welcome! I'm an avid fan of Young Adult literature, though I'm not exactly a young adult any longer. As a high school English teacher, I'm always looking for new titles, so please - share with me the books you love!
What I'm Reading Now...
Fences, August Wilson
Wake, Lisa McCann
Next on my reading list
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Foer
I'm a high school English teacher with a passion for Young Adult Literature. I believe in connecting with my students through reading, and I'm always looking for new titles teenagers will want to read.