Backlist Bonus: The Hunger Games

hungerby Suzanne Collins
YA Dystopian
4 of 5 stars

This stands the test of time as one of the best examples of YA dystopian novels. All discussion (and pros and cons) of “the strong female character” redirect here. This created a sub-genre that thrived for years and, for better or worse, a character measuring stick in the form of Katniss Everdeen. Seen as the antithesis to Twilight’s Bella Swan, Katniss captured everyone’s attention with her gritty personality, archery skills, and determined love for her sister, Prim (now a trope in her own right).

The story is well-known by now thanks to the films, but as the Capitol’s TV spin-team points out, the beats of the story are what make us love it. As underprivileged children from the poorest district, Katniss and Prim struggle to survive already. When Katniss volunteers as tribute in place of her younger sister, she changes the mood and course of that year’s Hunger Games, unknowingly setting herself up as a model of hope for the rest of the districts. The underdog has more class than the richest patrons. The underdog might actually have the will and skill to win.

What I found most intriguing about Katniss was her sense of duty and honor. She didn’t care to survive the games for her own sake—only Prim’s request that she win drives her to play the game with any sort of effort. Her relationships with Gale and especially Peeta are all filtered through her goal of reuniting with her sister. It makes her cunning and unlikable at times, and it makes her unbeatable. When I first read it I remember being shocked by what Collins put her characters through—the horrors of the games and the political and social commentary she cleverly wove throughout the heart-pounding events. I was glued to the page and afterward I couldn’t stop thinking about Katniss and her world. Its unreality and similarity to ours.

Dystopian isn’t everyone’s favorite genre, but I think its popularity was an interesting cultural snapshot. It dominated the shelves when teens and young adults were feeling disillusioned with their leaders and their own lives—their forced places within systems that felt outdated and uninterested in them as anything more than pawns. I admit that if you’ve read a couple of dystopian novels it starts to feel like you’ve read them all, but this book should be one of them.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Hunger Games is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Divergent by Veronica Roth – In post-apocalyptic Chicago, Tris faces the same test as every other 16-year-old: choosing the faction where she will live. The five factions, Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), and Dauntless (the brave) each claim one virtue as superior to all others, and together they let their society function harmoniously. Tris has never fit in with Abnegation, but choosing Dauntless means rejecting her family forever. Her choice will steer the fate of the whole city as secrets come to light. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Although it’s YA fantasy, Kestrel reminds me strongly of Katniss in that they are both clever when they can’t be the strongest. Kestrel doesn’t want to be a soldier and she also doesn’t want to get married. These are her only choices, until she wins a slave named Arin and finds herself entangled with the highest political powers during a war with his country as she continues to avoid the army and the altar. See my review here.
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – Cities are mobile and consume each other to sustain their economic growth. Thom gets caught up in the dark struggle for power within and outside the city’s walls in this vision of the future.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Zombies have destroyed America, and Mary knows the only way to stay safe is within the fences of her village, sheltered by the nuns. But she doesn’t love her betrothed and she wants to see if the ocean is real. For that, she must leave the safety of the fences. See my review here.
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – Pitched as YA fantasy but in actuality dystopian. Mare is a Red, and all Reds are slaves to the Silver-blooded elite. But then Mare exhibits powers previously only known to Silvers, and the ruling family must hide her as they try to find the best way to eliminate her. See my review here.

And now for the ones I skipped but that many people seemed to enjoy:

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Matched by Ally Condie – The government controls every aspect of your life, especially your future mate.
  • Legend by Marie Lu – June (illustrious wealthy citizen) and Day (criminal) are brought together when June suspects him of her brother’s murder, but their cat and mouse game ends up uncovering sinister government secrets.
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Thomas wakes in a mysterious maze with several other boys, all of whom have no memories. They continually fail to find a way out of the deadly maze. Then the first girl comes with even worse news.
  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken – Children surviving a terrible illness find themselves with dangerous abilities they can’t control. Naturally, the government locks them up, until rebellion ensues.
  • Red Rising Pierce Brown – Haves vs. Have Nots on Mars.
  • Pure by Julianna Baggot – The apocalypse has left most people irreparably damaged, but the few unharmed “Pures” are kept safe in a dome from the outside world. Pressia and Partridge are from opposite sides of the Dome, and aren’t meant to meet, but they do.
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – Aliens are invading and Cassie just wants to save her brother and stay alive.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Mime Order | To Live a Thousand Lives
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  3. Trackback: Backlist Bonus: Divergent | To Live a Thousand Lives
  4. erinkbay
    Feb 17, 2016 @ 18:18:53

    As always, your review is SO on point, Manda!!!!! This one was such a fun one to read because The Hunger Games has gotten so huge! Ugh, Amanda you should totally expand on this and write a whole essay about your thoughts on Katniss and Prim and the whole Hunger Games stuff because OMG I WANT TO READ IT!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Trackback: Backlist Bonus: The Forest of Hands and Teeth | To Live a Thousand Lives

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