The Hunger Games & Catching Fire

Status: Bookseller Picks

Whenever someone asks me what the best book I've read this year is, I answer with The Hunger Games. In Katniss Everdeen's world, which is set in a not-so-different future, America has come to be run by a totalitarian government, and has simply been divided into thirteen districts. The people of Katniss's District 12 live mostly in poverty, thanks to the legend of District 13. The story goes that District 13 tried to rebel against the government, which then nuked the entire district. In order to keep the remaining twelve districts from trying anything similar, the government came up with the Hunger Games.

 

Every year, all children from the ages of 12-18 must enter their name in the Reaping. One boy and one girl from each district are selected at random to participate as tributes in the Hunger Games, in which all twenty-four children must fight to the death in a diabolical stadium. The Games are all broadcast live, and they don't end until there is only one child left alive. The prize for winning? Food, wealth, and a sturdy home for the winner and their family for the rest of their life. Poor children can enter their names into the Reaping more than once for an extra rations of food, making their chances of being picked even greater -- but the risk is worth it, since the government controls the trade of food between districts so tightly. The Games are a symbol of the government's power to the people of the districts, but to those who live in the Capitol (a place of great wealth, vanity, and frivolity), the Games are pure entertainment. It's a twisted mess of survival and reality television where drama and danger can earn you helpful gifts from your sponsors based on how much the Capitol viewers like you.

 

16-year-old Katniss, of course, ends up as a tribute in the Hunger Games. Katniss is a born fighter -- she alone has provided food for her family since her father died. She relies only on herself, and is very clever and stubborn. She has a real chance of winning the games and coming home like she promised her little sister she would. She steels herself to be ready to do what's necessary to get home, but when the Games begin, she finds that she has more trouble with the concept of killing the other tributes than she realized. This compassion, and the subsequent anger and frustration at the world she lives in, is part of what makes Katniss such a relatable narrator. She is forced to become a person she doesn't like (which includes killing and participating in a fake romance to garner sympathy from viewers) in order to survive.

 

Once you pick up The Hunger Games, you won't be able to put it down. It's definitely a thrill ride, with Katniss facing inevitable death with every turn of the page, but it's also got plenty of heart, as Katniss struggles to remain herself through this horrible ordeal. The series is classified as Teen, but it has widespread appeal, and adults will love it, too.

 

And once you've devoured The Hunger Games, you can pick up the second book in the trology, Catching Fire, which was just released. Catching Fire is just as terrifyingly good as the first book, but it delves even more into the history and politics of the Capitol and the Districts, and you'll discover the lengths the Capitol is willing to go to in order to crush any sign of a rebellion.

Comments
by B&N Bookseller melissas on ‎09-02-2009 11:38 PM

These books are so amazing, and I couldn't put either down. I thought I was going to die rather than wait a year to find out what happened to Katniss...and now I don't know how I'm going to manage the wait til I can know the secrets of District 13!

by B&N Bookseller Paul_C on ‎09-04-2009 01:48 AM

You beat me too it!

 

I got an advanced copy of Catching Fire, so I decided to read Hunger Games as it was an intriguing premise. I was so engrossed I finished both in a couple days. Something about Suzanne Collins writing style that makes it seem as though you are watching the events rather than reading about them. The world she has created is so terrifying and disgusting and yet, believable. It seems feasible that, were things to collapse so horribly, the world of Hunger Games/Catching Fire could be real.

 

One downfall of reading Hunger Games after knowing a sequel is coming was that I thought it would kill a bit of the suspense. THe existence of another book serving as a bit of a spoiler, especially if you read any of the promotional info in Catching Fire. The surprise though, it wasn't a detriment. I knew who would win, and the big twist of how, and I was still riveted. That is just good writing. 

 

The second book delves further into the twisted world of the Capital and the vengeful and worried President Snow. Collins give a deep look at how shallow and, SamanthaGio, you used the perfect word for it, frivolous, the Capital is. Especially in comparison to the Districts. The abject poverty shown to be prevalent throughout the Districts is countered by a post-modern dystopian Sodom and Gomorrah of the Capitol.

 

There is a great deal of social commentary lurking just below the surface of this series. And whether you agree with her views or not, Suzanne Collins has given us a great vessel for that commentary. The series is great so far, and I am already impatient for the next volume.

by B&N Bookseller Scarls17 on ‎09-08-2009 11:11 AM

These are oh so good. I recommend them to anyone, not just teens.

by B&N Bookseller LindaSanTan on ‎09-16-2009 08:32 PM

I just finished reading Hunger Games.  So many people were buying the sequel that I knew this first book had to be good.  The premise outlined in the synopsis had kept me away from it before.  Something about kids fighting and killing each other for survival just didn't have much appeal.  But I have to say that once I started it, I just couldn't put it down.  The character development was so good that you almost felt the internal conflicts Katniss went though and pondered with confusion what her next move would be right along with her.  I would highly, highly recommend this book to everyone and am off to read the sequel right away.

by temagrl on ‎11-11-2009 11:44 AM

These books took me by storm. A great read for any age. (not just young adult) I can't wait until book three.  I got Catching Fire and devoured it and then went AHHH! How long until the next one?  It's been a while since I couldn't wait for "the next one."

by i_would_rather_be_reading on ‎11-14-2009 02:23 PM

I wish I hadn't read the first two yet. It's going to be a long wait for the next!

by on ‎11-15-2009 06:12 PM

Both books transcend age categories. I was lucky enough to read them in a bound galley and/or advanced reading copy so I am chomping at the bit waiting for the third for a long time. Does anyone know if it has been written yet?

by Silence_Acton on ‎12-05-2009 04:30 PM

Ok I loved both of the Hunger Games books.  It took me a while to get around to them, but some very convincing friends and strangers (a totally random person threw a book at me when he overheard me saying I had not read them) got me to read them. 

 

The characters are very well written and easy to relate to and found that Suzanne Collins was very well descriptive but imaginative.  Her chapters had me staying up late and even some emotion evoked.  Although I hate to admit it, I almost cried when she killed off little Rue.   I saw it all playing in my head so well it was almost as if I was watching her die myself. 

 

Catching Fire was an amazing and satisfying sequel with quality almost surpassing expectations.  Am very excited for the 3rd book of the trilogy.

by Elpenumbro on ‎12-27-2009 01:36 AM

Apparently none of you have ever read The Long Walk by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman). Short story with exactly the same premise. Sounds a little like someone stole a story.

by happylie on ‎12-27-2009 08:50 PM

Sounds kinda like Battle Royale, where kids have to battle each other to the death. 

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