I put off reading The Hunger Games for the same stubborn reason that I put off reading Harry Potter, which is that I thought I wouldn’t like it, and that I looked down on books that were popular. Both with this book and with Harry Potter, I was completely wrong.
What struck me first about The Hunger Games was the characters. I read Divergent at about the same time, and I couldn’t help but compare the characters. Katniss and Peeta were so much more real than Tris and Four. Of course, Katniss isn’t exactly likable, at least not at first, but unlike Tris, she isn’t the stereotypical lead character who is small and useless but somehow good at everything they try for the first time.
I’ll start off with the plot, then talk about the characters.
Although, in some ways, it’s similar to other dystopian novels, it’s also very different—it’s also one of the first in that genre. It had a tone that felt more real than books like The Giver or Divergent. The premise—24 kids go into an arena and only one comes out alive–is certainly exciting, although it’s pretty clear that Katniss is going to be a victor. Still, the excitement comes from seeing her get out of impossible situations. The plot is actually a simple one, although it’s complicated by twists and added problems.
One of the things about the story is that a good portion of the characters end up dead (obviously). It makes some of the dynamics weird. There are alliances formed, but eventually they are all split either by someone else killing them or by them killing each other.
It raises questions like: What if one alliance remains and they have to kill each other? What if the tributes universally decided not to kill each other? What if the one remaining tribute died before being taken out of the arena?
Katniss: She’s definitely a grouch, but she’s a likable grouch. She has flaws and good points, but she isn’t one of those characters who seem to have contrived flaws and good points; she seems real and she has real struggles with trying to make people like her. All of the relationships between her and the other characters were fun to read, especially Haymitch and Peeta, since Haymitch is so much like her and Peeta is not.
“District 12: Where you can starve to death in safety.” —Katniss
Peeta: He might be my favorite characters in this book. of the main/supporting characters, he’s the only one who isn’t obnoxious, nasty, untrustworthy, or bitter. At the beginning, it was hard to tell whether he truly wanted to be friends with Katniss, or whether he was putting it on to deceive her—but since it was from her perspective, it’s hard to tell. She wasn’t a reliable narrator when it came to Peeta.
Aside from the fact that he was the most likable character, he was also the one who didn’t do much. In many books, there’s a character who gets injured early on and has to be taken care of for the rest of the story. That’s Peeta.
“She has no idea. She effect she can have.” -Peeta
Haymitch: At first he seemed useless and obnoxious, but after he made the promise to stay sober and train Katniss and Peeta, he got better. I enjoyed the contrast between him and the rest of the Capital people—even Effie. He was rough and short-tempered, they were prim and neat.
Effie: She was harmless, maybe even nice sometimes, but really got on my nerves. Every time I read her dialog, I heard it in a high, squealing voice. Ugh.
“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Cinna: He seemed to be the only person at the Capitol who Katniss could really trust, so although he wasn’t in the story an awful lot, I trusted him. Also, he designed those crazy flame costumes for District 12 (what were those flame things, anyway?!).
Rue: I knew she was going to die because of the nature of the story, but also because someone told me a while ago before I read the book. She was probably one of the smartest tributes, even though she was so young, because she knew how to find food and shelter for herself, and she could hop through the trees (which is way better than any other talent like shooting arrows). She survived for a surprisingly long time by herself.
Cato: Some readers probably dislike him, but I don’t. Even though he was Katniss’s and Peeta’s biggest and most dangerous enemy, that doesn’t mean he was bad. From his perspective, they could have seemed the same way to him.
I didn’t expect that last rule change. I half-expected that Peeta was going to die, but it didn’t seem likely. I though they would either stay there arguing until the gamemakers killed one of them, or they would run away and hide together to avoid one having to kill the other. But of course, the berries were a better idea.
It left plenty of room for a sequel, obviously. I haven’t read Catching Fire yet, but I want to soon!