Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Hunger Games: Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1, by Suzanne Collins AND The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Kate Egan

Suzanne Collins book, The Hunger Games,
Book 1 in The Hunger Games Trilogy,
originally was released in 2008. The movie
followed in March of 2012. The book, still
popular with readers, can be purchased
at most book purveyors. [1]
Book Review By:
Sharon Powers.

   The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, burst onto the scene in 2008, some six years ago. Little did the public realize that this erstwhile dystopian novel would gain such momentum or fill the halls of schools with chatter about a girl named Katniss who lives in a broken-down and poverty-stricken area called District 12.

     What is it about this book that has captivated the minds and hearts of teens and pre-teens, and even some adults? After all, the story is about a teenage girl...right? Yes...but there's so much more.

     I can't wait to talk to you more about this wonderful and exciting story, so I guess we should begin at the beginning. Let's take a look at the synopsis of the book.

Katniss and Gale, from the motion
picture, The Hunger Games. [2]
     As I indicated, above, Katniss (Everdeen) lives in District 12; she lives there with her mother and sister, and of course friends, like Gale, with whom she sneaks out of the compound to go hunting. Food being scarce she has honed her hunting skills, partly due to her deceased father's tutelage, partly her own wiles, and partly learning from another teenager, a boy named Gale.

     The government has imposed what they call, "The Hunger Games," on all twelve districts; from each district a lottery is held to select two participants from the districts teenage children--one girl and one boy. When Katniss's sister is selected, Katniss jumps up and volunteers to go in her place as tribute. Then, the boy tribute is chosen--it turns out to be "Peeta Mellark," a boy who has helped Katniss in the past and who had a secret crush on her.

"Nothing will change the
fact that we've saved each
other's lives in here. And
beyond that, he will always
be the boy with the bread."
[Kindle Loc. 5358] [3]
     The two District 12 kids, Katniss and Peeta, are whisked away to join the other 22 tribute children at the Capitol--there, they begin training and prepare for combat, not unlike gladiators of old, to fight to the death. In fact, each and every contestant must fight until they are the only remaining contestant of the 24 participants. 

     Instead of an arena, contestants are turned loose in a specially prepared area full of hazards in addition to the contestants who hunt each other. Monitoring the participants with cameras and audio equipment is necessary, as they are broadcast to the excited people in the Capitol who place bets on the contest. Sponsors can parachute little gifts to their favorite contestants to help them out in time of extreme trouble, but in the end, it's the choices the contestants make to stay alive that really count.

     [For those of you who haven't read the book...yet...] Will Katniss ever like Peeta in the way she likes Gale? Will the triangle cause a rift between Peeta and Katniss? And, even more importantly, will Peeta and Katniss make it through to the end of the games? Since only one winner is permitted, will one of them have to kill the other? Will one sacrifice himself or herself for the other? How will the moral dilemma be resolved between the two friends?

     This quote is about a scene that happened early on in the book. Katniss and Gale watched the government capture two runaway teenagers. The boy was killed and the redheaded girl captured. Katniss thinks back on that moment when she runs into the same redheaded girl who is now acting as a servant in apartments where Katniss is staying--the girl's tongue has been cut out as a punishment.
I'd set out to tell her I was sorry about dinner. But I know that my apology runs much deeper. That I'm ashamed I never tried to help her in the woods. That I let the Capitol kill the boy and mutilate her without lifting a finger. Just like I was watching the Games...I...climb under the covers [and] pull the covers up over my head as if this will protect me from the redheaded girl who can't speak. But I feel her eyes staring at me, piercing through walls and doors and bedding. I wonder if she'll enjoy watching me die. [Kindle Location: 1459-1467]
     So many really good quotes exist in The Hunger Games, and while some of them are, undoubtedly, more popular than the one I selected, I chose this quote because it clearly shows the reader what is going on, really, in the whole book. Katniss even says that she feels like she was "watching the Games" when the redheaded girl was captured and the boy killed. She feels guilt over not "lifting a finger" to help the runaways. Katniss feels like a Hunger Games spectator.

     Katniss can't hide from her own conscience; her admission of shame is indicative of that. In fact, the image of the redheaded girl burns in Katniss's mind, like the (artificial) fire that consumed her in the tribute's parade. The image of fire, here, acts as a symbol of purification, of sorts, burning away like the outer ashes of a burning coal--it burns away Katniss's excuses for not helping and exposes her shame.

     You've, undoubtedly, heard the expression, that someone's eyes felt like "burning coals." Well, here, the redheaded girl's eyes are a symbol of burning coals--with her gaze, she can burn through the "walls and doors and bedding" to see Katniss and her guilt. I love this whole passage. It is beautifully crafted to show not only Katniss and her guilt, but as a metaphor, it is a condemnation of the Capitol residents who watch the games for sport and celebrate the child tributes' deaths. Katniss wonders if the redheaded girl, too, will celebrate Katniss's death.

     Dystopian novels are all the rage right now. Back in July of this year, I did a review of The Giver by Lois Lowry. In that review, I did an in-depth analysis of what makes a dystopian novel. (Click here to see that review.) But, for right now, let's just say that the key elements of a dystopian novel include the following:

(1) The society is undesirable, harmful, or unpleasant (usually due to a dramatic decline in society, i.e. an apocalypse);
(2) Stratification of society;
(3) Family: the government seeks to control or destroy the family unit;
(4) Propaganda: may be used to control society through one or more of the following methods: Politics and government (the type used in The Hunger Games); Economics, Psychology, Religion, Identity, Violence, Corporate Control, Bureaucratic Control, Science, and through Environmental issues. Each of these four key points are seen in The Hunger Games. [For an expanded explanation of these four basic elements, see my review of The Giver by Lois Lowery.]

These are just a few "Dystopian Novels" that are
popular in today's reading market. [8]
     Utilizing the dystopian society permitted Suzanne Collins to address controversial themes in a palatable manner; that is, they are addressed in a way that is less objectionable to the adult perspective, or those who would censor such a book. Some of these themes include the fight for survival, how much independence and freedom may be had in such a society; (in #4, just above,) politics and government are used to control individuals and society (one important way of doing that is through The Hunger Games.); the use of nuclear weapons to control society (District 13 was destroyed this way to put fear into the other Districts); (also in #4, above,) Environmental issues (relating to food and other resources necessary for survival); Fashion as influence of others and society; Violence--life and death; and, of course, Gender roles. Collins addresses a number of these themes in the "Annotated" section at the end of the book (starting at Kindle Location 6420).

     The themes are way too many in quantity for me to discuss them in-depth in any manner. I just wanted you to know these major issues and themes are part and parcel of the book. They are very important to think about as you read the book. Consider them after you have finished reading the book, and discuss them with your friends and family. For example, ask someone who has read the book what they think about kids (teens) being forced to kill other kids in this Hunger Games ritual.

     Apart from the wonderful themes and controversial issues Collins includes in her book, I really enjoyed her style of writing. She keeps the perspective in First Person Present, keeping the full impact of the book on Katniss Everdeen. By keeping it First Person Present, the reader gets a sense of "IMMEDIACY."

"Immediacy." [10]
     With a sense of immediacy, the reader tends to perceive the story, not only as happening NOW, but tends to also sense the feelings that accompany it. This, in turn, makes the story believable. The reader tends to identify with the protagonist, and invests themselves in the story. The end result is that the reader enjoys the book and looks forward to the next in the series. So it is with The Hunger Games.

     I found myself not really caring or feeling a bit sad at all when the opposing tribute participants were killed. Yes, the action was non-stop, but I just really didn't care about the other tributes. It was kind of like, oh, yes, one more down--how many left to go now? Not sad, at all. The one exception, of course, was Rue; her friendship with Katniss and eventual death was very moving. I, also, very much liked Katniss singing Rue, "to sleep," the flowers, and gift of bread from District 11.

Haymitch Abernathy. [11]
     I also did not like the way Haymitch talked down to Katniss. Peeta is always treated like he "gets" what he is suppose to be doing, but Katniss needs to be coached along like she is not bright enough to figure things out. For example, once Katniss is apprised that she and Peeta can gain adoration and sympathy from the viewing audience by being romantic together, she resists and suddenly "forgets" that her actions can impact everyone she loves.

     I know that teens are not fully grown adults, even if they mostly look like they are. But, teens are intelligent, and I think many teens (especially older teens) have a good head on their shoulders. Katniss's script has her acting stupidly when her life depends on her being very smart. Now, I know that Haymitch's role is the disaffected Games Winner from the past, now gone to "seed," so to speak.  But, even after he gives Katniss advice, she acts blatantly resistant to his ideas and puts herself, Peeta, and everyone she loves in danger. I'm not talking about teenage rebellion--Collins uses that card very effectively later on in the book and series--I'm talking about how Katniss cares so much for her sister and family and District, but then responds so stupidly. I think this could have been handled better in the book.

A movie promotion poster for
The Hunger Games. [13]
     The Hunger Games movie was released to the big screen in March of 2013. Drawing crowds of people to the movie was Jennifer Lawrence who played Katniss Everdeen; Liam Hemsworth played Gale Hawthorne, Josh Hutcherson played Peeta Melark, and Woody Harrelson played Haymitch Abernathy. Also starring in the movie were actors Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane, Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Amanda Stenberg as Rue, and Paula Malcomson as Katniss' mother. Writing credits go to Suzanne Collins for the novel and Gary Ross, Billy Ray, and Suzanne Collins for the screenplay. Directing credits go to Gary Ross. [12]

     Now that we have reviewed the Book Synopsis, My Favorite Quote, and What Works, and What Doesn't, let's take a look at one of the trailers for The Hunger Games that previewed the movie's release in 2012. The trailer is courtesy of YouTube. [14] I hope you enjoy it.

     I hope you enjoyed reading about the book and watching the trailer for The Hunger Games. I, now, have a little bonus review, for you, today. I really hope you enjoy this quick look at The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion!

The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated
Movie Companion
, by Kate Egan is 160 pages;
it sells for $9.99 to about $18.99, of course,
depending on where you buy your book.
     The Movie Companion is divided into six parts, as follows:
(1) The History of The Hunger Games;
(2) The Cast of The Hunger Games;
(3) The Look of The Hunger Games: Places               and Props;
(4) The Look of The Hunger Games: People;
(5) The Filming of The Hunger Games; and,
(6) The Legacy of The Hunger Games.

     The first section on the history of The Hunger Games covers the history of Hunger Games. It also deals with violence and the "challenge of how to present the violence while still maintaining a PG-13 rating" so the intended audience can view the movie (as well as read the book). (p.14) [15] I found this section very interesting and of great interest in examining how the violence was handled in the book and movie.

One page showing beautiful glossy photographs of actors,
Woody Harrelson, as Haymitch, and Lenny Kravitz, as Cinna.
     Obviously, one of the big draws of the book is to talk about the major stars of the film. This section discusses how actors were selected, gives us comments from the actors, views of the director, producers, and others, and shows us amazing glossy, beautiful photographs of the actors.

     Section three is an extensive section that relates concepts like how locations portray "power and might and authority" (p.49) or how a forest area was selected because it had hardwood trees instead of coniferous trees, to convey the feeling of a "uniquely American" location. (p.59) Also, considerations of colors, for example, the Capitol, food and clothes, to be vibrant in "Blues, oranges, greens...but not any pastels, not any earth tones, Nothing brown." (p.81) This is a huge section of the book that covers a lot of material, and the importance of some themes in the movie--like food. Everything from how several pigs were roasted and how the apple was placed in its mouth for Katniss to shoot, to the importance of bread and the types of different rolls, their color, and symbolism.
     Section Four, not only shows photographs of the costumes of the actors, but actually goes into how the "look of the characters," came about. (p.88) Makeup artists, colorists, and costume designers had their work cut out for them.

     Personally, I found Section Five to be the most interesting section in the book. The author states that one of the very most important things about adapting the book into a movie is "to convey the immediacy, the first-person point of view that the book has." The author, Kate Egan, explains that in adapting the book to the movie, they wanted to make sure that wherever possible, they kept Katniss Everdeen's point of view--as did the book! (p. 138)

     The final section, although the shortest, covers some of the most important material. The author speaks to the timeliness of the book's/movie's themes, and Director Gary Ross explains how people were manipulated into participation in The Hunger Games. He says that by getting people involved in that horrendous contest, they become invested in the contestants. They begin "rooting for their favorites,"
which is more effective than attempting to subjugate them. The end result is people participate "in our system." (p.154).

One page from Kate Egan's book shows the beginning
of a scene. This is pages 66 & 67 in the book. This scene
shows Peeta and Katniss (actors Jennifer Lawrence and
Josh Hutcherson.). Thank you to my husband, Carl, for
holding the book for me while I took the picture.
     Reiterating part of Section Five, the author, again, speaks to the importance of addressing contro- versial themes, but takes that notion a step further, addressing the importance of readers questioning the relevance of elements of books in their own lives. I agree with this idea and have addressed this concept in other blog posts. Books are so very important and can expand a person's thinking and reasoning skills if the reader asks pertinent questions about the book.

     I really enjoyed this movie companion to The Hunger Games. The background information on the actors was fun, but more important was how the book was adapted to fit the big screen and still keep the integrity of the book. It is always a dicey thing to adapt a book to another media, such as big screen, so I enjoyed looking at how the movie makers approached this huge task. I also really enjoyed the discussions about the controversial themes, and how the author and movie makers addressed this big problem. I give this guide 4.0 stars out of 5.

     --Recommendations: It is difficult to avoid the fact that the movie is full of violence, death, fighting, and graphic images. MPAA has rated the movie as PG-13 for "intense violent thematic material and disturb- ing images - all involving teens." [12] I would, likewise advise those under that age and parents of children to guide your children in selecting and reading the book--I advise that all young and sensitive persons consider the material before selecting it as reading material. All others, especially teens of the recommended age, will, undoubtedly enjoy the book (and movie).

     --Rating: Even with the minor criticisms stated, above, I thought the book was amazing. So...given all the reasons I have stated, above, I rate this book 4.5 stars out of 5. When I first read the book, back when it first came out, I enjoyed it. I reread it, again, in preparation for doing this blog post and book review of the novel. I enjoyed it just as much as I did on my very first reading. Suzanne Collins has done a wonderful job in putting this exciting story together and sharing with us thrilling exploits of Katniss Everdeen and her friends, enemies, and those she loves. I would highly recommend this book to all within the target audience.

     Thank you for taking time to read this book review, today, and for your consideration of the information I have given you. Please join me, again, next week as we look at Book 2 of The Hunger Games Trilogy: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I hope you are looking forward to that book review as I am. So, until next week, please take a little time to do some reading--be good to yourself.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [19]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "The Hunger Games: Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1." Retrieved 11-01-14.
[2] "Katniss and Gale." Retrieved 11-11-14.
[3] "Peeta." Retrieved 11-11-14.
[4] "Redhead-girls." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[5] "Random Girl Hiding Under Covers." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[6] "How to Smoke A Turkey." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[7] "All the Things I Didn't Get When I Read The Giver As A Kid." [by Eliza Berman] Retrieved 11-12-14.
[8] "Dystopian." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[9] "The Dystopian Society." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[10] "Immediacy." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[11] "Haymitch Abernathy." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[12] "The Hunger Games (2012)." [movie] Retrieved 11-12-14.
[13] "The Hunger Games, Tyranny, and American Civil Rights." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[14] "The New Hunger Games Trailer Official 2012 [HD]--Jennifer Lawrence." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[15] "The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[16] "RE: View: Community: Season 1." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[17] "PG-13." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[18] "Gallery Images for 4.5 Stars out of 5." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[19] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 11-12-14.