Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Hunger Games Tops My 2011 Best Books List (Yes, I Realize It's Only February)

I hesitate to even write about this book, because I'm not sure I can accurately express why it worked so well. It's not a new release -- released in 2008, it is three years old. So it's old news. BUT, I have to write about it because ohmygoodnessIloveditsomuch. So much, in fact, that -- like my high school librarian told me I would -- I read it in about 24 hours. Then I read the second book in the trilogy, and the third book in the trilogy within the next week. What book am I speaking of? Why, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, of course.

By the description, it sounds like the exact opposite of any book I would ever read: young adult, science fiction, futuristic, fantasy, action-packed, war-torn. Not one of those descriptions entices me to read a book. I suppose that's the reason I had so little interest in it, even though the blog world exploded with coverage of the trilogy -- and near went into panic mode waiting on the third installment to be released. Bloggers I trust and read regularly raved about it, one even decorated her Christmas tree with Hunger Games stuff (and staged a Hunger Games reenactment in her backyard), Hot Topic created a Hunger Games line, and there's an upcoming movie. Still, I resisted.

Finally, another teacher at my school read it and couldn't say enough about it. Her students read it and loved it, too. I decided I had to give it the "old college try"; I could always abandon it if I hated it. So... I didn't hate it. I loved it. It was fabulous. Life-changing, if you will. One of "those" books.

The Hunger Games trilogy begins sometime in the future. North America has been rebuilt as the country of Panem. It consists of a Capitol and 12 Districts, each with its own specific job to do. For example, District 1 creates luxury items; District 12 mines for coal; and so on. As a result of a rebellion and Civil War that occurred 75 years ago, the Capitol must remind Panem citizens that they are at the will of the government. To prove their power, the Capitol forces the Districts to engage in the Hunger Games each year. In the Hunger Games, each District draws two names -- a boy and a girl -- to act as tributes. Players are placed in an arena, and must fight to the death. The last survivor is the Game winner. Oh yes, and the entire event is broadcast, reality-television style, for all of Panem to watch.

Katniss, the book's main character, is thrown into the arena with tributes who dwarf  her in both size and intent to win. However, coming from the tough District 12 and having a few tricks up her sleeve, Katniss proves that she has enough spunk to at least be in the running inside the arena. Collins throws in a love story in addition to all the battle scenes; Katniss is swooned over by Gale back at home and Peeta in the arena.

All that tells you exactly nothing about why The Hunger Games is so good. So here is my short list:
  • Excellent writing
  • Well-developed characters
  • Interesting, unique, & creative premise
  • Great story line
  • Enough action, but so much more
  • Detailed setting -- fictional, yet based on actual United States topography
  • Strong female lead character
As I have mentioned in some of my Reading Aloud in the Classroom posts, I am currently reading The Hunger Games to my students. Some have felt the beginning was slow, especially hearing it aloud. I would agree that the beginning does nothing to foreshadow the excitement that eventually builds. Others, however, have been hooked from the get-go. I think the wild-dog stew was probably a catalyst in getting my middle-school-age boys to keep listening!

Chasing Fire and Mockingjay were also enjoyable for me, despite the backlash that followed the final book's release. More on that later!

Don't forget to return tomorrow for an interview with debut author Sara J. Henry from the blog Sara in Vermont. Her literary mystery Learning to Swim was released yesterday.


  1. Thank you for the links - I'm so glad you decided to read it and I can't wait to hear your take on Chasing Fire and Mockingjay!

  2. You are so welcome! I should have taken advice from your blog months ago & jumped aboard the Hunger Games train!

  3. OMG you took the words out of my mouth. I just read it recently and my only regret is I didn't read it three years earlier.

  4. So JH, what did you read next? That's my struggle right now-- plenty to read, but nothing I feel will measure up!

  5. Sherry brought me Hunger Games & Mini Shopaholic this afternoon... I just read the intro to your post, can't wait to read the book & then your review! I'm excited!

  6. I love all three books as well!
    I love that Peeta and Katniss ended up together, and I also finished all three books within a week. I couldn't put them down.

  7. I absolutely fell in love with this trilogy! It was a rollercoaster ride all the way through with twists that will make your heart sink. I can not wait for the movie, even though I know it will not have a chance of matching the world Suzanne Collins has created in my head. Just finished and am ready to ride again!



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