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Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger GamesI’m not sure when it happened, or if it has always been this way, but young adult literature–at least the popular stuff–has taken a dark turn.  This year I’ve read and reviewed The Burn Journals, The Forest of Hands And Teeth, and now The Hunger Games.

Lighthearted these are not.

Lord Of The Flies Meets Battle Royale

In Lord Of The Flies, a group of military boys are stranded on an island after a plane crash.  They wind up dividing into factions.  Some of them eventually try to kill the other group.

The cult movie Battle Royale is about a class of Japanese High School freshmen who are taken to an island and forced to fight to the death.

The Hunger Games is set in, surprise, a terrible future.  This is the first book in a trilogy, so the background is not all there, but there is a ruling class that live in a giant city.  In a previous war they defeated a bunch of colonies which must now pay tribute each year in the annual Hunger Games.

A lottery determines two children from each colony that have to go to the city.  Then they are forced into a giant arena–the environment of the arena is different every year–and they have to fight to the death.  The games are televised and are a huge hit with the fat cats and lazy aristocracy.

The last one alive wins.  I’m not going to say anymore.  It’s really a good story and there are a lot of surprises worth finding for yourself.


I loved The Hunger Games. As I said, it’s the first of a trilogy.  Part two, Catching Fire, is sitting on my desk right now.  I really do wonder about the trend I’m seeing–or imagining that I’m seeing.

Is it real?  Is teenage lit darker than it used to be?

Rated 100 quivers of bloody arrows.

Update: Since I wrote this review, I have read the entire trilogy. Here is my Mockingjay review, the third and concluding volume of The Hunger Games trilogy.


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  • Jenny November 5, 2009, 5:11 am

    Ooooo anything similar to Lord of the Flies makes me want to read. Great review Josh!

  • Ben (from TIC) November 5, 2009, 7:08 am

    Sounds great! I sometimes think that young adult lit. authors have more pressure to make the story compelling and readable since they have a tough target audience. That pressure makes for some good reading.

  • Stephanie Smith November 5, 2009, 7:51 am

    The good news is that you are not imagining this dark trend Josh -despite the creations dredged up from your dreams -had to throw that in…:)
    I see it too as I peruse the bookstores rows of new releases. First it seemed more aimed toward teens, but now the taget age is getting younger. Really, how could we expect any less when more and more entertainment, be it movies, video games, TV or books, are geared towards violence and more of the “paranormal’ genre.
    Think about it, there were a lot less books or movies dealing with Sci-fi, vampires shapeshifters, etc.- Nowadays, it’s everywhere.
    Thanks for giving me a new author to follow -still have credit on my books a million gift card….yea!

    • Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009, 8:33 am

      @Stephanie: It’s tough out there for mortal men right now. Women want vampires, vikings, shapeshifters, and preferably all of the above can time travel.

      @Ben: Because these types of stories are popular right now, if it wasn’t a trend, I think it will become one. Anything that is profitable grows long coattails that people want to ride.

      @Jenny: You’ll love it. If you already like LOTF, you’re more of a genius than I thought.

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) November 5, 2009, 9:00 am

    That sounds cool. I may pick this book up, young adult books suit my dyslexic brain.

    I wanted to give you a heads up though Josh, Battle Royal actually started as a novel.

    Like Lord of the Flies it was later developed into a film, but it started as a book. There is also an extremely graphic comic book.

  • adam November 5, 2009, 9:10 am

    I am absolutely in love with the hunger games. Me and my wife fight over who has to take the dog out. Im reading about 100 pages a night, ALMOST DONE!

  • Gayze November 5, 2009, 10:16 am

    Well, as to “darker than it used to be”, stories such as Lord of the Flies and Bless the Beasts and Children, etc, were pretty darned dark. “More prominent”, I guess … YA writers today do seem to be leaning toward more serious, and frightening, subject matter.

    I recall Stephen King saying that the one thing that scared him silly in modern literature was Lord Voldemort.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009, 10:55 am

      Gayze, I’ve never heard of Bless The Beasts and Children. On my way to look it up. “More prominent” is a great way to say it. I think you’re right.

      • Gayze November 5, 2009, 11:04 am

        A 1970’s classic about a group of kids who were led on a mission to save a herd of bison. Author: Glendon Swarthout. Enjoy!

  • Jenny November 5, 2009, 11:41 am

    Josh, you give me too much credit. Two weeks ago I had to ask Google which is bigger, the earth or the sun.

  • Tim November 5, 2009, 1:53 pm

    Hi Josh:

    Sounds like an interesting book and the fact that there’s a competition where the winner stays alive reminds me slightly of Richard Bachman/Stephen King’s novella “The Long Walk,” which is one of my favorites. I am very intrigued by this book…thanks for turning us on to this.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009, 4:34 pm

      Tim, I love The Long Walk! Love it. If you like that story, you’re going to love HG. I finished part 2 today. It’s even better. Get on it!

  • Jessica Marie November 5, 2009, 2:44 pm

    Out of those three I have only read The Lord of the Flies. When I read it in junior high it took me a while to look at my male classmates the same. I’ll have to pick the others up.

  • Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009, 4:35 pm

    Jessica Jessica Jessica, are you saying that a group of girls on that island wouldn’t have turned into savage, war-painted killing machines? I’ve never been so insulted:)

  • Adventures of The Fearless | Jon November 5, 2009, 5:25 pm

    Lord of the Flies was excellent I will have to take a peek at this one in chapters

    • Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009, 5:36 pm

      Sounds good Jon. Start with Chapter one or it will ruin the surprises!

  • Tim T November 5, 2009, 7:14 pm

    Ash and I have read both books and loved them. It took us a combined two days to finish the first book and probably a combined four days to finish the second (it wasn’t the weekend). It sucks to have to wait for a year for the third. I like that the book doesn’t get bogged down, it keeps going.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 5, 2009, 7:16 pm

      Hey Tim. A year isn’t that long of a wait in the publishing world, so that’s actually good news. That said, I don’t want to wait either.