My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book gets five stars not because it is a fabulous literary rendering of a superbly thought-out, emotionally complex story, not because it delves deeply into the interwoven psyches of several nuanced yet humane and relatable characters, but because, very simply, it is the latest book to keep me up past midnight in an all-night-trying-to-finish-it marathon. I got into it that much.
Essentially, Suzanne Collins is writing Margaret Atwood material for teenagers, and she is writing it well. The Hunger Games combines the best plot points and overall social commentaries of Orwell's 1984, Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, and Lowry's The Giver, while adding her own, more modern-seeming intensity to the mix. Something about the pace of the novel reminded me K.A. Applegate's Animorphs series, and particularly the knowledge that it was the first of a trilogy.
In short, while the book was clearly meant as young adult fiction, I still enjoyed it very much. The love triangle was passe but not overwrought, and if I were still 12 or 14, I would have bought it hook line and sinker. The fight scenes were very thoroughly depicted although not in too much detail as to slow the pace and lose the reader, and Katniss' internal turmoil over her loyalties toward herself, her allies, and even her enemies in the arena I was convincingly portrayed.
I was very pleased to find that the novel stood well on its own. It is the mark of an accomplished writer to be able to finish a novel that intentionally leaves space for continuation without leaving the first story incomplete. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy: Catching Fire.