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The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (narrated by Carolyn McCormick)

March 29, 2013

Bibliographic Information (APA): Collins, Suzanne (2008). The Hunger Games. [Audiobook, narrated by Carolyn McCormick] Scholastic Press: USA

Category: Audio Book (Audio Recordings)

Descriptive Summary: Set in the post-apocalyptic landscape of what used to North America, The Capitol (a totalitarian regime that controls the people of the 12 Districts) controls the land of Panem, and demands tribute of one boy and one girl to participate in the Hunger Games held once a year. All 24 contenders fight to the death for the honor of their District. 16-year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute when her younger sister, Prim, is picked at random. Armed with nothing but her wits, hunting skills, and sheer will to survive, Katniss must fight to the death against her fellow-tributes for the entertainment of Panem, and to remind the people of the Capitol’s power over them all. In her fight to live, Katniss must decide if life is worth preserving over humanity at all costs or if some things like love and selfless sacrifice are more important.

Book Talking Hooks: This book received excellent reviews when it was released, but it has really been launched into popular culture when the first of the three books was released as a feature-length movie in 2012. It has been wildly popular with readers and moviegoers of all ages, and it is a good pick to appeal to cross-over audiences in both forms of entertainment.

There is excellent character development in this novel. For example, initially a character like Peeta Mellark is a mystery, and you don’t understand his motives. You don’t know if he really has feelings for Katniss the way he says he does, or if he is just playing a strategy for the Hunger Games (chapter 2, 4, 6, 9). For example, Katniss gets even more uncomfortable with him after they have the chance to really talk about their situation in private. She does not want to like him because she is going to kill him (chapter 9). After a while, however, you begin to realize that feelings and emotions do not necessarily preclude other multiple points of motivation for his character and you begin to appreciate his complexity as the novel reaches its end. He does not want the Hunger Games to change him into some kind of monster before it is over (chapter 11). Katniss herself tries hard to be emotionless and unforgiving, but deep down she is quite compassionate person that is more complex than she seems on the surface (Chapter 1, 3, 4, 9)

There is action and danger in the arena such as the bloodbath at the opening of the Games (chapter 11), but there is also humanity, and emotions that evoke empathy in the reader/listener for the desperate situation the main characters find themselves in. When Rue, another tribute, dies Katniss is overcome with grief and the reader is reminded that she is still a person, no matter what inhumane things the situation might demand of her (chapter 18). When Katniss and Peeta think they are both going to live and then the Capitol changes its mind, you feel real disappointment for their dashed hopes (chapter 25).

Evaluative Comments: 4/5. As an audiobook, this story becomes accessible to more people that may not be able to read or would just like to listen to the story. Carolyn McCormick does an excellent job of reading in a clear voice, a paced tone with expression, and slightly different accents and depths for the different character’s voices. The voice she gives Effie Trinket, for example, is an entertaining projection of a completely fake, self-absorbed, annoying, and grating bureaucrat with no empathy for the tributes’ predicament (which she is).

This audiobook also appeals because it is the first of three installments, which will encourage more reading in a young audience that becomes interested in the story. The more reading popular stories encourage, the more it will improve literacy. However, Although they would only be small details, perhaps the audiobook would be improved with some background sound effects, or some indication that signifies the end of a chapter.

Readers’ Advisory Notes: The Hunger Games is action-packed, very suspenseful, and really clever! In many ways the storyline is disturbing, but also thought-provoking as the darker fringes of a dystopian society are explored. Quite gruesome in some places, the novel is also strangely emotional and moving as you understand the character’s reactions to their experiences. It is certainly absorbing and entertaining.

Reason for Inclusion: The New York Times reviewed the novel positively, saying that it had “terrifyingly well-imagined futures and superb characterization” and that it is a “brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced novel” (New York Times, “The Sunday Book Review: Scary New World, 2008) Kirkus Review approved of its “impressive world building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns,” highlighting what an intriguing read The Hunger Games was for many readers (Kirkus, “The Hunger Games,” 2008). The Hunger Games was also awarded Publisher’s Weekly “Best Books of the Year” award in 2008 as well as the California Young Reader Medal in 2011 and many other notable awards. Finally, there is just the fact that every single person who has read it and told me about it (and there are many) have had nothing but positive things to say about it. I finally read it for this assignment and I was not disappointed.

Suggested Audience: This audiobook is a good match for any young reader that is fascinated by post-apocalyptic dystopian novels. The vocabulary is not very complicated but given the slightly brutal and violent content of the story, I would recommend this book for teens aged 15 and up. This book is definitely for people who enjoy lots of suspense, action, but also some intricate character development.

References

CYRM (2013). “Booklist – Young Adult.” Retrieved from http://www.californiayoungreadermedal.org/winners.htm

ImdB. (2012). “The Hunger Games.” Retrieved from  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

Kirkus (2008). “The Hunger Games.” Retrieved from

http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/suzanne-collins/the-hunger-games/

The New York Times (2008). “The Sunday Book Review: Scary New World.” Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/books/review/Green-t.html?_r=0

Publishers Weekly (2008). “Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2008.” Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20081103/11419-pw-s-best-books-of-the-year.html

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