The Hunger Games: Book One Review

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, is a fiction in the Youth Adult (YA) Fantasy genre.

Let me be clear, I am not a young adult. In fact, I am a more than a few years past middle-aged. I was immediately completely engrossed in this novel and devoured it feverishly until it was complete. The Hunger Games is so addictive because it draws the reader into a dramatic plot while introducing compelling characters.

The Plot 

The novel is narrated by the main character, a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen. When the book opens, it is seemingly the future, after a great war. What remains is divided into twelve districts, collectively known as Panem that are governed by The Capital. Katniss, from District 12, volunteers to take her sister, Prim’s, place in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a gladiator-like fight to the death among “tributes” two from each of the twelve districts. The tributes must be less than eighteen. The games are televised and presented as entertainment while being controlled by The Capital.
To survive, Katniss must win the games. By rule, only one tribute will be left at the end of the games. Complicating the dire odds are friendships and alliances formed along the way. Katniss brings to the games excellent hunting skills and an instinct for survival. She hunted and scrounged for food to keep her family going through very lean times. Her father was killed in a mining accident when she was young.
Especially relevant is that as the novel progresses it is very clear that there is a gross disparity in the wealth of the citizenry in the capital and those in the districts. Each of the districts is kept separate from the others. And, contributes some sort of agricultural or mineral products to the capital. The Capital controls every aspect of the districts to maintain a vise-like grip on the people.

The Other Characters

Other characters of note are Gale, Katniss’ best friend from District 12. He is her friend, hunting partner, and though not yet fully evident, her love interest. He represents much of what her home district means to her.
Peeta is the other tribute from District 12. He is an adversary with whom Katniss forms an alliance and a seemingly romantic relationship as well.
Haymitch Abernathy is the only Hunger Games victor who is still alive from District 12. He is Katniss and Peeta’s mentor in the games.
In addition, other notables are Panem President Snow, Effie Trinket, the District 12 escort for the tributes, and Katniss’s sister Primrose (Prim).

Recommendation

Consequently, the Hunger Games will appeal to teens 13 and older and just about anyone who enjoys fantasy. The novel contains some strong emotional themes and violence so I don’t recommend it for those younger than 13.
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media, gives it five stars, saying,

For her first young-adult novel, Collins has mixed together elements both classical and modern to produce a story that, if not entirely new, nevertheless bears her unique imprint.

In spite of all that I loved about this book, I did find one of the central tensions, the love triangle, very lame. The love triangle was very tired to me and while it drove the plot forward and added to the suspense, I didn’t find it very believable.

The Hunger Games: From Print to Big Screen

For me, this book was as huge a hit as it was for the general YA populace that made it and the movie such a huge success and I recommend it heartily. The novel explores many important themes such as poverty, the role of government, teenage angst, the search for identity, and the heroes journey. The action in the book drives the plot forward quickly and the writing is witty and straightforward.
Watch the 2012 movie trailer:

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Sycamore Row Book Review

Sycamore Row

John Grisham

25 real-world years after John Grisham’s first novel. Grisham takes us back to Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi. Three book years after Jake Brigance successfully defended a black man accused of murdering the three white men that raped and killed his daughter in A Time to Kill, Grisham re-introduces us to Jake, Judge Attlee, and the racial tensions that abound in this small southern town.

The Tribulations of Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row gets its name from a stand of sycamore trees, one of which was used by Seth Hubbard, a millionaire suffering from late stage lung cancer, hanging himself from a sycamore tree. The day prior, he made a new will. A hand-written will leaving the majority of his estate to his maid, Lettie Lang, who nursed him through his final days on earth. He also left 5 percent to his church and 5 percent to his brother whom he hadn’t seen in years and wasn’t sure was still alive. This hand-written will would over-ride the will he had drawn up by a law firm two years earlier. What makes this story interesting is that the new will was legal in Mississippi. Probate law requires he had the mental capacity to write it and there was no undue tampering from anyone named in the will. Seth hated lawyers and had a healthy distrust for all but Jake Brigance, whom he wrote to requesting that he protect his new will at all costs.

Since, Seth Hubbard was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 million dollars, everybody wanted a piece of his estate. In the first will, Seth’s children, Herschel and Ramona were named as the primary recipients of his estate. Herschel and Ramona were deadbeats according to their father that rarely came to see him, unless they needed something. So, they of course hired lawyers to protect their interest. Their primary purpose was to raise a bit of doubt in the jury’s mind. Both, to the mental capacity of Hubbard and the relationship between he and Lettie.

Lettie, whose husband cared more for drinking than he did working, had a son in prison, and a daughter recently returned from the military. Lettie’s supposed friends and relatives came out of the woodwork to help her stake her claim to the money, hoping she would reward them monetarily after she received her reward.

And, the Trial

Grisham takes us through the boring and mundane process of establishing the estates worth, jury selection, and trial procedures. After all, not everything about a trial is filled with action and adventure. But, the events outside the courtroom, such as Lettie’s husband arrest for driving under the influence and vehicular homicide, Lucien’s search for Seth’s brother, a merchant marine with drug and alcohol abuse problems, the search for Lettie’s real parents, since she is an orphan, and the racially charged events in the town where the trial takes place are what really keeps the story moving.

Grisham is a master story teller that knows his way around a courtroom. He has proven that time and time again in his other books, but in Sycamore Row as in A Time to Kill he showed us his ability to pull us into the small town of Clanton that is the Deep South and hold us spellbound until the final verdict.

Sycamore Row Book Review

 

 

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