Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

the-hunger-games

Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: December 1, 2011 (originally September 14, 2008)
Format: Paperback (boxset edition)
Source: Purchased
Pages: 454
Goodreads || Book Depository

Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

I finally read The Hunger Games! Going in to the book, I kinda knew what the book was about without really knowing anything and this was reflected in my reading experience. As I was reading, I felt like I was reading something very familiar, but still feeling completely shocked and surprised by a lot of things in the book. There’s probably not a lot that I can say about this book in my review that hasn’t already been said but here’s my experience with The Hunger Games anyway.

Dystopian novels aren’t really high on my list of preferred genres, which is one reason why I haven’t read or watched anything from The Hunger Games franchise until now. But I ended up enjoying this book a lot more than I thought I would. It was thrilling and action-packed and I enjoyed the small bit of brutality that was in the novel. I also enjoyed how the book doesn’t really waste any time and goes straight into the plot from the very first chapter. It’s very fast-paced and I don’t think there was any part of the book that felt draggy. There were a few twists and turns in the book that I really, really liked and they kept me interested in the story. Like who doesn’t love a mutant dog? In addition to the action of the plot, it also has a ‘reality TV’, competition aspect that I think appeals broadly to YA readers.

The characters in the book were also great. I thought they were nicely developed and I got a good sense of who they all were. Katniss is such a fierce and smart character, with some crazy survival skills that I wish I had. She’s quite an aspirational character and I loved almost everything about her. I did, however, think that she was a bit oblivious when it came to the way she perceived herself and others. I think there’s definitely room for development on that front and I’m keen to see how she changes throughout the trilogy. I also really liked a lot of the side characters in the book, especially some of the other tributes. Rue was a beautiful character and I wish we could have seen more of her. And of course, I loved Peeta. He’s definitely my kind of character and I really felt for him at the end of the book. I’m keen to see how this plays out in the next two books.

Overall, The Hunger Games is worth the hype for me. I was definitely skeptical going into the trilogy but it exceeded my expectations and I’m keen to see how the rest of the series plays out, though I do think this novel can stand alone by itself.

Review: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

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Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release date: May, 2011
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 228
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In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and, most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I’m having a hard time putting to words what this book was about. On the surface, When Things Come Back is an emotional mystery about a boy dealing with grief and the strange disappearance of his brother but the novel is about so much more than that. It explores religion and the meaning of life in an intricate and complex way.

When Things Come Back was beautifully written. It has wonderfully constructed prose that draws you into the story and the refuses to let you go. It was philosophical, emotional and, strangely, it also felt like magical realism even though this book is definitely realistic fiction. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the book and how writing set up the melancholy and stuffiness of this small, sleepy town in Arkansas. I also really loved the occasional third person omniscient narration, which is probably my favourite kind of narration in fiction. I really connected with it and highly enjoyed it. This book is however, mostly written in first person, from Cullen’s point of view. I loved his voice in the book and thought he was very honest and real. However, he did refer to himself in third person a lot and it really threw me off and made the book a little bit confusing. Other than that, I thought the writing was wonderful.

While the book is beautifully written and emotionally impactful, it’s really the last section of the novel that makes this book brilliant. The entire novel is written in alternating chapters, following Cullen and a young missionary called Benton Sage who is sent to Ethiopia at the beginning of the book. I have to admit that I was quite confused for a good 5 chapters of the book because Benton’s story was quite distinct from Cullen’s and I had no idea how they were connected. For a while, I thought Benton’s story was a story that Cullen was writing (because I obviously don’t read blurbs carefully enough) and I just had a hard time seeing how they were connected. However, these stories are connected and they are connected brilliantly. It doesn’t become clear what the connection is until the last 25% of the book, but I thought it was very well done and I definitely didn’t see any of it coming.

This book is definitely unexpected. It is extremely unique and doesn’t go in a direction that is obvious. But having said that, I did find that I couldn’t connect to a large part of the story. There’s a very strong religious component and being not religious at all, I couldn’t really get a grasp on some of the messages in the book. Or put more honestly, I couldn’t really bring myself to care enough about those religious aspects to try to put it all together. However, even with this gap in my knowledge, I still really enjoyed the story. It’s a great exploration of grief and second chances, and it also has some really great friendships and relationships in the book. I loved the friendship between Cullen and his best friend, and I especially loved the relationship between Cullen and his brother, Gabriel.

“To lose a sibling is to lose the one person with whom one shares a lifelong bond that is meant to continue on into the future.”

While this isn’t my favourite John Corey Whaley book that I’ve read (I’ve only read two and Highly Illogical Behaviour is my favourite of the two), I think it brings a very unique and intricately woven story that is full of honesty and emotion. I think this is more appropriate for a more mature YA audience but would definitely recommend it.

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness.

Publisher: Walker Books
Release date: May 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1406339342
Pages: 215
Goodreads || Book Depository

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

For a really long time, I was reluctant to pick up this book because I’d heard that it was a heart-wrenching story and that’s exactly what it was. It was a sad but absolutely beautiful story with some equally beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay. I’ll keep this review short and sweet because the book is a short one, and it’s probably also best that you go into it without knowing too much so that you can take from it your own messages.

13-year-old Conor is having a rough time. He’s being bullied at school. His mother is battling cancer and is incredibly sick from the chemotherapy. His father has a new family over in America and his new wife pretty much wants him to cut off ties with Conor and his mother. Conor is being forced to live with his grandmother, who’s not like the other smiley grandmothers in the world. And on top of all of that, there’s a monster who visits him in the middle of the night and leaves a terrible mess in his room the next morning.

I really felt for Conor and connected with him on an emotional level in this book. I felt all of his struggles and pain, and I couldn’t help but feel attached to his story. There were times when he acted like a little bit of a brat, particularly at the beginning of the book, but given the circumstances, I can forgive a young boy for not being a perfect angel. I actually thought that he handled his emotional struggles very well and I admired how strong he was when he needed to be.

The monster that visits Conor tells him three stories. These stories were my favourite aspect of A Monster Calls. They had a fairytale-like quality to them and I thought the messages and lessons they contained were very interesting. I wouldn’t have minded a whole book of just those stories to be honest, but I loved how these stories fit into the plot of the book overall.

There are some beautiful illustrations throughout the whole book. These illustrations appeared mainly during scenes where the monster visited Conor. They were slightly creepy, all in black and white, and were very intricate. I loved looking at them and trying to pick out little details that I would have missed at first glance. I thought Jim Kay’s illustrations really brought the story to life and enhanced it. I definitely recommend the illustrated edition of A Monster Calls!

I feel like this is a book I could recommend to anybody. I think everybody, including children and pre-teens, could take something away from this book. The ending of it affected me so much and had me reflecting on some of my own past and present experiences. And like I had anticipated, I ugly-cried for a while after it was over.

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Publisher: Quirk Books
Release date: June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1594746036
Pages: 352
Goodreads || Book Depository

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of peculiar photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

MY THOUGHTS

45 stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a fantastic novel, filled with mystery and excitement. I was so intrigued by what was happening that I did not take notes at all while reading, which is why this review might be kinda all over the place. And things will probably pop into my head after I’ve posted this review…

This novel follows our main character, Jacob, as he sets off on a journey to Wales to find out about his grandfather’s past. When he was younger, his grandfather would tell him stories about his time spent at an orphanage for peculiar children. As he grew older, Jacob started to believe his stories less and less, and eventually decided that they were just made-up stories. However, when his grandfather is brutally killed and Jacob is left with some strange clues and photographs, he sets off on a journey to find the orphanage and the truth.

I really, really loved this book! It was mysterious and eerie, and I thought the creepy pictures really added to the tone and atmosphere of the book. I’m not really a fan of scary books (I’m a big wuss), and I think this was just the right amount of creepy without actually being scary. This book has so many things that I love to read about. There are time loops and time travelling aspects involved and I loved these elements! Because of the time travelling, a lot of the book is actually set in the 1940s and I really enjoyed this. I absolutely love historical fiction, especially WWII historical fiction, so this book was right up my alley.

What I also loved about this book was that the tone was set from pretty much the very first page. We get the feeling that something is not quite right, and I was so immersed in the book from the very beginning. The book starts off with a bang – the tragic family incident occurs and we’re left bewildered and wondering exactly what happened. But while this book started off really strongly, the next 100 or so pages was kind of slow and draggy and it took me a little while to get through it. (But having said that, I think the slow pace really helped create this eerie and creepy atmosphere). It isn’t until we meet the peculiar children that the book started to pick up in pace for me, eventually reaching an extraordinary climax and twist that BLEW my mind. I have to say, I did not see any of it coming at all. The last 70 pages were so action-packed and exhilarating and I flew through those pages. The ending also had me very excited for the next book, Hollow City.

The characters in this book were definitely the standout for me! They were all so peculiar and had strange abilities, such as levitation, invisibility and the ability to make dead or inanimate objects alive. While these weren’t new and original abilities that we’ve never seen before, I loved the way the characters used these powers and how creative and clever Ransom Riggs was at incorporating them into the plot. I also really appreciated that there were so many photographs and visual aids in the book. Even though the descriptions made it really easy for me to picture what the characters looked like, I really liked being able to see pictures of them! And, even though I know some of them were doctored, they really reinforced the idea for me that these characters actually exist. There were times when I thought that the pictures broke up the flow of the text but that was a very minor issue.

This was such a magical read for me. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It incorporates a lot of things that I love to read about, including strange family dynamics and historical elements. The characters were all really strong and fearless (I could never do any of the things they had to do!) and I loved them all so, so much. I flew through this book in just two sittings and I highly recommend it. The movie is going to be EPIC!