A critical appreciation is like a book review that looks at the book’s structure, style, and literary merit. Although The Hunger Games is usually considered young adult fiction, this does not mean that it is not a worthy book in its own right.
The first element to consider when writing a critical appreciation is structure. The book is basically divided into three sections: before the games, during the games, and after the games.
Before the Hunger Games we are introduced to the dystopian world that is District 12. The book opens with Katniss hunting with her friend Gale, which serves the dual purpose of underscoring how poor they are and foreshadowing the hunt she will take part in later. As Katniss and Peeta prepare for the Hunger Games, the wealth and extravagance of the Capitol contrasts with the harsh conditions of back home.
The Capitol twinkles like a vast field of fireflies. Electricity in District 12 comes and goes, usually we only have it a few hours a day. (ch 6, p. 88)
During the Hunger Games, there is a great disparity between the children that are trained by lower, more affluent districts and the poorer districts. Some children are also much older. The huge inequity faced by the Tributes further reinforces the brutality of having children fight to the death to punish their homelands.
The section of the book that takes place after the Hunger Games is very brief. It establishes the need for a sequel, because Katniss has to face the consequences of her rebellious acts during the games.
The second element to consider is style. The book’s first person narration makes us close to the action, as if we are inside Katniss’s head or looking over her shoulder. Since our knowledge of what is going on is limited to her point of view, we are kept in the dark about some important elements of the action. For example, Katniss tries to guess what Haymitch is thinking so she knows what to do to get sponsors during the game.
The Hunger Games aren’t a beauty contest, but the best-looking tributes always seem to pull more sponsors. (ch 4, p. 58)
The rawness with which the book is told makes it engaging and suspenseful. Its allegorical quality gives it literary merit. All in all, The Hunger Games is an enjoyable and enlightening, if simple, read.