Confession: I hate being left out of stuff. Well, I guess I don’t mind being left out of some stuff (e.g., politics, lawsuits, and pretty much every t.v. drama known to man), but I do rather loathe that left-out-of-the-loop feeling when it comes to books. Maybe it’s my English major pride (that probably accounts for most of it), but I’ve always been able to tolerate not knowing the plotline of the latest bestsellers for only so long until I finally succumb to the pull of the literary crowd (The Da Vinci Code is the one notable exception to this). More often than not, I have been a little disappointed in what I’ve found (the ending of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, for one example), but occasionally, I have been feverishly taken in by a series only to be disgusted as I reached its conclusion or even just its first few chapters (*cough* Twilight *cough*). And thus we reach my experience of reading The Hunger Games trilogy…
I’ll start with what I liked: the first book.
The first book in the series takes the reader into a familiarish 1984-type world where the government has taken over the general population and is mercilessly sucking its victims of their various freedoms. In this particular series, the world of Panem has been subjected to the government-sponsored Hunger Games for 74 years, which have been created to create fear in the so-called districts of Panem. Each year, each district is required to send a boy and a girl (two “tributes”) into the Hunger Games, where they are forced into an arena where they will kill each other off in an ultimate survival-of-the-fittest battle. Only one is allowed to survive.
The Hunger Games have continued for almost three-quarters of a century without opposition from the districts. Until the year that Katniss Everdeen, a strong, willful teenage girl, steps up to take her sister’s place in the Games. Ultimately, the series revolves around this crucial question: Will one plain, poverty-stricken teenager be able to start the rebellion that will end the Hunger Games forever?
I give Suzanne Collins serious props for a compelling plot–I couldn’t put books one or two down. Also, I was eager to find, when I started the series, that Collins had chosen a strong, not-whiny female character as the lead. However, the good things just about ended there. While the writing style was nothing horrendous (yes, I am in fact thinking of Stephanie Meyer, why do you ask?), it was at times a little jumbled and awkwardly put. Basically, if I start thinking during a book, What was the author thinking here?, then we’re in trouble, because in a really great book, I never question the author–I just get mad at the story. But I digress. Basically, my thoughts are these–Collins started out with a strong, pretty likable female character and a compelling plot driven in equal parts by suspense and romance, but somehow ended up with a broken, whiny teenage girl who reminded me unfortunately of Bella Swan and a plotline riddled with depressing twists and turns and (dare I say) too much action. I, for one, am generally all for the cliff-drop endings at the end of chapters, but not at the end of EVERY chapter. I just kept thinking, can’t the poor girl just catch a break? Can’t I, as the reader, just catch a break? Needless to say, it took me three times as long to get through the final book in the series and I liked it three times less.
Upon finishing, I sat pondering on why I felt dissatisfied. Surely it wasn’t because the plot wasn’t compelling. And Katniss had roughly ended up with the guy that I was semi-rooting for the whole time. But the whole thing seemed so rushed–almost like Collins was working to a deadline and didn’t know quite how to wrap up the complex love triangle she had woven in the other two books. So she makes some hasty killings and gives the reader a one-page explanation of why Katniss chose the guy that she did. Well, you know what, Collins? I’m not impressed. Harry Potter still strongly holds the lead on my list of favorite series. However, the good news is that The Hunger Games trilogy far beat Twilight, which is officially stuck at the bottom for life, unless (heaven forbid) I ever encounter a worse-written series that I choke my way through.
I am curious, though, about how on earth they’re going to make a movie of the thing while keeping it appropriate for an audience made up largely of children and teenagers. Hmmmm….
My Rating: 3 stars
Feel free to disagree heartily with any or all that I’ve said in your comments below. I know I’m in the minority here.