Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic (2008)
You just don't hear enough about The Hunger Games... oh wait, that must be another title. In fact, you hear so much I don't even think a synopsis is needed.
Despite this book getting on my TBR list before it was even published, I've only just this weekend got around to reading it. These things happen. One thing for sure, it's a very weird experience to read a book you have heard and know so much about. I mean, yeah, I saw the movie but it's not just that. I've read plenty of books after seeing their film adaptations but, in cases such as these, the sheer volume of coverage is enormous and it's hard to just react to what you're reading rather than to its success and (what feels like) its 100% cultural penetrance.* For me, it took about half the book to have shed the movie, etc and really create my own experience. And here's a bit of what that experience was like.
(*turns out this is a specific genetics term. i had no idea. i was confused by it getting flagged as misspelled as I knew it wasn't but now i should probably just be embarrassed that i have used it multiple times in a non-science setting. so my pop culture definition would be as follows: if you've heard of it, you've consumed it.)
The Good -
Katniss: She's just fucking awesome. I loved her. What a great character. I had so much fun getting to know her and hanging out with her. You know, excepting those times she had to kill other children (though the book does an excellent job of making sure the characters you're supposed to like are pretty much forced into killing thus making it easy to continue liking them).
Resource inequity: At times, reading, I'd want to reject the ridiculous resource inequity but you just really can't. It's real and even more depressing in real life than it is in fiction.
Psychological isolation: This is one of those stories where first person narration is absolutely perfect for feeling the confusion and isolation of the main character. There are a few times when her naivete felt overdone (see below) but, on the whole, I feel like a reader would not get much more than her experience which really helps with the isolation.
The Bad -
World building: I thought about this a lot as I couldn't at first quite pin down what it was that wasn't working with the world. The premise/plot/action can be really overwhelming (in a good way) but the world is the base of it all so it's kind of important. And it always felt off. This is what I finally came up with. Rather than feeling like a full, multi-dimensional world with any number of stories that could have been told it felt like the author wanted to tell this story and used world bits as add-ons. There were several times this distracted me from the story but never so much in that there were "thousands of slips in the bowl" and most of these people were starving but only two of them thought to hunt in the woods?
Peeta's backstory: While I enjoyed Katniss not knowing his agenda the whole "loved you since forever, keeping track of you from afar" needs to go the way of the dinosaur. It's creepy, people! And this was also the overdone thing that I mentioned above. I get that Katniss has no idea what's going on with him but I felt it was too easy for readers to figure it out.
Katniss' end act: I've just read an entire book with this amazing young woman who has gone through what is arguably the most traumatic experience in her world and I have to end it with her wearing sparkly dresses and wilting against Peeta? Now, I like pretty dresses and Peeta (which was a delightful surprise because I thought his character in the movie was terrible) but this was not an end act that could bring me any satisfaction. I got the danger they were in, I saw what the author wanted me to, but I would have liked her to have come up with some better way to do this.
Lack of female role models/allies: This one seems self-explanatory so I doubt I need to go into it but let's count them. Her father, Haymitch, Cinna, Gale, Peeta equals 5 males. Um, er, Rue? Were they teamed up long enough that I can count her?
The Pretty -
I love the cover! I can't decide if I'm going to continue reading the trilogy but I just might so I can have more pretty books in the house.
rating: 3 of 5 stars