Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teen Fiction Tuesday: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 374 (paperback)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: Low

Yeah, I'm just reading this now. And only because my book club decided this was one they wanted to discuss. I'm telling you, getting through this was kind of torturous for me. But now I can tell people exactly why I don't like this book. I know a lot of people love this series. I'm not one of them, so I'm going to do my best to explain my opinions.

From GoodReads:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I really don't understand how anyone got through this book the first time in order to give it to someone else to read. The pace was so slow up to chapter 15 that I had to put it down just to psych myself up to keep reading. The story didn't feel like it even started until Katniss and Rue allied together. Part of the feeling came from Katniss - I didn't like anything about her and couldn't get a read on her as a character. Up until she really started interacting with Rue in the game, Katniss felt one-dimensional. There was nothing redeeming or likeable for me. She wasn't particularly strong-willed or kick-ass, and I was led to believe she was. I could say that in the first part she was dazed by being chosen for the game, but to me that's no excuse for not taking the opportunity to build up her character. It was like I suddenly had a new character in chapter 15 and the old Katniss disappeared, instead of gradually giving Katniss dimension and building her up. I have to compare her to characters that I do love, like Rhine from Wither, and Beatrice from Divergent. Both of those strong, female leads came on fully fleshed out and ready to move their stories along. Katniss just coasted along for most of the first part of her story.

I also mentioned that the pacing is slow. The writing just didn't grab me. Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity, as a reviewer, to read some beautiful writing. This didn't do it for me. There's nothing spectacular about the style, and you add the fact that nothing really happens in the first part (it's all just gearing up for the game, and there's a lot of that), and that Katniss is boring, and I can't make the claim that this book is some sort of stellar piece of fiction.

It would have been better to skip over most of the first fifteen chapters of this to get right into the actual action. To me, now that I've finished it, the story wasn't even Katniss in the game, it's what happens afterwards. Things start to change and develop after Katniss and Peeta "win" together. The book would've been much easier to take if I'd gotten to skip most of the game and gone right on to the consequences of the outcome. So maybe that means the second book is better??

I admit that I also have a real issue with reading about kids killing kids as a sport for the adults in their world. The premise is gruesome, and it's really not my style at all. I love a good dystopian, and I know there's killing in the books I like, but there's something more disturbing about putting the kids into an arena and watching them murder each other. I realize that's the point, and that we're not supposed to think it's a good thing, but I don't really like reading about it at all. I find it strange that we're condemning those people for watching kids murder each other, but we still find entertainment in reading about it...

As for the whole Gale/Katniss/Peeta thing - I don't see how either boy likes her. She's boring. That being said, I didn't get any real feel for their relationships anyway. The whole time Gale and Katniss were together, they were just friends and it felt that way, and then she was acting with Peeta when they were together. So I saw no real romance at all.

To be fair, there were a few chapters I thought were well written. Katniss, once she got to be a real person, interacted beautifully with Rue and even with Peeta. The dialogue and action once we hit chapter 15 kept me interested, for the most part. Rue is a wonderful character who deserved more page time. I really would've loved if Katniss had allied herself with Rue much earlier on. I might've had more good things to say about the book if that were the case. The other characters were mostly just so-so, although I liked Katniss's interaction with Thresh. He showed more will, poise, conviction, and grace than Katniss did throughout the entire book, and I kind of wish he'd been the main character.

The author did get across that the Capitol was full of horrible people, so mission accomplished with that. I'll give her credit for her descriptions. I got a good picture of what was happening. The people in the Capitol were probably described the best, although once Katniss allied with Rue, I really liked the imagery from then on.

But....... zombie werewolves created from the bodies of the other tributes????? That was probably the most ridiculous thing I've read in a book in a very long time. I can't even begin to explain - my brain seriously had to shut down for a moment when they first showed up. I think that, out of everything I didn't like about this book, this was the absolute worst. Nowhere in the entire book did this even get hinted at, and suddenly, it's thrown in at the end for... what? Shock value? Come on. There was no reason, at that stage in the game, for the author to use some weird creation to facilitate the last tribute's death. Honestly. The dumbest thing I've read in a very long time.

One last good point, though, so I don't end completely negative. I was disappointed when they told the tributes that two tributes from the same District could win - I thought it was a cop out so Katniss wouldn't have to actually take a stand. So I was very satisfied that the Gamemakers changed their minds again at the end. Giving Katniss that choice showed her as a much more developed character. And, I'll say it again, that's when the real story starts.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

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