Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review - The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
1. The Hunger Games    2/20/2012    * * * *
2. Catching Fire
3. Mockingjay

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, 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."

My Thoughts:
I think that I've mentioned before how I decided to boycott/avoid/remain-cool-by-not-following-the-crowds regarding The Hunger Games, back when I rebooted this blog in the summer of 2010 when Mockingjay was released.  It seemed like the entire internet went insane with anticipation as the release date drew closer, and once it arrived it seemed nearly impossible to go online to a book blog anywhere with it being mentioned.  So I ignored it and went about my business, thinking that maybe "someday" I'd check it out to see what all the fuss was about.

When the movie was announced, and casting began, I followed along, but not really caring who was cast, and again ignoring the "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" badges popping up everywhere.  Not until this last fall when the movie trailers began did I start to think that this story might be interesting, and as my desire to watch the film grew to a fevered pitch, I finally decided that I should read the book first.  And I am sooooo glad that I did!  I downloaded the book to my NookColor, and very nearly read it straight through in just a day and a half.

So, because reviews and information about the book are plentiful, I'm not really going to talk much about the story itself.  Unless you're living under a rock you already know the basics anyway.  Instead, I'm just going to talk about what I liked and didn't like.

Generally speaking, I LOATHE books that are written in first person present tense.  It presents such a limited point of view and almost always sabotages the story itself in some manner.  But I have to admit that in The Hunger Games, it "sort of" works.  Not really, because there's tons of things that could have made the story better if we weren't locked into only Katniss' POV, but you quickly get used to it and because of the quick pacing of the story, you have very little time to even think about it.

That's the other thing, the pacing is great.  The story grabs you by the throat and drags you along so quickly that once you're in, you're in it for the long (short?) haul.  You can't put the book down for fear of what will happen next.  The only exception to that is a section towards the end where Katniss and Peeta spend what feels like a VERY long time in a cave.  It's really only a few days, but it felt like forever.  But then suddenly the pace picks up again and we're hurtling headlong to the end and BOOM it's over!

I also liked that even though the story is aimed at teens, and is about teens, the author doesn't really shy away from the horror, the icky, the evil, and the violence.  It's all there, it's all in the open, and it's all horrifyingly awful.  There's no way that you can kid yourself into believing that the government is right, or good, or that this is the best way to do things.  Around the web discussions are even now taking place regarding why the general population hasn't revolted against the evil of the government at some point in the previous 74 years since the Hunger Games were instituted, and there are no easy answers, and the author doesn't try to sugar coat that fact.

What I don't like?  Well, the world-building aspect of the story is shoddy in places, for one thing.  The story moves so quickly that one doesn't always realize it (or even care) at first, but there are plot holes that are miles wide regarding the way the world works and how the government is set up.  (Just one example that has been used before on other blogs and reviews, but District 12 produces coal for the Capitol. But the level of technology enjoyed by the Capitol - levitating high-speed electric trains, invisible force-fields, hover-ships with cloaking shields - is so far BEYOND coal energy that I'm not really even sure what the Capitol did with the coal once they got it). I'm more than willing to suspend my disbelief about a lot of things when it comes to my reading, so it didn't bother me THAT much, but at the same time I think an author really should try a little harder to make everything work and fit together.

What did bother me, and does still, is how an entire nation of adults could somehow find it acceptable that the government allow such an atrocity as the Games to exist in first place.  In the story we are told that the Games have been happening for 74 years, and I can sort of see how the current population might (MIGHT!) be desensitized to the horror of having 24 teens fight to the death.  If that's all you've ever known, well, I suppose that's all you know.  But how did the population manage to swallow their objections during the first five, ten, twenty years, when people could still remember what it was like to NOT revel in the blood & violence perpetrated by and against children?!  How does a society get to this point in the first place?

Well, this cautionary tale of a dark and violent future certainly makes for interesting discussions regarding morals and ethical dilemmas, that's for sure!  As you can see above, I gave The Hunger Games four stars, and I am very glad that I read it.  I don't know that I would be willing to re-read it, which is the only reason it doesn't get five stars.  But it is certainly worth the read, and in spite of my issues with the story, I would even go so far as to say that I think more people SHOULD read it.

Have you read The Hunger Games?  What did you think of the book?  Leave me a comment below and let me know if you agree or disagree with me - But only about the book itself, please!  We'll talk about the movie next time!


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