Okay, so I know this is probably late in coming for most of you, but I just recently read the book, so bare with me. 🙂
I avoided reading The Hunger Games mostly because I didn’t hear about it until it became a movie, and then everyone and their mom was reading it. This annoyed me. It was too much like the Twilight series, and when I asked a friend if they knew anything about the series, I was left believing it was nothing but more teenage angst. So I decided not to read the books. Maybe once all the hype died down, I’d investigate and find out if the books were any good.
We (my fiancé and I) spent the last week in good old Charlottesville, Virginia, visiting family. During the time, my fiancé quite frequently found himself with nothing to do. I was still madly trying to catch up with NaNo, so I wasn’t much good for conversation. There were video games, and movies, but surprisingly he turned to a nearby book for entertainment. This was a big deal, as my fiancé generally doesn’t read. At least, not like I do.
The book was The Hunger Games. I was a bit jealous, as I was starting to become interested in the idea of reading it, and honestly I was bothered that there were now too books that he had read and I had not (see my post on Ender’s Game). He seemed to actually enjoy the book, despite the teenage angst, and I decided to pick up the audio copy for the long drive back to Florida.
Note: There will be spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, you may want to stop reading here. I’ll post a picture of the book cover to give you a good stopping point. If you have read the book, or don’t care about spoilers, then by all means, read on.
Okay, so for starters, right off the bat I was frustrated with the book. For one, I picked up the actual book a few minutes before we had to leave, and read the first two paragraphs. Then I read them again, and again. They were written in a very simplistic first person POV that was actually hard to read. I couldn’t concentrate on what the words were saying, and where the author was going. I kept getting lost. I chose to give the author the benefit of the doubt though, and decided that I was the problem. It was been a long time since I last read anything in first person, so I understand that the concentration issue could lie entirely with myself.
So, I bought the audio book, as I have recently listened to several audio books in first person, and haven’t had any issues with them. After a few minutes where there was too much description of scenes and too little explanation, I was finally able to get my brain in gear and follow the story.
It was good, enjoyable even. I liked that the author would mention something, and then explain what she was talking about without making me wait an eternity to find out what she meant. As a reader, when I’m saying “Okay, I will live in your world for a while” I want to know the rules. I don’t want to feel like a bumbling child, lost and confused, until the end of the book. I want to know what the heck a Reaping is and what tributes are. My only knowledge to date on the series stemmed from seeing the movie trailer over and over online. So I had an idea of what things were, but I still needed those ideas to be confirmed by the author, and soon before I got frustrated. Collins does well in this, and doesn’t make us wait too long for the answer, in fact, she often explains things just as she mentions them. While this is “Telling” and not “Showing”, I appreciate it.
The pace builds as Katniss volunteers, and Peeta is chosen to be in The Hunger Games. The pace continues to quicken as the characters find themselves in the arena fighting for their lives.
This is also where I start to have most of my issues. I like the plot, and aside from initial issues, I like the story telling. I get honestly nervous for the characters, I care about them, and I find that even minor characters have some sort of personality (like Fox-face). I even cried a little when Katniss was telling Thresh of how Rue had been killed, and how she (Katniss) had covered Rue in flowers and sang to her as she died.
It’s Katniss that annoys me. Here is an example. Katniss drops a “tracker jacker” nest (mutated hornets created by the Capital) on a group of kids trying to kill her while she’s up in a tree. She watches as the girl who has the one bow and quiver of arrows in the entire arena dies, and then scrambles down the tree and starts to run away, before turning back for the box and arrows. These are critiacal weapons that she needs, as they are her only key to staying alive in the arena. HOW COULD SHE FORGET THEM? Why does she start to run away, and only remember them as an after-thought?
The author tries to place breadcrumbs along the way, leaving small hints, so that later, when Katniss reaches a conclusion, there is evidence for her mental jump. However, the author fails at making them subtle. I find myself continually screaming at Katniss when something is amiss and she doesn’t notice right away. When she notices there are no fish in the creek the evening before all the water dries up, when she notices the cheese has been picked at, and blames Peeta out of anger. There are more times than I can count when I instantly pick up on “hidden” bread crumbs, and am yelling at the character to react. She usually does react, but her actions are slow for the situation.
Let me remind you, that Katniss has been placed in a giant natural arena, with several other kids, and she has to fight for her LIFE. She really can’t afford to overlook stuff as often as she does, and I’m genuinely surprised when she doesn’t get killed because of these blunders. I’m expecting her to be on her toes, at the top of her game. Sure, there are exceptions. Injuries, starvation, or dehydration would delay a person’s observational skills, but really, she does quite well. She isn’t starving like half of the other kids, and once she suffers from dehydration, and makes sure to keep near water after that.
Then there is her relationship with Peeta, another area in which Katniss proves to be painfully slow. I can understand that at first, she doubts the sincerity of Peeta’s claim, but I feel that it becomes blatant when Peeta talks about the moment he first falls in love with her. I’m sorry, but if a boy can remember a day when he was five years old, and describe the scene perfectly without hesitating, he probably isn’t lying. Heck, I can’t remember much of anything from when I was that young. But Katniss continues to jump to all the wrong conclusions, time and time again. She refuses to think that Peeta might actually care for her, in fact, the one time she considers it, its the last possible conclusion she comes to, and is presented as being ridiculous. This has me screaming in annoyance because to me as a reader, I find the whole relationship to be quite obvious.
Perhaps this isn’t an author error. Perhaps this is intentional. Perhaps Katniss is the kind of character who overlooks the obvious and jumps to the wrong conclusions. If so, then good. It’s a character flaw. I don’t necessarily find it to be a believable flaw, as I’m led to believe that Katniss is somewhat intelligent. More than anything it’s an annoying flaw, and disrupts the flow of the story.
I also feel that she will be different because of the games. She is jumpy afterwards, and I find it hard to believe that she is not suffering from some form of PTSD. She has been through a traumatic event, and is returning home. My expectations are that she will try to return to a normal life, but find it bland, find it empty. I can see her trying to pick up relationships where she left off, but struggling, because she has no one to talk to. After an event like that, likely the person she will cling to is Peeta. She can talk to him about what happened, or not talk, because he was there. I think she will find it hard to relate to Gale, because he doesn’t really know or understand what she’s been through. At least, this is my impression of what should happen, based on what I’ve read and my experiences. I’m sure Collins will find a way to change it up some.
Anyway, aside from the minor irritations, I did enjoy the book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in YA fiction. It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever read, and I’d rate the story under The Song of the Summer King, but it’s a good book nonetheless.
Guess I’ll have to go start Catching Fire now.