March 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Review May Contain Spoilers!
I had never heard of The Hunger Games before it was recommended to me. I read the back of the book and was immediately a bit leery. The premise sounded a lot like a novel I read a few years ago called Battle Royale, and I’m usually automatically suspicious of popular novels, especially after the psuedo-romance hit Twilight.
In The Hunger Games (book 1 of the trilogy), a group of districts is controlled by one central district: The Capital. The Capital subordinates society and intimidates its citizens by hosting an annual lottery, where each of 12 districts draws one boy and one girl to participate in a fight to the death. The novel is written in first person, from the perspective of the novel’s protagonist, Katniss. Katniss is portrayed as a cold and rational, but naive, young woman who, since her father’s death, has been providing for her family as a hunter. Much of the novel is about the preparation for the Games, where Katniss demonstrates her archery skills for sponsors, tries to gain a psychological advantage over the other tributes, is interviewed, and tries to look pretty.
I will admit that the novel is catchy. It is the type that keeps you reading until the very end. It was difficult to finish in a way, though, because there were some essential things that did not make sense and that really detracted from the book’s merit.
To start, compared with Battle Royale‘s thought out battle arena, the author of The Hunger Games is pretty “cheap” at times, throwing in random events that really cut down on the excitement. If you’re looking for a good story about survival and how the children pit themselves against each other, you’ll be disappointed. Too many times the “leaders” of the Hunger Games throw in random events that end up killing or saving the contestants sporadically. For me, that was a disappointment. It just seemed like a cop-out by the author that at any given moment these leaders could set the rules and change the game. What makes any “game” fun is seeing who wins through skills, not through the referees changing the rules. Here, there’s always an easy way out for the characters or some sort of rule change or random happening to frivolously change the course of events.
If I seem cold about the topic, it’s because the author makes it so. Looking at the premise objectively, it is a tragic story about children forced to kill each other. The idea is horrific. But the author makes it seem so casual, as if it were just a simple game. The protagonist has time to worry about crushes, and who she likes better, this boy or this boy – which seems ridiculous, given the circumstances. Petty, almost. In the context, it could have been carried out realistically, because love does not disappear altogether in such situations, but the author makes some characters so superficial about their attraction for each other that the concept is almost offensive.
Overall, the characters and their evaluations of each other can be ridiculous. Katniss, for example, adores her clothing designer, who designs her outfits for the games. Can one imagine, being in such a circumstance, and adoring a person who is directly involved, arguably directly sanctioning, the situation? One woman starts off being so disgusting with her actions and the way she conducts herself, but Katniss comes to like her too, apparently, and the woman seems to be a different person by the end of the games – not through a natural transformation of character, but rather, a case of the author seeming to forget who the woman was that she was writing about and thus, changing the woman completely.
I will admit, however, that the author does have a way of creating a picture in your mind. The novel is a very simple read, and it really catches your interest from the beginning. But the issues that catch your interest end up being poorly executed. It seems as if the author just sat down and wrote, without any planning. The happenings in the novel usually aren’t very clever and are often inconsistent or don’t make logical sense. *But*, there are a few clever turns that impressed me, but they were the minority.
I give The Hunger Games 2 out of 5 stars. I will see the movie out of curiosity, but I likely will not read the rest of the trilogy. It is a short read, but read at your own risk.