So, last Sunday, I decided that my time would be best spent employed in literary pursuits. As an English and history major, I have to read a lot for my classes which generally means that I avoid reading a lot for my classes, and then I spend all of my time on the Internet. I very rarely read books for fun, and when I do, they’re often books that I’ve already read. However, I had a paper due Monday, and I decided that instead of my normal stalling techniques, I would pick up a book (or in this case, an iPad). That’s right, my dearest readers: I read The Hunger Games.
Before I get started, I warn you that this is a spoiler review. Writing reviews without spoilers is really difficult, and, quite honestly, I want to talk about all aspects of the book. So, there are going to be spoilers all up in this post.
First things first: Suzanne Collins’ writing style. Well, it’s not bad. I mean, not horrifically bad. In general, she’s better than Stephenie Meyer but not as good as J.K. Rowling. Honestly, when I judge children/young adult literature, usually choose to focus on whether or not the writing style distracts from the plot rather than judging the style itself. My biggest problem I have with her is the way in which she uses stylistic fragments. To emphasize a point. They’re everywhere. In chapters, very often ending paragraphs. Other than that, I really can’t complain too much. She does spend a lot of time just telling us what people are wearing, but it rarely has (at least to me) that fanfic-y quality of the camera panning down over a character’s outfit.
Related to the writing style, I really loved how believable Katniss was–particularly when it came to the love interests. Often, usually in young adult novels that feature romance, the main character will be average. She’ll be so average looking. Yeah, about a million other people think that she’s beautiful and fawn on her, but she just doesn’t see it. She’s always talking about how plain and limp her brown hair is and how average she feels next to her pretty friend. Katniss does not do any of this. She doesn’t really harp on her own looks at all. When Katniss doesn’t believe that Peeta loves her, it makes sense. She really doesn’t believe it. She doesn’t see herself as particularly attractive, and she particularly doesn’t see her personality as attractive. It totally makes sense. She doesn’t harp on her boyish, tiny frame because she has bigger things to worry about. When she does bring up her figure, it’s related to not being killed by the people bigger than her. She has no qualms about letting the reader know that she doesn’t shave anything, and she certainly doesn’t mind letting everyone know how unfriendly she is. I believe her disbelief because she hasn’t spent pages doting on her own average face and body and how no man will ever find her awkward, angry disposition attractive. When she talks about Peeta, she focuses on her sense of honor and how she “owes” him. Then, amazingly enough, the novel follows up with that sense of honor and desire not to be in a person’s debt reappearing–in more than one character no less. So, I must applaud Collins for making Katniss so accurate and believable.
And speaking of love interests, why the hell does anyone care about Gale and Peeta? Before I read the book, I knew there was a ton of Team vs Team going on, so I wasn’t prepared for how little romance there was. I mean, I know shippers are always gonna ship…
(That’s totally canon, if you were wondering) …but there really isn’t a whole lot of love running about. Gale might like her, and probably does, but she doesn’t know. Peeta definitely likes her, but she doesn’t know. Most of all, she doesn’t want to get married or have a family, so she doesn’t even want to make a decision. She just wants her friendship with Gale to be normal and to survive, you know, that fight to the death she’s in while preserving her sense of honor and kindness. Incidentally, I liked how the fake romance angle left her sympathetic. In Twilight, I actively wanted to hurt Bella for the way that she insisted on being friends with Jacob, even when she knew that he was helplessly in love with her. Katniss still isn’t sure about Peeta, and she knows she needs to fake love in order to live. That’s pretty solid motivation right there. Personally, I finished the book really wanting her to end up with a third party or with no one. So, if you were avoiding these books because of romance, there really isn’t much.
Of course, that leads me to the point that this book isn’t about some teenage girl in a love triangle. It’s about the horrors of living in a dystopian (Firefox, why is your spelling suggestion for “distopian” pianist?) police state where the wealthy are so privileged (because they live off the backs of the majority poor) that they literally cannot understand the horror of making teenagers fight each other to the death. It’s about being trapped in a world where you have no power to control the laws that govern you, and you have almost no way to rebel against it. It’s a very interesting story.
Let’s see, other things: I really liked Foxface, the girl who gets the most anti-climactic death ever. I know that my strategy would have been to hide and let everybody else kill each other, so I was rooting for her just a bit. Oh, on a political note, I liked how, even in the wilderness where everyone was supposedly on equal footing, the wealthier people still had a distinct, unfair advantage. Rue’s death continues to be the saddest thing, especially when her district sends the bread. I have to wonder what the movie is going to look like (my plan was to see it Tuesday night, but I got death cold and stayed in the fetal position instead) as it’s rated PG 13. I mean, there is no way that they are going to show Cato getting eaten alive for hours or Glimmer’s body melting into hallucinatory green pus. I kind of wonder how they are going to make the Mutts in the movie too. I really hope that they cut out the whole “they’re the tributes” thing–especially because that was a really heavy handed metaphor.
So, I would actually recommend The Hunger Games. Well, I’d recommend them all, as I spent my death cold day reading the other two books, but I’m not going to talk about them just yet. I really loved the world building, and I loved Katniss. It’s nice to have a heroine that’s genuinely interesting. She doesn’t have to tell us to be compelled. She’s just compelling. If you’re looking for a romance, I don’t think this is the book for you. Oh, and don’t get attached to anyone, because everyone dies.