Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

I didn't rush out to buy the book, because I rarely have time to read for "fun" and it looked like a "big" book.  I figured, why read the book and then watch the movie to get all disappointed; instead I'd just watch the movie and be satisfied.  Ignorance is bliss, after all, right? haha.

So I watched the movie and I totally and completely loved it.  It wasn't soooo fantastical that I got lost in the translation or felt it was too unrealistic (I can't seem to get past unrealistic things for some reason).  I also actually LOVED the political rhetoric.  The characters were all superb and I loved watching the movie -- I KNEW there had to be more stuff in the book.  I mean, it's impossible to make a movie exactly like a book and not have it take 6 hours to watch; screenwriters have no choice but to edit stuff out.  I will say that watching the movie actually inspired me read the book.

Knowing I had a trip scheduled for today and knowing that I'd be in the airport or on an airplane going back and forth all day today, I decided today I would read the book.

Synopsis:  If you haven't heard, The Hunger Games is about country called Panem. It's a little futuristic, taking place like 75 years or so after what they describe as a savage revolution, and Panem was basically created from the ruins of North America, which includes the "shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlaying districts.  The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one girl and one boy 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 is one of two teens representing her district in the Hunger Games.

---Possible Spoiler Alert---

Ok, I will try not to give too much away for those of you who are still planning to watch the movie or read the book; but I do want to discuss a few things.

Things I liked right off about the book:

  • I liked that it was a FAST read, even at 375 pages.  I read the entire book today in just under 6 hours.
  • It wasn't soooo futuristic that I had a hard time picturing what was going on; it was easy to imagine that something like this could happen.  While many fantasy books enlist the help of "magic" (something I have a hard time reading), The Hunger Games employs modern/futuristic technology, which was a much easier pill for me to swallow.  (call me boring, I know.)
  • I liked that there was an underlying jab at what "reality TV" has become today.
  • I love that there is so much depth to the main characters.
  • I liked the political undertones; a display of what happens when a government becomes greedy.  I have to say that I've seen this first-hand when I was in the Philippines.  The capital city, refined and "rich" and the further you are from the capital, the more destitute the province.  In some places, not even fresh running water, as I imagine is the case in other 3rd world countries.  And as long as there remains corruption and greed in the government and as long as the poor people's only option to "survive" involves lying or stealing, society will never and can never progress.  It's almost savage-like.  I think it's great political rhetoric; showing us what happens if/when government tears down society, breaks down families, and ultimately holds too much power.
I also enjoyed some of the writing conventions the author uses; first thing I noticed in the very first sentence of the very first chapter:  This book is written in First-Person AND Present-Tense.   Not only is writing in one of those styles tricky to pull off, but together?  "Whoa..." I thought.  My second thought was, "Authors never do things accidentally...  so what was Collins' purpose for this particular writing mechanism?"

First-Person Narrative -- that seemed sort of obvious, I suppose.  She wanted the reader to get inside Katniss' head, to feel everything she was feeling and thinking.  Writing in this narrative does pull the reader in a bit more, making it more intense; like you're right there.  In that regard, I think it was a good choice on the author's part.  (Most fiction is written in either 3rd person "close" narrative (based on one characters' perspective, but the author still has flexibility to give us details the character doesn't know) or 3rd person "omniscient" (letting the reader get points of view from other characters).  The "danger" of writing in 1st-person is that you usually limit yourself in what you can reveal to the reader...  you can really only reveal the thoughts of the narrator.

Present-Tense -- Ok, when I read that first sentence in present-tense, I was all, "Nooo!!!  WHY???"  As a general rule, I HATE reading things in present tense.  It's like being in someone's stream of consciousness...It's not the natural way we as a society tell our stories.  "First I do this and now I'm doing that.  And Now I say..."  Well, you get the idea.  But I was committed to at least reading the first two chapters before deciding if I would continue on and in doing so I realized why the author chose to write in the present tense.   Katniss has multiple flashbacks.  As a general rule in writing, you get ONE flashback, and you  can *maybe* pull off more if they are written in chronological order.  Readers like to keep thing compartmentalized in their minds, otherwise the story gets too hard to follow.  But in real-life, our memories are tirggered by all sorts of events and they are not recalled in chronological order.  The author writes the flashback scenes in past-tense and the rest in present-tense so that we the reader know when Katniss is recalling a memory or moving the current story forward.  It only took me those first two pages to get used to the flipping back and forth between present and past, and Suzanne Collins pulls it off pretty seamlessly in my opinion.

Gale as a love interest?- ok, this item seems up for debate by myself and a few friends.  Gale is a slightly older boy from Katniss' district and they are close friends.  In fact, when she introduces him in Ch 2, Katniss explains that she ISN'T into him and that they are "just friends" and she explains this over and over in this chapter.  So, when I read chapter two, my first thought was, "Aww...  she loves Gale!"  Because, for reals...  I've seen it all too often.  Some girl spends entirely too much energy telling us how much she ISN'T into some guy, that it's really like she's trying hard to convince herself.  Why?  Who knows?  Maybe she feels she isn't supposed to love him- like it's somehow socially unacceptable or wrong.  Or perhaps it's fear.  When I mentioned to one of my friends that we get a little bit more of a hint in the book than in the movie of her feelings for Gale, my friend replied, "Not really.  I thought the movie showed it more...  the book didn't even mention she might have feelings for Gale until the end."

But that isn't how I read it.  I feel because the book is written in first-person, the author needed to figure out a way to let the reader understand that Katniss DID have feelings, and since the story is in First-Person Narrative in Katniss's "voice" how does she do it?  By having Katniss repeat that she's not romantically interested in Gale plenty of times, it clues the reader in otherwise.   It's a clever way for the character to reveal something about herself she doesn't even know yet.  I love that the author used that convention; it sets it up quite nicely for us so when Katniss FINALLY mentions it towards the end, we're all like, "Yes!  You are FINALLY seeing that!"  Truly, this author is genius.

So -- those are the reasons I loved the first book and now I am anxious to read the 2nd...  and 3rd.


Susie said...

Great review! I love how you got to the root of the book!

Vickie said...

Wow, you really thought about it! Good review!

kanaboke said...

After you read all three, you'll find that Book One is your favorite. If I remember correctly, I didn't like Catching Fire at all, and Mockingjay was alright (the last couple chapters were my favorite). I can't wait to see what you think!!

Puphigirl said...

I have yet to see the movie, but I have read the first 2 books of the trilogy. I am anxious to read the 3rd book.

I am interested in reading other books by this author.

Michelle said...

I haven't read or seen any of it. But thinking I might someday, I didn't read most of this. But the synopsis sounded intriguing.