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Submitted on
March 21, 2012
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Just a note, I'm going to try and keep this review spoiler free.

I finally finished The Hunger Games by Suzane Collins, which right now is the hot new item on the book shelves. After hearing about the movie, and nothing but praise from both regular readers and critics, I decided to give it a fair shot. So, just to get it out of the way, here are some of the flaws I found (yes, they are there) while reading it:

First and foremost, the execution. If you read my journal talking about my first impressions of it, you'll know that I absolutely despise the way it's written. First person AND in present tense. First person I can deal with if it's done right. Present tense, to me, is just unforgivable. But, despite my gripes, I soldiered on. I'll touch on this subject again later.

Secondly, I realized half way through that this really isn't a character piece. Katniss, while being a strong female lead, almost came off as too strong in the beginning. Both emotionally and physically (meaning her skill in archery, not necessarily her strength). All in all, she was no Bella Swan, thank God, but being a sixteen year old girl, she seemed to lack a certain realness to her that would have fleshed her out a bit more. Now, on the flip side of that, there are very good, valid reasons for her strength. Mainly because life in District 12 sucks ass and her mother is a useless piece of meat at this point in time. But again, she does act more like an adult than a teenager. Aside from Katniss, I think Peeta got the most development. Now personally, I would have loved to see more of his character, as I think he's generally a good one, but as I mentioned before, the writing style has us so wrapped up in Katniss's monologue that we don't get a lot of time outside her head. Other characters, like Rue, also had less of an emotional impact on me than they should have because of what little face time they did have. There were even times where I went: "Oh yeah. Gale. He's a thing... Too bad he's not developed." This is another subject I'll touch on later.

Another irk I had about it was that I could pretty much predict what would happen a chapter before it did. There were only two plot points that I didn't really see coming. One because it came so out of left field that I don't think anybody saw it coming, and another because it was such a small and minute detail before it happened that I didn't notice it. But ultimately, the book is a bit predictable once you get used to the world it's set in. Half way through, I predicted one of three things happening. And I was correct. One of those three things happened. For example. The minute Katniss started paying attention to a certain young tribute, I immediately placed a big ol' X on her forehead, knowing that she would have a moving death scene, probably in Katniss's arms. And sure enough... Anyway, point is, you can kind of figure out how it's going to twist for the most part. Again, another subject I'll talk about in a second.

Before you get angry, and start raging about how this book is amazing, let me finish. I actually like this book. More than I thought I would. Let me put it to you this way: It took me a little over a week to read the first 100 pages here and there. It then took me from 11:30 at night to 4:15 in the morning to read the other 274 pages. And the minute I did finish, my first thought was: "Dammit! Now I have to read the others!" I figure if a book has that effect on me, there's got to be something there. And so, the things that Ms. Collins got right. And oh did she get them right.

As I said before, the first 100 pages or so of this book were not all that special to me. It seemed rushed, underdeveloped, and though the settings were interesting, I wasn't that invested. And then we go into the Games, the build up of which I had been looking forward to. I was so happy when I realized I would not be disappointed. I realized very quickly that this book was written this way for a reason - the reader is very much intended to slip into the shoes of Katniss Everdeen and go on a roller coaster of a ride. And I do not use that term lightly here. The fast pacing and the tension of the Games was what kept me going all through the night. I literally finished this book about 35 minutes ago, and I'm still a little shaky with adrenaline. Half the time, I actually got angry with myself because I couldn't read fast enough. The last time that happened, I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If that doesn't say something, I don't know what does. So yeah, there's a reason for the present tense. Doesn't mean I have to like it though...

Now, as poorly set up as most of these characters were in the beginning, Katniss and Peeta do get far more room to stretch out and become real amid the action of the Games. The minute they broke into the first bloodbath, it was a ride that didn't stop and wouldn't let me out until it was over. If you refer to my analysis of Mary Sues (found in the literature section of my gallery) you'll know that I do excuse a self-insertian device if it's used to proper effect. Boy oh boy was it used properly here. After I let myself go and get lost in the story, it really did feel like I was the one fighting alongside Peeta, wielding those silver arrows and getting thrown around more than a foot ball at a redneck's bonfire. Good God does this girl get beat the fuck up.

If you've gotten this far, you can kind of guess what I liked next about the book. The action. Seconded only to the emotional drama that comes at the tail end of the book, the action of the Games is, quite frankly, top notch. For a moment or two, I was worried that such a huge third act, as it were, would have been blowing the load too early on. I have never been happier about being wrong. Not only was the action great, but the injuries and what we saw of the deaths had a genuine feel to them, that not a lot of books, or even movies for that matter, can achieve. It wasn't so much that it was gratuitous, but I didn't feel like any character got off scott free, which can happen from time to time. Furthermore, the appending knowledge that the main characters could quite possibly die at any minute - be it from the tributes or from the actual obstacle course - really did ramp up the tension (even though, as I said, there was very little I couldn't predict). And once that action kicked into "oh fuck" mode, I was completely transcended into it.

So, in summary - are there flaws? Yes. Is it a bad book? No. Hell no, in fact. Even with the things I nit-pick about, I'm probably going to end up reading the next two books within the month. As if I didn't have enough on my plate all ready... Goddamn it, Suzane Collins.
Please be sure to read the entire review before leaving a comment. This is also a spoiler free review (I hope so anyway) so feel free to read it if you haven't read the book.
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FangFangFang May 20, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
IMO hunger games is good but overrated.
& while it annoys me that people worship it & act like its the best shit ever, i WILL say that its WAY better than the crap its nearly replaced (cough cough twilight cough)
FangFangFang May 20, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
unfortunately, the first one was the best book in the series.... well IMO... the 2nd was ok, it was too focused on the romance, & the 3rd was boring & annoying....
BlackWidower Mar 28, 2012  Professional Writer
I remember hearing that there's a big plot hole with this story. That being this tyrannical dictatorship is basically placing lower-class teenagers (which, I remind you, is the one demographic most likely to rebel against society) in a no-holds-barred Battle Royale where they are forced to learn both guerilla warfare tactics and basically, how to kill your fellow-man. Yeah, that can't possibly go wrong.

Also, you're basically reminding the working-class on a regular basis, that you're a bunch of assholes. No successful dictator in history has ever managed to last a long time without trying to convince the people that they are the good guys. For instance: North Korea. They basically worship the Kims.
Oh, speaking of first person, I have to ask what you think of the Tomorrow When The War Began series? For that matter, have you even read them? They're a pretty big teen fiction series here in Aus, but I really don't know how many people have read them outside.
Tprinces Mar 24, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
I've never heard of them.
Well, I'm honestly not sure how a non-Aussie would identify with them, but they are a fantastic romp. And if you want an accurate depiction of Northern Australia, you need look no further than those books.

The series is basically about a girl named Ellie (written from her perspective)and her friends taking a camping trip down to a completely isolated gorge and emerging a week later to discover that Australia has been invaded by an undefined force. It's really, really good, and I STRONGLY advise you read them. Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden. Fantastic series. Each book is reasonably short, too, and you'll probably be hooked early on enough to blitz through them.

Read 'em!
Huh. Dammit. I was really hoping you'd say "It's a terribly over-hyped book! Don't read it!" That way, I wouldn't have to add it to my already huge list. I'm currently reading 5 books at once!

I suppose I might as well read the Hunger Games when I finish one... Or one after one I finish... Or after that... At least, I'll place it on my list. Curse you, T.
Casandraelf Mar 22, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
something tells me a fight between katniss and bella would be very one-sided.
I actually don't mind present tense. .__. I think I'm one of the few people that do. Also, I think Collins is one of the few authors who wrote in present tense the right way. But, yeah, it does tend to stand out too much. Mostly because we as readers too used to hearing stories that have happened in the past.
You managed to keep it largely spoiler free. I WILL NOT DO A GOOD JOB KEEPING THIS SPOILER FREE. DON'T READ WHAT I'M ABOUT TO SAY IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST BOOK! I have to say I totally agree about present tense writing. There were lots of times that I had to read a sentence three times because of the confusion that results in reading something in the present tense: mainly because...well, WHO WRITES IN THE PRESENT TENSE? It was pretty annoying. That said, I didn't have time to think about what happens next because I read the book in literally less than 17 hours. I was sick and hooked on it so that's why the short period. You probably had much more things to do while you read it. There were things that I really liked about the predictability though. For one, it wasn't her that was chosen. I thought that she would be because of the stress on how many times her name is in. Also, Gale wasn't picked. I know this leaves little time for his development beyond his rants, but I liked this because the end would have been given away for me if he was picked. As it was, her relationship with Peeta had to develop in order for the end to be believable. I admit there were a few flaws too. I'm glad you're not one of those fans that says it was perfect, perfect, perfect. Because it wasn't. There was stuff I didn't predict too. Mainly the fire. Um...the first one. With Cenna (sp?) That said, it IS one of the better books I've read. And I've read a lot of everything: classics, fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery at least. And Collins is a relatively new writer, not having written anything beyond child's books in the past. So I give her two thumbs up and hope she continues to write good fiction, improving herself in the process.
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