Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

*creeps in* So.... hi guys! It's sure been a while!

The reason this blog has been neglected is that my thesis topic underwent serious revision and as a result, Twilight was thrown out. As fun as the reviews are to write, I don't really have the time to do chapter by chapter reviews of something that isn't related to my thesis. I do intend to go back and at least finish reviewing the first book, but for now the Twilight reviews are on an indefinite hiatus.

I've decided to instead write a more general review blog, where I write less detailed reviews of books, tv shows, movies, comics etc that I come across both in my research and my fangirl activities. I've decided to start with The Hunger Games in light of the upcoming movie.

So, a new age of The Snarktress begins!

'The Hunger Games,' by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a rediculously popular Young Adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins. All three books are massive bestsellers and, like most bestsellers, there have been countless rip-offs trying to cash in on the success. You can't go into the Young Adult section now without stumbling across at least a dozen dystopian love triangles. Read an article on Young Adult fiction and you'll undoubtedly find The Hunger Games being heralded as the new Twilight fanchise.

But does it live up to the hype?

First, I'll start by saying that The Hunger Games has about as much in common with Twilight as Fight Club has with Pride and Prejudice. They're both hugely successful and they both include love triangles, but that's where the similarities end.

I should warn you at this point that there are major spoilers ahead, so if you haven't read this series I suggest you stop here.

I'll give a summary of my main impression of the series: The Hunger Games is an enjoyable trilogy. The first book in particular reads like a thriller in print. It's fast-paced, well developed and once the action starts, it's non-stop. The tension is built up really well and I found myself on tenterhooks wanting to know what happened next. The writing style is fairly simple but certainly not bad, and a simple, no-frills style actually adds to the atmosphere and the rapid pacing.

Catching Fire, the second in the series, has a slower beginning before delving into the action again. The action sequences are the best thing about this series so Collins was wise to keep it up, but throwing Katniss back into the arena was repetitive and a little unneccessary. Both Catching Fire and Mockingjay have a lot of filler scenes, so I think the events of both books could easily have been combined into one. I would even argue against reading the other two books unless you really loved the first one. The first book can stand alone easily enough.

The third book has a larger scale than the first two and is a very different story, but let's just say that anyone who's read Animal Farm (or has a working knowledge of the Russian Revolution) knows how it will end. To be fair, the ending isn't telegraphed a mile off and the build up to it is decent, but it's still not surprising.

And now for some observations and gripes.

The Violence

A lot of the talk around The Hunger Games focuses on the fact that it's very violent. The phrase I've seen connected with it is 'hyper-violent.' I don't know if this is just me being desensitised from watching HBO, but I didn't find The Hunger Games quite as violent as its reputed to be. Oh, the books are violent, don't get me wrong, and I would think twice before giving them to a twelve year old to read, but overall The Hunger Games isn't any more violent than the average action movie. At least the violence has a point... somewhat. I'm interested to see how the violence is done in the movie and how much it will be inevitably be toned down. I doubt we'll see a tribute get an axe to the face, for example.


I wouldn't say Katniss is the anti-Bella exactly, but she's definitely a much stronger character. I like her. I don't know if I'd like Katniss if she were a real person, but as a character overall I like her, even if she becomes somewhat unlikable in Mockingjay.

That being said, upon re-reading I found something about Katniss' characterisation rubbed me the wrong way, and I finally realised what that was. I first read The Hunger Games while I was still in the midst of reading Twilight, and Katniss was such a breath of fresh air after Bella that I didn't pay that much attention to what bothered me about her, but now I have.

Katniss isn't 'girly.' This is emphasised pretty much all the time. She doesn't care about 'girly' things, she has no female friends. That's totally fine, especially given her background, but it creates the impression that to be 'girly' is to be frivolous, vain, silly, deserving of ridicule. And that bothers me somewhat. It buys into the idea that in order to be a strong female character, said female character has to reject all that is traditionally considered feminine. This could easily have been solved by having another female character who had 'girly' interests but was still shown to be smart and active, ie. being feminine doesn't automatically mean silly.

The Love Triangle

The love triangle starts to get annoying after a while. I'm not overly fond of love triangles to begin with especially since they're so overused and most of the time will make all the characters involved look like arseholes, but the love triangle in The Hunger Games actually has a point- at first.

Fortunately the 'who will Katniss choose' subplot only really kicks off in Mockingjay and it's not the main focus of the story, but it still feels oddly out of place. Don't these kids have other things to worry about?

I think most of my frustration with the love triangle stems from the fact that Gale is a huge douche and I was sick to death of him by Book 2, let alone Book 3. Katniss' attraction to him and her subsequent confusion over Gale and Peeta does feel more organic than love triangles usually do, since the romance for Peeta was, at least on her end, for the benefit of the cameras and not something she considered might be real. Katniss has known Gale for years, whereas Peeta was a virtual stranger to her before the Games.

But by the time Mockingjay comes around it felt like the love triangle and the surrounding subplot had run out of steam, and was only there because of the belief that Young Adult fiction needs a romance. It's the least interesting thing about The Hunger Games and didn't need to take up nearly the amount of time that it did. Of course, the majority of The Hunger Games ripoffs have focused almost exclusively on the romance aspect rather than the dystopia.

I did like that the heroine didn't end up with Mr Tall, Dark and Brooding for once, though. It's a nice change of pace.


I give The Hunger Games Trilogy overall a B+, broken down into A- for The Hunger Games, B for Catching Fire and B- for the disappointing Mockingjay. The first book is highly recommended, but the series is only worth continuing if you really loved the first one.

No comments:

Post a Comment