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The Hunger Games: First Impressions

I finished The Hunger Games. I’m not really sure what I think about it. It isn’t one of the books on my top 5 list, but it wasn’t dreadful. It wasn’t even bad. It was so-so, in my opinion at least. It wasn’t can’t-put-this-down worthy until about 60% through, when I finally caught the fire (a little like Katniss, maybe?) and devoured the rest of the novel. Although, I can’t say I did this because I loved it. I did it because, as someone said in a comment to my preceding post, the book has a good narrative. And, when you have a good narrative, with an interesting character, you can make your readers want to devour the book (don’t worry, I didn’t chew on my Nook).

What did the book have that was good? Like I said, it has a nice narrative and I think Collins did a good job of weaving in past events from Katniss’ life before the Hunger Games into the book without slowing down the action. On that note, Collins also does a good job of characterization. The characters that readers do become acquainted with (mostly Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch) seem at least slightly well-defined, although I can’t say that I know too much about the last two. However, our heroine is very much defined, which really is the most important. The book was also entertaining, which is important considering this was a bestseller.

What did the book not do well? Well, for one, as I’ve mentioned a few times in other posts, the prose is not good, but it’s at the level I would expect a young adult book to be at. And, well, it didn’t make me want to walk away three pages in (thanks, Twilight). Another thing the book didn’t do well, at least in my opinion, was be a dystopian novel. Boo at me if you wish, but the novel wasn’t dark enough, in my opinion, to be ranked along with The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, etc. Here is the issue I had: too many nice things happened to help the character out. When I think of my favorite dystopian tales, like the ones above, the main character isn’t given gifts to help them along. Hell, there isn’t even a slightly positive ending. Granted, The Hunger Games didn’t end with a happy, cheery ending, but it did appear to focus more on the fallout of a relationship (Katniss and Peeta, which is pretty young adult, which makes sense since that’s what it is) than it did on the possible impending doom from the Capitol, if there is any doom at all. Yes, I know that kids killed each other throughout the book….talking about dystopian literature and how this didn’t quite sate my thirst for it could be another post entirely, but I welcome thoughts. It is dystopian…ish. My idea is subjective however, and plenty of people say that this book is part of that genre, so I will stop whining about it.

I’ve read a few things about the second book in the series since I haven’t decided whether I will read it or not yet. It appears it is supposed to be darker than this novel (maybe), so perhaps it will have a stronger dystopic feel. I’m still undecided.

Reading The Hunger Games did allow me to feel at ease about Orwell. The book isn’t Orwellian. Yes, it has Orwellian-like themes (people being controlled, forced, watched, etc), but isn’t Orwellian in that it doesn’t feel like Orwell and it doesn’t feel influenced by him. The prose doesn’t match. The overall dark feel isn’t there as strongly (Katniss at least came out on top. The same can’t be said for Orwell’s characters in most cases).

At the very least, reading the novel has allowed me to get over any odd fear I had of reading a trendy book. I should have known better from my Harry Potter experience (aversion turned into absolute obsession), but now I know that reading a young adult book with not-so-great prose won’t kill me and I am happy to think that I am definitely no book snob.

What to read next, though? The next in The Hunger Games series? A Russian novel? A nice sci fi read? I’m not sure.

P.S. Thanks to all who commented on my last post about book snobs. I have much to chew on.

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