Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick
Published 2008 by Scholastic Audio Books

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers.

Do I really need to provide a summary of this book? I think I'm the last person on the planet to read it...

In the nation of Panem, the Capitol is surrounded by 12 districts. Every year, the districts must send one boy and one girl - between the ages of 12 and 18 - to compete in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen thinks her death is a foregone conclusion when she volunteers in place of her younger sister, Prim. But the Hunger Games are about survival - and Katniss has been surviving for years. Could she be more of a contender than she originally thought?

I have a feeling this review is going to make me unpopular, so before I go any further I must say this: I enjoyed the book. That being said, I don't think I fell as much under its spell as everyone else did. The good: this book is action-packed and exciting. Un-put-downable. I loved all the crazy plot twists and turns throughout the novel (well, maybe not all). I didn't want it to end (lucky for me I still had two books to enjoy after). Collins has created a believable and intriguing world that I am at once fascinated and disgusted by. Another good: the secondary characters. Oh my god, I'm in love with Peeta Mellark. From proper Effie who is seriously disturbed by the slightest breach in social interaction, to drunken Haymitch who is touchy and so complicated, to beautiful and brilliant Cinna with his enormous generosity of heart, to malicious President Snow with his disturbing scent of blood and roses, Collins has populated this world with characters that I absolutely love reading about. I'm totally intrigued by them and want to know more.

Here's the bad (for me, and it's going to look like I didn't actually like the book after I'm finished with this): Katniss. I'm sorry. I know. She is supposed to be a strong and incredible heroine. That's what everyone says. But I just don't buy it. I find her to be confused and indecisive and incredibly self-doubting. Yes, she is a teenager and is subject to one of the most horrible tortures imaginable. I understand these things. But if people want to hold her up as the greatest heroine in YA lit, I just can't get on board. Another bad: the love triangle. This is a totally unnecessary trope thrown in just to up the appeal factor. It increases Katniss's indecisiveness and adds a ridiculous amount of drama to what is already an action-filled plot. There is no need to introduce two love interests when Katniss struggles enough to accept one.

Some issues: the suspense was, for me, brought down a notch because I already knew there were two other books in the series. This makes it hard to assume that Katniss doesn't survive. And even Peeta - otherwise why would they make such a big deal of the love triangle if they're just going to kill off one part of the triangle? It was still interesting to see how Collins pulled off that sort of ending.

As an audiobook: really well done. The reader has a delightful voice and inhabits each character very well - subtle but distinct. The only problem I had with listening versus reading is the length of time it took me to finish the book. The audiobook is just over eleven hours - which is probably triple the length of time it would have taken me to sit down and read the print version. At times, this made me frustrated because I wanted to know what happened next more quickly. But, like I said, the audiobook was well done and I'm not sorry I experienced the book that way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book but I had some problems with it as well. But, for an author to make me love a book even though I really don't like the main character is pretty impressive. Collins has some serious talent.

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