Tuesday, November 16, 2010
BOOKS: The Hunger Games Trilogy
I picked up The Hunger Games and I couldn't put it down. It was an intense, page turner full of emotional turmoil. The plot is tight and well thought out, one can tell that there was definitely an outline and not written on a whim, characters were strong and developed, dialogue felt realistic and the description was full of visual imagery. This is how a YA novel should be written. This book, trilogy, is in fact, for all ages. Just because the protagonist is a teenage girl doesn't mean that it has to only be read by teenagers.
Out of the three, my favourite is The Hunger Games (the first book) followed by Catching Fire and then Mockingjay. All were books that I had to get through. I had to know what happened to these people in this futuristic Dystopia in the country of Panem. A country made up of 12 districts all under the iron clad rule of The Capital.
The Capital controls the 12 districts after a brutal war some 75 years prior, and to keep its people in check, every year, by lottery, they take a boy and girl from each district (ages 12-18) and throw them into a high tech deadly arena where it is a fight to the death. The person who lives is crowned the victor and is then allowed to have a life of luxury, or are they? It gets more complicated than that as we find out further into the series. just know that this game to the death is broadcast around the country and is a form of entertainment for those in the Capital.
What the evil President Snow doesn't realize is that this year's games will be different when our protagonist Katniss Everdeen, 16, challenges the game without even realizing it, which sparks the idea of revolution among Panem's people. Let's just say that for the 3 books Katniss is put through the wringer as she goes from the arena into the victor's village, back into the arena, then underground as the revolution begins, becoming a reluctant hero/rebel known as Mockingjay.
Katniss is our anti-hero. She has issues, and anger and deep rooted pain. Sometimes, it's difficult to like her, but that's what makes her real. She's human. And she doesn't like bullshit, and hates when she has to play not only the literal game, but the other kind of games that all humans play. Katniss is someone to root for because she's honest. Perhaps, to a fault. We also root for her because she loves her little sister, Prim. She would kill and, or die for her sister. This kind of love is what connects the reader to her, and allows us to forgive her foibles.
The narrative is told in third person through Katniss' perspective, so throughout the story, we don't know what's going on with other characters unless Katniss is there. We're thrust into this world through one set of eyes, and one set of eyes only. We see what she sees. We know what she knows. We feel what she feels. The only real drawback is that sometimes, as a reader, it's not fun being left in the dark, but that's the way it would be. If we're truly meant to be seeing this world through one character then we have to find things out along the way just as she does.
The story is a roller coaster ride and doesn't really let up. The first 2 books are so intense that my heart actually skipped beats. I was in this world. I felt as though I were inside this arena. Inside District 12. That I could smell the sinister breath of President Snow's. I haven't felt this excited about a book since Harry Potter. I believe that this series will be taught in schools, or it should be at least. The metaphors, the symbolism, the nature of war and peace, man's inhumanity to man are timeless. This book is violent, but not off putting (some of the violence in book 3 is over the top) and war is violent and doesn't need sugar coating.
The weakest of the books is book 3, Mockingjay, it's still very good and finishes off the series rather nicely and remains fairly true to the themes and tone. I felt that the action in the third book was overwritten and Collins could have used more editing on those sequences because after a while, the violence gets to be too jumbled and I could no longer visualize what was happening. It became a bit repetitive towards the end. There's also the issue that our protagonist becomes a bit passive and those moments stop the momentum, but then again, she's a teenage girl being told what to do by the adults around her. A minor criticism in an otherwise, excellent piece of literature. And I think this series will stand the test of time, and is meant to be known as literature.
The movie rights have been bought, and I look forward to seeing Katniss battle it out on the big screen. I do hope that these books catch fire and that everyone is reading them, young and old. I won't even compare this to the phenomenon that is Twilight because that would be insulting to the mockingjay because Suzanne Collins knows how to string words together, knows how to use verbs and nouns and paint a story that is intelligent and challenging to the reader. And that kind of writing is respected and much appreciated.