Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Yes, I’m reading the “Hunger Games” trilogy. No, so far I don’t regret it. I actually found the first book quite enjoyable. It has a very good pace and is quite exciting. It is also a very easy read and the 400 or so pages just fly by. I’m not sure if Collins wrote the book with a movie in mind or if my judgement is clouded by actually seeing the movie, but the book reads like it was made to be a movie.
There are basically three acts to the book. You have the build up to the Hunger Games, the Hunger Games themselves, and the aftermath of the Hunger Games. The build up establishes the world of Panem and especially the coal mining District 12. It establishes the major characters and their relationships. It’s a pretty solid introduction. Act 2 introduces a bunch of secondary characters who are really superfluous except for Haymitch who is the only one that it actually feels like there is a human connection to the main characters. More on that later. The post-Hunger Games stuff is kind of meh. There are lots of “oh, you’re in even more danger than you were when you were fighting for your live” and little in actual explanation. It was a poor way to end a book, but i assume this will be rectified in the next book because I have seen the movies.
Collins’ main flaw is in character interaction. Katniss and Peeta…ugh. Peeta’s motivations and actions make some sense, but Collins writes Katniss as completely out of character deliberately dense towards Peeta just to make the story more “interesting”. And I still don’t get how Peeta’s alliances in the Games makes sense. Then there’s Katniss’ relationship with Cinna. Katniss and Cinna become fast friends because, well, it can probably just be boiled down to “he dresses me pretty”. It is not unbelievable that Katniss would strike up a friendship with Cinna, but that possibility is not at all conveyed by the written word. And here’s where I get in trouble. Even Rue… Poor little Rue who reminds Katniss so much of her sister Prim. At least that establishes some sort of emotional tie with Rue, but it’s really with Prim. The entire time spent with Rue is probably two days max. But you, the reader, do get to know Rue in that time so the bait is set and the hook is drawn and Rue becomes a favorite character for all of eternity. For me, the best thing about the Rue story (and the whole book) was when the people of District 11(?) sent the gift of bread to Katniss. Now THAT was sad and touching. It’s not all bad, though. District 12 is alive with interesting characters that Katniss interacts with on a daily basis. Collins is very comfortable writing about that.
The world of Panem is pretty interesting, if a little vague. You can actually imagine a country being built around Panem’s ideals. Keep the plebeians segregated and poor but producing while the oligarchs live it up in outrageous luxury in the Capitol. It’s easy to imagine because those countries exist already to varying lesser degrees. And while there are no Hunger Games, there is certainly privileged disdain for the poor and downtrodden to the point of not really caring if they live or die. I look forward to the fleshing out of the world of Panem in the future novels.
“The Hunger Games” is a solid young adult book. Sure, it has its glaring flaws, but they are easily overlooked by just how readable the book is. The plot is good, if a bit derivative, and just vague enough where you get to throw your own ideals into the holes to make the book about whatever you want it to be about. This is a great beach reading book.