Monday, January 31, 2011
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
I bought The Hunger Games trilogy because I’d heard a lot of buzz, and because I found the box set in Big W. Also because I’d just finished night work, hadn’t slept, and tend to spend money compulsively when I’m tired. It hasn’t always worked out for me in the past – hello, milkshake maker! - but this time it was money well spent.
I’ve been burned by buzz in the past. The first book I ever bought just because everyone was talking about it was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Again, money well spent. However, when the time came I borrowed Twilight off a teenager. I read the next one just to see if something had happened yet. And then the next one. All credit to Stephanie Meyer for tapping the market the way she did and for inspiring kids to read, but I really didn’t like Twilight. I prefer my vampires threatening, not sparkly.
So I was expecting my high expectations of The Hunger Games to be crushed. What can I say? I love being wrong. I thought Panem was a well-drawn world, although I would have liked a little less emphasis on the action and a little more on the intrigue. I even liked the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. And I loved, absolutely loved that Peeta was more clever than Katniss gave him credit for. I loved that he was manipulating the crowds long before Katniss realised the potential power of it, although by Mockingjay he felt more like a character device than a fully realised character. Haymitch was a beautifully drawn portrait of a ruined man, but I wanted to know a more about Cinna, Darius and so many of the others that were set up as sacrifices to the plot.
The pacing of The Hunger Games was its strength. It was a bare-knuckled ride the whole way through.
Katniss was a well-drawn heroine. I saw an interesting comparison by Laura Miller from Salon, via the excellent blog Literature to Learn By, between Katniss and Bella from Twilight. Interestingly, it made a good case for Bella, and gave her more credit than I did: she is strong, in her way. She wants Edward, she fights for Edward, she gets Edward. Katniss only acts decisively when her back’s up against the wall.
I’m not sure I agree with that. In The Hunger Games, Katniss knows exactly what she wants. She wants to save her sister’s life. It only occurs to her very late in the piece that she might actually win. And by Catching Fire the rules have changed. Katniss finally finds her feet again in Mockingjay, when she refuses to be manipulated again.
I liked The Hunger Games so much that I have recommended it to my sister, a high school English teacher, for her students. And, when she’s finished the trilogy, I’m going to read them again.
Buy The Hunger Games Trilogy here at Amazon.