Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hunger Games: My Take

So, just before the film came out in late March I finally broke down and read The Hunger Games, all three books of Suzanne Collins' much lauded and hugely popular young adult dystopian series. I got a hardcover set for Christmas and kind of thought I was never going to get around to it, but as opening day of the movie approached, I got sucked in. For one thing, it was just selling like hotcakes at the bookstore and I felt like I needed to be able to talk to customers. Seriously, for about two weeks, literally every other customer was buying one or more of the series. And, the hype just overwhelmed me. So I decided, what the heck, I have the books anyway, why not just go for it.

And I loved it. I mean, I loved the first book. I enjoyed Catching Fire and I got through Mockingjay in one piece. Yes, I cried at the end, but the ending was just as manipulative as the rest of the series so of course I did. I cry at coffee commercials, so what do you expect.

I will admit that while I was reading the books, especially the first two, I was totally obsessed. I went to the movie opening weekend and saw it with a packed crowd of very jazzed up fans, including some people to whom I'd sold the book earlier in the week. And I enjoyed the movie. It's a solid adaptation of the first book though I agree with those who said that reading the book made the movie a richer experience; I think the movie would have felt thin to me without having read the book. And though it's rated PG-13 and the violence was kept to a minimum, it's not really a movie for kids, at least not young kids.

Once I started thinking more about the books I started to be less impressed. There are significant plot holes, issues with the writing and characters, and the whole thing feels derivative and a little stale. The basis behind the society of Panem- the decadence and violence, etc.,- felt like too little to motivate so many people to support it so blindly. But it is riveting nonetheless and will totally suck you in.

So should adult readers of literary fiction bother with it? Well, on the plus side it will take you 10 minutes to read the first book. You will probably want to read the second book, for which you should allocate about 20 minutes. So for a half hour of your time and around $25 (the books are still heavily discounted at lots of bookstores) you can be up on the zeitgeist and feel trendy, which, if you read Euro fiction all the time like I do, will be a novel and appealing sensation. The third book you can pass on. In fact I will tell you what happens so you don't have to waste your time. The evil empire is overthrown, two of the three main characters marry and live angstily ever after. There. You can thank me in the comments and spend the money on something else.