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.

15 comments:

Tasha B. said...

Haha! I've read the first book and it was okay, but I'm not sure I care enough to continue (I have it, though, so I probably will at some point). One of my friends is convinced Suzanne Collins doesn't exist and the books were really written by either a team of marketers or a computer.

bermudaonion said...

I broke down and read the first book before the movie and, I'm sad to say, I didn't love it. I thought it was too similar to Battle Royale and I thought it would have been better told from 3rd person point of view. Since Katniss was telling the story, I knew she would survive.

JaneGS said...

My son really wanted to see the movie which opened while we were on a spring break as a family, so we all went and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed. So much so that we all went two nights later for a second showing.

My daughter, who doesn't like to read for fun (where did those genes come from?), started reading the first book on the trip, and when she was done I borrowed it.

I thought it really good, and it did add a depth to the movie--I had to have my son explain a bunch of stuff to me that I didn't get just from watching the movie.

I look forward to reading the rest of the books this summer.

I can fully see why it's a blockbuster--it's got everything and, like Harry Potter, I think it taps into a collective unconscious (yes, I have a Jungian bent) that makes it feel very real, even though, as you said, it's chock full of holes. The world feels real and complete, and that gives the author the ability to get away with stuff.

Harvee Lau said...

I liked the movie but I am not sure I will read the books, in the same way I saw another speculative fiction work, Never Let Me Go, but won't read the book, though I know the books are better. I can only take so much of dystopia!

Jeanne said...

I never got around to the third one, so I'm edified and amused by your summary.

ibeeeg said...

I pretty much agree with your take. Mockingjay was a huge disappointment for me and I felt ripped off by Catching Fire ...pretty much the same plot device used again. With that said, they are entertaining books and did pull a few emotional strings. My 14 year old daughter liked them well enough to reread them before seeing the movie. I think they will make popular movies, but no where near the book quality of Harry Potter.

Zibilee said...

I gobbled up the first book, was a tad disappointed by the second, and got angry every time I had to sit and listen to the third. My husband and I listened to them on audio, while the kids read them at the same time, and it made for interesting dinner conversation, I will admit. I thought the first book was pretty good, but I have to echo the comments of Ibeeeg when it comes to the second book. The third was just a stinkfest.

Alyce said...

Those first two books were definitely fun (like carnival rides and cotton candy - not much substance but entertaining). The third book was a huge waste of time and I was frustrated that it was such a cop-out.

Marce said...

I love your summary at the end, lol. I read Hunger Games and realised dystopian and YA is just not for me, was happy to know what the hype was all about.

I must come back to see if anyone tells you off about the summary hahahahaha

caite said...

I agreed with you take in total. Loved the first..liked the second...did not read the last. They do not hold up to too careful examination. But the first was fun.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, these aren't what I would call high brow literature, but I doubt any of us expected that. There are faults (especially with Mockingjay - ack). But, they are addictive, and I would imagine like Harry Potter, inspired many young non-readers to become readers. To me that is the best part of the series...seeing young embrace books, sometimes for the first time! They don't care if there are plot holes. For me it was great to spend time listening with my kids, giving us that topic in common, and gave me some light fun listening.

Well-Read Reviews said...

I am glad you finally read the series. :) I was not a huge fan of the third either. I just felt Katniss had gone through too much and went from strong to rather weak and it was like watching someone die slowly... and just give up on life. That is kind of what it felt like to me, with Mockingjay.

Allison
Well-Read Reviews

stacybuckeye said...

I decided to see the movie without having read the books and really liked it. I am looking forward to the next movie, but will not take the time (even if it's only 29 minutes) to read it.

Amy said...

LOL love it. Completely agree with your assessment. Great, totally addicting like candy, but when you stop and think... meh. ESPECIALLY THE THIRD ONE! Argh so terrible. That being said, if you want a great series to recommend to lovers of the Hunger Games, I am in complete 100% love with Kristin Cashore's series because each book is different, complementary, and fantastic. No tired tropes, women who can stand on their own, no giving in to things you say you won't do, etc.

Kathleen said...

I bought The Hunger Games to read before I saw the movie but haven't read it yet or seen the movie...best laid plans...