Sunday, March 18, 2012
Review - The Hunger Games (the book)
You know a book is good when its name is much more known than the author. I suppose that's every author's dream--to write a book that stands on its own and becomes a standard household name. So popular, this book will be released as a movie later this week.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins follows Katniss Everdeen as she enters the games. She lives in District 12, the lowest of twelve. Every year, each district must provide two tributes: one male, one female to compete to the death. The last one standing wins his or her district a year of increased food rations. So all Katniss has to do is outlive twenty-three opponents. Sound easy enough?
The story is exciting. The characters are all different and fun. These two aspects alone give this book its uncommon success. The writing itself is just average. You won't find many quotables beyond what the characters say. The writing mostly does a good job of staying out of the way so the reader can enjoy the story (a technique I'm good at, myself).
Yet the book does have its slow parts. Most notably, the first few pages. Many incomplete sentences. Even some character's quotes. When I first picked up the book, I fell asleep around page 4. If I didn't already know what a smashing success the book was, I might have stopped. When I asked my kids and friends about it, they replied, "Yeah, all three books start out really slow, but then they pick up quickly." What's funny is that when the action picks up, the incomplete sentences disappear. And when the action wanes and we see a little respite, the incomplete sentences come back en masse. I found myself wishing Collins had done just one more round of editing to smooth some of these out and improve the flow.
And I think back to the advice we aspiring writers are given: Grab your readers on the first page. Perhaps this is easily overcome by an awesome story that everyone wants to read.
Collins chooses to write in first person present, which means you see the action exactly as it's occurring from Katniss's point of view. This also means that you don't know if she's going to die or not. You know it's possible for the book to end this way: "I'm dying. They won. Those jerks!" It's takes a while to get used to this, but then you don't notice it anymore. The most challenging part of this technique is dealing with the passage of time, and Collins does well.
This is a YA book, so go ahead and let your kids read it. The book is graphic without going into every last gory detail. The dialogue is contentious without resorting to vulgar language. The book concentrates mainly on the story and how people react, as all good books should.
I enjoyed reading this book (after getting past the first chapter), and I'm looking forward to the movie that comes out later this week.