About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about books that people presume I have read, that I haven’t. Among the books I mentioned in that post was The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins. Since then, I have finished the first book, and am about to commence reading the second tonight, so I thought now would be a good time to, if not exactly review, discuss some of my thoughts regarding what I have read so far, as well as some of the issues other people are having with the book.
I must admit, I approached this book with caution. It had been so hyped up, and while the story sounded interesting (although alarmingly like that of Battle Royale), I did harbour significant doubt. Much of the hype, especially generated by the movie, seems to be about ridiculous things as well, from people comparing it to Twilight (no, please don’t say “Team Peeta”, because firstly you look like an idiot, and secondly this is absolutely nothing like Twilight), to the shocking racism of people appearing over social networks (over the colour of Rue’s skin in the movie…which happened to match the book’s description exactly, thereby only proving how stupid and ignorant the people making these racist comments really are).
Anyway, I digress. I opened the book up, and read the first chapter. Then I read the second, and the third, and I realised very quickly that I was reading this book at a ferocious speed, and had to use all of my willpower to put a bookmark in the book, place it next to me, and go to sleep before the sun came up. For the next couple of days, my reading of this book occurred in a similar manner. At times I found myself surprisingly on edge, my eyes wide open and my jaw gaping as I swept through some of the more dramatic scenes in the actual Hunger Games tournament itself. And then suddenly, before I knew it, it was over, the book had ended, and I stopped to catch my breath.
I think what I have just described is one of the main strengths of the book – the absolutely rollicking pace. Although the writing isn’t particularly strong or mindblowing (and at times towards the end of the book it actually felt a bit clumsy, particular when Katniss was just thinking to herself), it didn’t need to be anything special because the plot and the characters carried the story so well, and any kind of flowery language would have just slowed it down. It was very easy to visualise the story as well, which I suspect is why it has translated to film so well (I am yet to see the film, though), and perhaps most importantly, the language was accessible in such a way as to be enjoyable by readers of various ages and reading abilities.
Do I think it is a teenage novel? Yes, but I think it can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults as well.
Do I think it is too violent for teenagers? No, of course not – teenagers learn about the horrors and atrocities of many of the wars and war crimes of last century as they go through high school. If they learn about these real atrocities, which are much more horrific than the fictional matter of the Hunger Games, then why are people making such a big deal about the violence in this story? Sure it is a little brutal and confronting (particularly the characters of Cato and Clove – the hatred in these characters is quite scary), but we can’t sugarcoat everything – they’re teenagers, not toddlers, and this is a fictional novel, not a behaviour guide that is instantly going to make teenagers everywhere become more violent. Get a grip, people!
And lastly, do I think this is a good dystopian novel? Yes, on the whole. Many people compare it back to the classic dystopian novels, such as Brave New World and 1984, but we have to keep in mind that both of those novels were written in the first half of the twentieth century – it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The concept of dystopia itself has shifted dramatically in the last half a century, particularly as some of the ideas in those older novels are actually coming to fruition, and so dystopian novels now are likely to move in new directions, and to attract a different kind of audience. I won’t say this book was a classic, but it is certainly hinting at the future of this genre of fiction.
The Hunger Games is not likely to take a place among my favourite novels of all time, but, having said that, it is a really good novel, and I did actually give it 5 stars on GoodReads (I sat there deciding between a 4 and a 5 for a while…I think I would have settled for a 4.5). If you’ve been avoiding reading this because of all the hype, like I was doing, I urge you to give this a go – you might be pleasantly surprised.
If you have read this, what are your thoughts on it? Overrated? The best book you’ve read in ages? A load of rubbish? I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this.