Monday, 9 April 2012

The Hunger Games... so far...

Since Harry Potter finished, there has been a desperate void of addictive novels to engross me. I tried to fill it with Twilight but that was just too much dribble for this girl to really handle. I liked the idea but it just didn't quite translate & as a fervent admirer of heroines like Buffy Summers and Hermione Granger, I just could not respect Bella Swan. Well over a year ago, my girlfriend Bobby gave me a book called 'The Hunger Games'. I stashed it in my desk drawer where it remained until the movie was released. I completely forgot about actually reading it. So before I saw the movie, I wanted to read the book.

Do not read this section if you have not read 'The Hunger Games' - Suzanne Collins

My initial impression of the book while reading the first few chapters of the book was this - "Oh, yes. It's like 'Battle Royale' but they speak English." It even has the same subplot of two participants feeling out the possibility of a relationship while in the games arena. There's the idea of the weapons, some deadly, some seemingly pointless and a power that governs and controls all aspects of the games. Of course the two stories are different. But the premise remains very much the same.

Suzanne Collins resolutely denies any obvious similarities are intentional. She claims she was flicking channels between news coverage of a war zone and a reality show. I do wonder if she'd seen it before but in this world of ignorance, I suppose she very well could have avoided seeing a foreign film. And the idea of killing for entertainment certainly isn't anything new. But come on.

Then there is the glaringly obvious fact. This book is so poorly written. There is almost zero character development. Other than her feelings of self-righteousness, and not-so-subtle and supposedly accidental martyr-ism, you really know very little about Katniss Everdeen. The other characters hardly come to life. In fact, one is simply called 'Fox-face'. I wonder if the complete lack of detail about the other 22 tributes is to avoid upsetting delicate teenage readers or simply laziness and a lack of effort.

But the most glaringly obvious fault with this book is (and I must stress, this is a spoiler! So if you have not finished reading 'The Hunger Games', STOP reading this blog post!) Suzanne Collins' complete inability to create a mystery. When I finished the book, I felt like I had been talked down to like an idiot. The book seemed to go like this.

Peeta told eveyone he loves me. But he doesn't love me.
He then saved my life after telling me he loves me. But he doesn't love me.
He did everything he could to keep me alive because he says he loves me. But he doesn't love me.
We then both survive and he tells me he's happy because he loves me. But he doesn't love me.
Now here's the twist you never saw coming!! Peeta loves me!

Yep. The greatest mystery every written. Collins explicitly states things. The refutes the claim by simply stating 'But that can't be true' and we're meant to be surprised when it is true? That's not how a mystery works. It's like Hayley Joel Osment telling Bruce Willis "I see dead people. They don't even know they're dead. Like you. Did you know you're really dead?" and ol' Brucey saying "No, kid. I'm not dead. I'm your psychiatrist. You see dead people but I'm not one of them." and then half an hour later we viewers are all shocked that actually, the crazy kid was right all along. Mysteries are hinted at. When it's all unravelled you reflect and go 'Oh my God. The clues were all there! That's amazing!" You don't say "Yeah, she said that, but then she said it wasn't true. I'm so very, very shocked and surprised right now." What a twist!

Do not read this section if you have not seen 'The Hunger Games'

Then I saw the movie. I saw it at the drive in with my three cousins - none of whom had read the book. This turned out to be a good thing as there were so many things I had to explain to them because the movie simply didn't make sense.

For example, Katniss tells Prim the chances of her name being drawn as a tribute are so remote because she only has her name in once. However, she asks Gale how many times his name is in the draw. He answers '48'. Why? Is Gale some sort of sadist? Is his one wish in life to enter the Hunger Games?

And what happened to Katniss' mother? Was she just upset that her loungeroom blew up? I understood the imagery because I had seen the book. However, I know others were left wondering if perhaps they had just watched the District 12 equivalent of  a Lady Gaga film clip.

My girlfriend Jess saw the movie before reading the book. I've since lent her my copy so she can catch up but she was completely confused by the districts. The segregation is not made obvious. As far as the movie is concerned, the lack of knowledge between districts is sheer, selfish ignorance.

The cornucopia is described as a beautiful gold horn overflowing with weapons and food. What the film offers looks like something a meth-addicted art school drop out sketched on a sidewalk. And the muttations! They are meant to be a horrific creation of the gamemakers and are supposed to obviously resemble each of the fallen tributes. Instead they're the werewolves from Twilight. And the mockingjay pin. In the books it seems so important but in the movie it's simply a badge. She gets it from a stall and gives it to her sister. It is supposed to be a token of her district given to her by Madge - a token left over from her Aunty's failed participation in the games. It comes to symbolise so much but it just looks like a cheap gift that Katniss happened to be given by some strange woman.

Also, all four of us watching at the drive in were left feeling somewhat queasy thanks to the shaky handicam work. And more to the point, why isn't Peeta played by someone really ridiculously good-looking? Josh Hutcherson is not unattractive but I would have appreciated better.

And another thing! How? HOW? How does Katniss shoot a bow and arrow with her finger on top of the arrow. I've dabbled in archery and there is no way she could shoot straight like that. Seriously.

Do not read this section if you have not read 'Catching Fire' - Suzanne Collins.

Upon finishing 'The Hunger Games' I was not sure where the second or third books would go. Would there be another Hunger Games? Would Katniss be in it or would she have to mentor? My thoughts were that Prim and/or Gale would be selected as tributes and Katniss, as mentor, would have to decide who to keep alive or how to keep them alive. To Collins credit, her decision to create a games where previous victors were forced to play again was clever - although somewhat forced with the half-arsed idea of the Quarter Quell. Still, it made for interesting reading and of course, like in the first book, wondering how Katniss could survive again (without necessitating a new narrator) and trying to figure out how Peeta could possibly dodge what must be his impending death.

I finished this book today. It was confusing. I had to read pages over and over again to figure out what was supposed to have transpired. Again, there was very poor character development. I guess this is kind of a Collins trademark. Katniss is still a bit whiny and Peeta is about as deep & spineless as Bella Swan. Why he never confronts Katniss on her obvious ploy to use him when she is lonely is beyond me. From as much as I can gather about him, he deserves better than her waxing and waning affections that clearly lie with Gale for the most part.

Again, certain characters were simply used as cannon fodder. Mag was not described in detail so in my mind was simply the old grandma in 'Dante's Peak' facing death and sacrifice in a new way - although I would have giggled if she'd thrown herself in lava to help a melting boat across a burning acid lake.

The mystery of the water source was too obvious as well. Perhaps I'm too much of a survivalist and sheltered girls whose only idea of survival is locating the nearest fast food outlet were baffled.

I liked the arena. It was intriguing and rather well thought out. Though I couldn't understand how the little party survived for so long just chilling on the beach having banquets. Wouldn't the careers have picked them off? Throw an axe or two and then run back into the jungle? Surely it wasn't that hard...

I have not read 'Mockingjay' - Suzanne Collins, so no spoilers please!

I want to read the third book. I feel the series has finally deviated far enough from 'Battle Royale' to keep me interested. I dreamed of the Hunger Games last night. I lead an uprising in which we all fought faceless soldiers to prevent the cruelty and oppression of Panem. I assume this is where the third book is going.

I guess my predictions for the book will be Peeta dies to save Gale. It will be his one last act of devotion to a girl who merely uses him as a means to an end. The Capitol will fall and Katniss and her band of merry men will save the districts. If Peeta somehow does survive, perhaps he will me the new mayor or president or something? Prim will survive but perhaps Mrs Everdeen will not. I wonder if maybe Mr Everdeen is alive and well in district 13, preparing the revolution? A far stretch, perhaps. We'll see. I'm about to start the next book.

Miss SAMawdsley xx


  • What is your opinion on The Hunger Games?
  • Have you or will you read the Hunger Games trilogy?

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