Saturday, January 07, 2012

Ever In Your Favour

I love it when I get Amazon gift cards for Christmas. I always have a huge wish list going, and there's nothing quite so satisfying as clicking "Add to Cart". This year, I ended up with $100 at Amazon. Fun! So I spent Christmas afternoon intermittently basting and browsing.

I managed to come in wondrous close - $99.63 in total, with two knitting books, a DVD, and a hardcover box set of The Hunger Games trilogy.

I haven't watched the DVD yet, the knitting books can wait...but I read the whole Hunger Games back to back in two and a half days.


First off, let me admit that I had never heard of this series until I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie. I noticed the little line "Based on the book by Suzanne Collins". Well, I thought, I have to watch it, and before I can watch it I have to read it.

I didn't know anything about the story when I ordered the set, aside from what I'd seen on the movie trailer, but if the reviews were anything to go by, it would be amazing.

This trilogy, being in the young adult genre, does come across as a little juvenile for an adult reader. But, this translates into a fast-paced, fun read, rather than a boring or babyfied story. The plot is wonderfully handled - the central conflict IS definitely a conflict. I had no idea how the emotional storyline of the characters would play out. So often in a young adult book, the characters are too black and white - the author doesn't balance the sympathy and antipathy, heavily directing the reader toward one obvious outcome, which you root for, pretty much from page one.

Another thing I loved was that Collins doesn't go for the Harry Potter effect, wherein the teenage hero defies the rules, flouts boundaries, sneaks around the adults, and in the end is pretty much proved right - the adult mentors of the child end up wiping their brows, sighing with relief, shaking the child's hand and saying "Thank goodness you were here! Imagine what would have happened if WE were in charge!" Which device, being an adult, I detest.


Katniss Everdeen, the main character in this series, is not a rule-follower at all but, unlike Harry, her defiance of convention (and boundaries, and adult rules) brings about serious consequences and does not result in her saving the day. In fact, most of the time, she is a pawn in the political struggle between adults who allow her to believe that she is important and powerful...when she discovers their manipulation of her, she is chagrined and frightened. It's realistic.

-----END SPOILER------

The Hunger Games is a wonderful version of the post-apocalyptic, dystopic science fiction genre. As I read it, I was reminded of many other great stories...Ender's Game, Fahrenheit 451, The White Mountains, Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, even Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery. There are similar elements, and there is a similar feeling, in all of these pieces. Part of what makes The Hunger Games special is the female lead - also that the world Collins creates is very believable. There are 'hoverplanes', but no teleportation. It never crosses the line into the eye-rollingly fantastic.

One negative to note: the entire series is written in the first person "historical present" tense, as in this line (not from the books):

"I go to the door and open it - she stands there, waiting for me. 'Finally,' she says."

It gets annoying. The historical present works well as an occasional device, but the constant precipice feeling made me impatient after a while.

Other than that, I LOVED this series. I wish I hadn't read it so quickly, though, because now I have a long time to wait until March, when the movie comes out.

The Hunger Games Trilogy
by Suzanne Collins

Reread: absolutely
Give to Others: absolutely
Book Plate: ABsolutely!



Lesley Sprung said...

Loved this series too. You should read the book Divergent. Author escapes me at the moment. I have it downstairs though.

Gena said...

I read the whole series in a weekend and loved it! Your review is spot on - there's a lot of depth and development of the characters that bring it above the YA genre and allow it to cross over well to adults. Normally I despise historical present, but I was actually able to overlook it in this case.

Ames said...

B. just read those and liked them quite a bit, as well.

I like a gift card myself. Why is it that everyone sheepishly gives a gift card, and yet, everyone seems to like getting them?

Unknown said...

I loved Hunger Games and was increasingly disappointed as the series went on. Since I read them as they came out, it could be that the gap between the books was part of the problem and am curious if you think you enjoyed the whole series more since you read them in such close succession.

Many fans seem to feel this way about the second, and especially, the third book. The thing that really annoyed me was how the author used the bit with Katniss' sister (I forgot her name) to help resolve the Peta/Gale decision. It was as though the author needed a bit of help finishing that part of the story. I'm also a bit sick of the love triangle in YA in general so I might be unfairly biased against it.

If you like yourself some YA futuristic dystopias, I recommend HIGHLY the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. I loved it and I think it might be a bit less in that Harry Potter, confound-the-rules, way, like Hunger Games. Honestly it was one of those series I thought about when I wasn't reading it.

Sorry for the tome.

Rachel said...

I'm glad to hear you loved this series...I did as well! I was hesitant to read them for a long time being YA and so popular (I still haven't read any HP books or watched the movies). But I devoured the first in one sitting and then had to find some store that sold the other two immediately. I wasn't as enthralled with the third but it was still an excellent book to finish up the series. Your thoughts comparing them to HP are quite interesting...if I ever get around to reading that series, it'll give me something to think about.

Shan said...

Thanks for the recommendations!

Bethro, I read them close together and they were more like one book than three. The first volume is definitely more catchy, interesting, satisfying, but I didn't mind the other two at all. It did really feel like one narrative.

SPOILERS (Mum, don't read this part!)

Never noticed Prim's role in resolving the triangle until you mentioned it...but actually I think it was 'fair use' of that character. Would Katniss have seen that dark side to Gale otherwise? I thought she needed some help to see the consequences of all his sexy flashiness. The love triangle is something I'm WAY past, too, but I admire Collins' way of balancing this was very fine-tuned. (This is coming from a card-carrying member of Team Jacob.)

I'll try Chaos Walking...thank you!

Dave Hingsburger said...

The Book Thief was the first YA book I ever read that had me rethink my aversion to reading them. Because of it I now regularly check the YA book lists and have found some fine reads. Will give this a shot.

stitchin' girl said...

I loved all three books, but definitely enjoyed the first one the best.

I also liked all the Harry Potter books and am currently reading the Eragon series.

Love that YA genre!! Especially since some of my kids are reading the same books and we can talk about them.

Rona said...

I REALLY enjoyed the Hunger Games series (although YA reading is my speed.) It had me hook line and sinker! I enjoyed it so much that I had a few friends talked into reading it as well and they all raved about it as well... even the guys ;) I will certainly be checking out some of the other YA titles mentioned in the previous comments!