Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Hunger Games

What? This girl is writing a YA book blog and she just now read The Hunger Games. Can we trust her?

YES! Here's the story: Last summer, my best friend said she was reading an intense and awesome book. It was called The Hunger Games and she couldn't put it down. I immediately wanted to know more. She told me it was about these kids in a futuristic society. Each year, the twelve districts in the society send two children to the Hunger Games, where they battle with the other children until there is only one survivor. I stopped her there, telling her it sounded awful and snootily informing her that I don't really like books with death (who am I kidding, hello Harry Potter). But in my mind, this was not a book I would like. I usually go for dragons or cute boys, not killing and hunger. Jump about six months ahead. Suddenly, I'm hearing about The Hunger Games everywhere: They're going to make a movie! I just read it and it was awesome! Etc. 

So I admit, I was a bandwagon fan. And maybe I needed something to help quell my post-Potter funk. This was not a trend I was going to miss. I requested it at the library. Longest wait ever. So I broke down and bought it. (Here's a dirty little secret about me already: I prefer the library over the bookstore. Unless a book is REALLY good or REALLY cheap, I won't buy it. As a history and english major in college, I'm already drowning in weird books I was forced to buy. I'm hoping this blog might challenge that mentality. We'll see.)

Then, because I knew from the hype that once I picked it up, I wouldn't put it down, I waited a month to read it. Not that it was hidden on my shelf. I lugged that thing from the Ozarks to Denver and back to Kansas City. I even went out and bought the other two in the trilogy (after a lengthy price comparison online...I may never get a job! I'm an independent bookstore's worst nightmare!) Let's be honest though, it's not like I had to wait forever like everyone else for the next books to come out. I had them ALL. 

Once I let myself crack the cover, I quickly devoured the first book. So good. But then I faced the same problem I had initially  How to tell other people who haven't read it that it's worth reading? My guy friends were easy. An actual text to my friend Josh, who had been resisting out of principle, went like this: "I think you would like them. There is killing involved." However, a chat with my female cousin later, an avid YA reader, was less successful. "They are making them into movies!" I gushed. "It's about this future society that forces kids to fight in an annual hunger games" I started to get lost. "It's hard to explain." That's as far as I got before we were discussing books on greek mythology (reviews of these to come!). I was worried she would be turned off by the description like I was. 

But the thing is, The Hunger Games is about more than death and killing. It's about survival, and like any other YA novel, finding yourself and your strengths. Even though I finished the series between the time I wrote that last sentence, and the time I'm writing this one now-(my computer crashed-what was I to do!?), I'm going to focus this post on the first book. I'll get to the other two later, because I have things to say and I'm sure you have your own opinion (share it with me in the comments section!).

Things I liked about the first book:
1. The writing. It takes a little bit to get used to, but Collins has a unique style that really lets the main character, Katniss's voice come through.
2. Strong female character, but one that both males and females can relate to. So much YA Lit is female-focused. But while girls will read "boy" books and "girl" books, it's rare that boys will read "girl" books. I like that this book appeals to both audiences.
3. The author doesn't shy away from subjects that some people think kids can't handle. I'd rather have kids learn about hardships in the world through books rather than real life. I learn a lot about the world through books. Yeah, some of it is tough. But Katniss is tough and kids/young adults/me/adults get a chance to learn a lot. Plus, this makes the book more interesting to adult readers. I'm a big fan of the YA-Adult crossover. (Also it takes place in a society that doesn't exist. It's like fantasy- there's an added layer of fictional protection. But...)
4. It's futuristic and dystopian, but it's believable. A warning for future generations about choosing for yourself what you believe in.
5. Kids have power. Okay, it's limited. But Katniss fends for her family, and then fends for herself. She finds ways to have power over her own life (Isn't this something we all do as young adults?)
6. Things don't go perfectly. A literature teacher once taught me that it's a good novel (something new) when things don't go as expected and not everything turns out perfectly. Everything else is a beach read. You might be able to argue that The Hunger Games borders on literary fiction in some aspects because of this.
7. It's a fast read. Collins really grips the reader and it's impossible to put down or put the story out of your mind.

The major thing that bothered me:
Katniss never seems the master of her own feelings and has a hard time making up her mind. Especially when it comes to boys. You have two guys who would do anything for you and you just...flounder? It was frustrating to read, but maybe because it was too close to home (not the boys part sadly, the indecisiveness). I want her to DO and INSPIRE, but she's human after all. I wouldn't like if she were too perfect either, but this unsettled me somehow.

Did it bother you? Let me know what you liked in the book and what you didn't like.

I'm also accepting suggestions of what to read post-Hunger Games, and look for a post about books two and three, coming soon! For now, I'm going to research the movie...


  1. Emily,
    This is awesome just because I finished the first book on Monday. I think I'm going to have to buy the other books too. I was afraid it was going to be too dark and violent for my taste, but it wasn't. Now I'm a little concerned the movie will be :) Great post. Look forward to seeing more. Have you ever read The Phantom Tollbooth by Nortun Juster? I love it. It's nothing like The Hunger Games at all. But it's fun. You can look into if you like!


  2. The Phantom Tollbooth- I'm so glad you mention it! It's one of the classics I never read as a kid. It's definitely going on the list. I looked up pictures from the movie and am now really excited for it, although I wonder what they're going to rate it...

  3. I haven't done much research on it. Perhaps I should get on that. I forgot to mention that I have a book blog too that's separate from my main blog. You can take a look if you want. It started out as an online bookstore but now it's kind of gone done to just a book blog. For the time being anyway :)

  4. I love it! I'm going to try to put a doodad on this blog about other blogs I follow, and I'm adding yours to the list! I love hearing what other people have to say about books :)

  5. Hey Emily!

    I had to say that I think I enjoyed the Hunger Games so much because Katniss was a strong female; with the Twilight trend ever growing, we do see a lot of female protagonists, but are typically weak-willed and need the male counterpart to do a lot of the decision making.

    That being said, I hated the triangle dynamic. I thought it was really strange, because (at least to me) it didn't seem like Gale ever really had a chance. It seemed almost if he was created simply for the purpose of creating a love triangle and was underdeveloped because of it. I found it pretty unbelievable, because, as you said, Katniss almost didn't have a realistic view of her feelings.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the first one, thought the second was okay, and I actually didn't care much for the third. I thought the third kind of collapsed under the weight of itself and went into a super depressing message. I value the whole like war/violence is bad message and think it's important, but it seems as if there's just no positive way to spin things at the end. I would've hoped that, you know, that we would have gotten the whole, passing the message along to Peeta and Katniss' kids so that they have a better future, but I don't think that's there in a strong enough fashion. I actually tell people not to read the third book. Of course that doesn't happen, but whatevs.