The Hunger Games

So. It has come to this. Me, reviewing one of my least favorite books of all time, by popular request. To be honest, I never intended to read the series, but my best friend and a significant number of the girls I knew were raving about it. Now, for the most part, they all have good taste in books(they haven’t grasped the glory that is Sherlock Holmes, but they’re pretty good with YA), so I decided to give it a try.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

I hated it.

I ended up reading the first two and skimming the third purely for the purpose of this review(hence why said review will be general at best). I’m not going to include a summary, since most people have either read one of the books, seen the movie, or been bombarded by enough Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr posts to know the basic plot. Instead, I’ll be starting with the good points of the series and moving on to the things I wasn’t as fond of. Be forewarned, this review is not spoiler-free!

It is also a rant. However, that being said, I have nothing against the author. The series was well-written and there were more than a few good things about it. In my case, however, it just wasn’t my kind of story. Because of that and various other reasons, my opinion of the series is somewhat negative and somewhat controversial. So, feel free to comment, but flaming will be deleted immediately.

Good Points:

The main thing that really stood out to me was the writing style. Collins has a way with description and craft that pulls you deep into the story and refuses to spit you out until the last page is turned. That’s why I read as far as I did. It made everything very clear and easy to follow, which is a real asset in dystopian sci-fi.

For the most part, the characters were very well-crafted. The majority of them had solid, unobtrusive backstory, logical motivations, and were fairly easy to connect to in some way. Katniss, in particular, was wonderful. As far as YA fiction goes, she’s one of the best heroines I’ve ever seen, especially in the role of the protagonist. Also, the minor characters–which are often problematic–really shone as well. They were there when the story needed them and then faded out before they became a nuisance.

Also, the themes of the novels were fantastic. I may not have liked the storyline, but the underlying themes were very thought-provoking, intelligently written, and quite relevant. Sacrifice, the danger of complacency, perseverance, and far too many others to list were all woven into the background. And in a very cohesive way, I might add.

Bad Points:

Well, the main thing that annoyed me was the simple fact that it’s depressing.  I realize that it’s dystopian, and therefore meant to be a pretty horrible picture of our future, but this pushed it a little far for my tastes.

In the first book, all of the tributes except for Peeta and Katniss die. In the second book, more people die, including most of District 12. In the third book(which I have not read entirely), you have Finnick and Prim. It began to feel like a little much. Again, that may just be me, since this isn’t really my genre. When it comes to story-telling, I think C.S. Lewis says it best.

Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brace knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter, but darker.

But that’s just my personal opinion on dystopian fiction. Rant over. Back to the review.

The second thing was the romance element of the series. I honestly didn’t care for Peeta.  For one thing, I think I would have liked him better if he hadn’t turned out to have been in love with her from the beginning. While a good move for fleshing out both characters’ backstories, it felt a bit convenient that Katniss was paired with a boy who’d been in love with her forever.  Also, despite the fact that they end up married by the end of the series, I didn’t really see any chemistry between them. The romance felt slightly forced and might have worked better if it had been left as the for-the-cameras version it began as.

Thirdly, my suspension of disbelief had some trouble kicking in when it came to the base logic of the story. You can do a lot of things to people who have been beaten down as the people of Panem were. Limit their food supply, pigeon-hole them into set occupations, take their basic human rights–but taking their children? Pretty much every mother I know would claw the eyes out of anyone who tried to harm her children. The fathers wouldn’t stop there. Most parents would sooner die than let anyone take their children, so I have  trouble swallowing the fact that generations of people have allowed the Capitol to send their youngsters off to be killed.

So, that’s it. As always, this is merely my personal opinion and nothing more.

I’m going to go find something with a happy ending.

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “The Hunger Games

  1. I’m curious what themes in particular you saw and thought were so well articulated. I agree with you, but I think it’s interesting that you can praise the themes, but then disparage the “depressing” storyline. To me, the themes took all the depressing events and spun them so that you could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m wondering if we saw different themes.

  2. There really were quite a few of them flying around throughout the series. The ones that stood out to me were sacrifice(Katniss’ illegal hunting to provide for her family, volunteering for Prim, and by contrast, none of Peeta’s family doing the same), the danger of complacency(the fact that most of the Districts appear to have tolerated the Capitol’s every whim for years), the huge gap between the affluent and the average citizen(which is a decent parallel to a lot of places in reality), and quite a few others that would take too long to explain.
    One of the joys of reading seems to be that no two people see a book quite the same way.

  3. Wow. Someone who disliked it more than me. *vigorously shakes your hand* While you err more towards the hate-rant, my feelings on the trilogy were more of an un-rave. I love how books can be so polarising.

    I completely agree with you, but you should take a breath and read your good points again. Even if they are ALL you can think of, I rank those pretty highly. Suzanne Collins baked a fairly heavy cake but she totally saved it with the icing. It’s REALLY well written and as much as aspects of it grated on me (namely believability), I was sucked in and remained driven to discover how it ended – that is its biggest success.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment!
      I did take a second look as you suggested, and there were indeed a few things that came off a bit more harshly than I had intended. I appreciate your concern. I completely agree that Suzanne Collins is an excellent author and that the series has a lot of merit, but, in my opinion, it has a lot of problems as well as good points.

      • Thanks for the post! ‘Totally saved’ was probably an overstatement. Out of five, it gets a shrug 😉

  4. I came to this post as a fan of The Hunger Games, yet I found myself agreeing with you on so many points. I, too, found the Katniss-Peeta thing to be completely ridiculous, and I had no belief in their relationship. I felt, almost, that Katniss forced herself to love Peeta because he was a good man who loved her; I wanted to like him, because he *is* a good man, but he’s just not who Katniss loves. The whole thing is stupid. As you said, if it had remained a ‘purely for the cameras’ thing, it would’ve worked much better.

    Also, the ending? The very end of book three, the sort of epilogue bit? That irritates me more than I can say. Just… gah. I thought it was a horrible way to end the books, and a betrayal of Katniss’ character. Anyway.

    However, as I read your point about parents, particularly mothers, not wanting to let their children go into a situation of extreme danger, I was forced to think of things like WWI and conscription, and mothers watching their sons march off to war knowing the chances were very high that they’d never come home again. It happened then – it happens in every war. I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but I thought it was an interesting comparison.

    • Yeah, but there’s a difference between war and near-certain death. For the District Twelvians, it’s like killing your children. 142 of them died from 12 alone.

    • Thank you for commenting! The sudden change in Katniss’ behavior was a part of what irked me, too.
      I see your point, but to me, anyway, I just can’t see a family standing by and letting their children get carried off to certain death for no reason other than the Capitol’s entertainment and to serve as a reminder of their oppression. In the case of war, there’s usually at least some chance of them coming back, as well as a reason for going in the first place.
      Anyway. It’s hard to explain without sounding trite or completely callous to those who have actually lost someone to a war. 😛

  5. Anna

    I enjoyed the hunger games, but I thought this review was fantastic. Even though I found the books exciting and thought-provoking, they were riddled with flaws- flaws you pointed out in this post. The “romance” with Peeta was eye roll inducing. The passive reaction of the tributes’ families was highly unrealistic.
    All in all, though, I thought this series was somewhat realistic, for a dystopian. The idea that children are forced to fight to the death resonated with me, since it reflected many flaws in current society. Abortion is common- even supported among the majority of individuals. Violence is viewed as a cheap form of entertainment. Both devalue human life, which I feel reflects modern society. I also liked that the law enforcement were called Peacekeepers, and were full of corruption. The Hunger Games definitely wasn’t Fahrenheit 451, but it was more realistic than, say, Divergent. (After finishing the two books in two days, I wondered why the heck I’d bothered to read them in the first place.)

    • Hey, I read Divergent the other day! I quite liked it, actually. The whole slightly taboo Four/Tris thing was a bit weak though.

    • …I hate to say this, but I actually liked Divergent better. The Hunger Games was definitely more thought-provoking and by literary standards, it was the better book, but Divergent was closer to my kind of story. It had hope for a better world, it didn’t try to be realistic and was therefore easier to accept, and was simply more entertaining. Though, the romance was stupid and Four annoyed me to death.

      • Anna

        Really? I didn’t care for Divergent after I finished reading it bTo me, it felt like the author was trying to follow a trend and set her story in a dystopian world. Her setting felt so… Unrealistic. And I didn’t relate to any of the characters, nor did I think that they were well- written. Plus, I didn’t like how the author says she’s a Christian, yet her characters practice homosexuality, use bad language, and engage in premarital sex. I probably WILL read the third book, though, to see how it ends 😛
        In my last post I realized I left a point incomplete: I debated reform of the UN peacekeepers this past year at my debate club, and I spent a lot of time researching the corruption of peacekeepers and the serious crimes they commit. I thought it was neat that Collins mirrored a problem in today’s society by naming her flawed law enforcement peacekeepers.

      • I think the un-realism was what I liked about it.:P So many YA authors try to make their story worlds “gritty” or “realistic” or any of the other buzzwords for worlds that are vaguely similar to ours, but wildly implausible.
        I agree. If you’re going to advertise yourself as a Christian, your work should reflect it in some way. I realize that various groups believe differently, but that’s pushing it. A lot.

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