Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hunger Games Saga, into the Deep

Here is the deal. Like everyone else, I have a lot to say about The Hunger Games Saga. Not all of it is good, but like many of you, I feel passionate about the story, reason why I decided to write a thorough review of each of the books with no spoilers at all, and then another one for the story as a whole with all the cards on the table. Meaning, you have a few weeks to read the three books and then participate in the fourth review where there would be no theme unspoken, no secrets kept. I'll post every Tuesday around noon and I'd love to hear what you have to say. I know there are fans who live and breath through the characters and others who could kill the next person who swears The Hunger Games are the awesomest book since the invention of the press. Either way, I'll be glad to hear what you have to say as long as we keep our hands and ugliness to ourselves.

A few years ago, when everybody was talking about the books and way back when there was no Hunger Games movie, I checked the first installment out of curiosity. I read the back cover and just couldn't feel it. It didn't grab me or speak to me, so I let it go. Every now and then someone would say how fantastic these books were and I went back to amazon, read the blurb once more, and let it drop. Finally the movie came and all hell broke lose. People comparing it to the greatest books ever written, the obvious mention of Twilight and how Katniss Everdeen was the ultimate strong female role. You know, craziness. I decided I had to see for myself what all the rage was and sure as heck I wasn't watching the movie first, so I bought the three books. I read them in the spam of one week, unable to put them down, and upon finishing the third one, my feelings are mixed. As a whole I didn't like the story, but each book in itself, I enjoyed the first two quite a lot. I thought about it and thought a bit more and then decided I had too much to tell to just write a simple review, hence the plan I previously laid out for you. I'm hoping this will clarify my own feelings about the story and will be fun for us to share. Here we go.

The Hunger Games.

When I was considering to read the books, not knowing if I was going to like them, I came across a review on Goodreads that stuck in my mind. It was a negative review of only the first book, she didn't thought the story had any message or uplifting trace, only a society so depraved it could watch its kids kill each other for fun. An uproar came after her calling her names and pointing the fact that she had obviously not read the whole saga. Her defense? The first book of a series should give the reader a taste of what's to come. One should know what we're up to after the first book is gone and in this case, I have to give it to her, The Hunger Games does not fairly represent the story as a whole.

I found this to be the lightest of the three books, I laughed a little, cried not so little, but had hope that better things were to come for Katniss and Peeta. The story is engrossing and the characters are well written. Katniss' relationship with her family and Gale is easy to understand and feel for; we know what lies in the line and why it is so important for her to step up and do as best she can. We also understand what she's to confront and how poor her chances are. We only get a taste of Gale, but still the first traces of what will define the story in the future are set in motion for us to see. By far my favorite character was Peeta. He's likable, sweet, and stronger than everybody thinks. The genius of telling the story through Katniss' eyes is that she is so clueless as to what is about to happen that it all comes as a surprise for us, too. There are no tell-tale remarks or whispers that foreshadow something to come, we are just hit by surprise. Haymitch is a pathetic guy we see grow if only just a little through the story and our hearts warm towards him as we progress in the story.

Technical points. The pace is rapid and you can't wait to know what's to come. The language is clear and simple, yet interesting; it pulls you into the world Collins created without many distractions that break the enchantment. What we need to know about the background is laid out and distributed through the story without dumping it on you all in one page. The one drawback of writing in first person and in present tense--pay attention, most books are written in past tense even though the action is taking place right now. However, Collins used present, making it sound like Katniss' thoughts--is that some information feels unnatural. Katniss already knows the distribution of the districts and the facts of the Dark Days, yet she repeats those in her mind for our benefit. But we do needed this information and there was no other way, so I let this one slide.

I liked the transitions, seamless and easy to follow, days pass yet we never get lost in time or find the characters in places they were not supposed to be. In general, I have to make special mention of the excellent team of editors that checked fact after fact of this trilogy to keep it logical and consistent. Outstanding. Of course, a big kudos to Suzanne Collins, too, who did not fall pray to the temptation of making her characters act without reason.

Now, to perception. The way the story developed, how it centered on Katniss' motivations to keep fighting, her relationship with Peeta, her kindness and pain for all who had to die for the Capitol, all in the pages led me to believe this was to be the story of a girl forced to grow too fast but that, with the help of her support system, would rise to become a strong young woman leading a war for the liberation of her people. I couldn't be more wrong.

After reading the three books I cry FALSE ADVERTISEMENT, but I'll delve into that in the future. For the moment being I'll tell you The Hunger Games is highly addictive, interesting and very well written. I completely understand why it ignited the fire--pun intended--that it did. You should totally read it for its entertaining value, but do not expect a moral. This is not the book for that. The trilogy as a whole has a message, it just isn't on this book and, when it is all said and done,  it isn't a pretty, uplifting one.

To be continued...


John Paul Allen said...

Haven't read them and probably won't, because it doesn't interest me. Still if it's getting people to read, that's a good thing.

The Twilight books are also not on my list.


Michael Pierce said...

I agree, The Hunger Games trilogy was very well written. I found them a little slow to start, but moved very quickly once in the action. Even though I like the perspective--especially the present tense, which really throws you into the action--I liked the scenes added in the movie not in her perspective, which gave the audience a little more insight into the dystopian society. Great review, and there's a few things I want to say, but they'd be considered spoilers. A discussion for another time.

Chris Fries said...

You know, I've been stuck where you were pre-movie. I've heard about these books, have been told I should read them, and have perused the first one several times, but have never finally pulled the trigger and bought or borrowed them to actually read.

I guess I should, just to see what all the fuss is about, and your review really intrigues me and may just what I need to finally do it.

(I'm also with John Paul above -- No Twilight for me! I have no interest in a teen romance camouflaged as a vampire story. I just can't take vampires as shimmery, dreamy, James Dean retreads with fangs...)

Gina said...

I can understand your feelings exactly, John because they weren't appealing to me, too. Though I don't regret at all having read them, I know I buckled because I'm just too curious to know what the hell everybody was talking about. Thanks for commenting!

Michael, I'm dying to hear what you have to say about the spoiler parts! You might want to share that when we get to the finial post! I haven't watched the movie, yet, but I think I'll try it as soon as it is available on dvd. Thanks for stoping by. =)

I loved Twilight (I know, I'm sorry. Please don't stop talking to me =)) but I'm with you Chris. Twilight has ruffled so many feathers because it is another case of false advertisement. It is a teeny-bopper romance, nothing more. If you enjoy that, good for you! If you don't, then you know, but don't go about trying to say it is a horror or a vampire story. It is not and people will get upset.
About The Hunger Games, I guess everyone has to form their own opinion, but curiosity pushed me hard enough to read the trilogy and I don't regret it, but I wouldn't say it is what I had expected. If you read it Chris, please let me know your final verdict. I'm even more curious now to hear everyone's thoughts. =)

Nicole said...

Oh, this is gonna be good! I can't wait to hear your thoughts. My take was: Hunger Games, started slow but finished strong; Catching Fire, best of the three; Mockingjay, shall not be spoken of. :)

Gina said...

LOL Nicole, I think you and I have minds alike. =) There will be the time to talk about Mockingjay but it seems most people don't think very highly of it. I never heard such thing before writing this review, now I'm happy I did. I thought I was the crazy one. Thanks for your comments!

Misha Gericke said...

I know what you mean. I also read the whole trilogy over a single weekend.

I think that no, the message isn't uplifting, because it isn't supposed to be.

Collins herself said that she wrote the trilogy as a war story with kids in it. And war isn't pretty, nor is it as glory filled as people are led to believe.

In that aspect, I think she got the message just right.

I guess it depends. I managed to read the whole trilogy without any expectations.


Gina said...

You see, Misha, I didn't know Collins had said that about the books and with all the comparisons to Twilight and the craziness, I imagined it to be a lighter read. Good for you too keep reading without expectations! It is harder than it sounds. ;) And thanks for commenting.

Mrs. Jones said...

Well, I agree with you so far!
The first book was the lightest read. My favorite book of the three, but not a great representation of the series. With each book that followed, the series got darker and you realized there wouldnt be a happy ending. It was depressing.
I overall liked the books though, they are, like you say, very well written and entertaining, but just so sad.
Im curious to see how you review the third book, which is my least favorite of the three.

Im very glad i found your blog, I just recently came into the blogging world (since I decided I wanted a way to track my progress in trying to get published) and I am very glad I did.

Please, feel free to come follow me back!!

Gina said...

Thanks for your kind words, Mrs. Jones! I do think the series turned dark midway and somewhat unexpectedly and that didn't make me very happy. I still don't understand what is it about that all the teenagers are raving about these books...