*Spoiler Alert!* If you have not read The Hunger Games and are planning to, you might want to save reading this until after you've finished--but don't worry, the average reader finishes in 1.5 days...
While I may not make it out to the movies anywhere near as much as I did before I had kids, I have still heard all of the hype around The Hunger Games (book & movie, alike). Who hasn't? In fact, it's all been shoved quite thoroughly down my throat. I decided to give in and read The Hunger Games since I heard from all directions that it was an easy read and a compelling story. Matt downloaded it for us on the iPad and I spent the past two evenings getting through the 350+ pages. The last time I read a book that short, I think I was in 6th grade?
My general assessment of the story goes like this:
Interesting story with hardly any depth. It's all very surface-level.
Not at all impressed with the literary aspect of this novel--the writing was inelegant, non-descriptive, left a great deal to the imagination (lucky for me, mine is pretty wild!). In a word, it was unimaginative.
The hype: I'm not defending Twilight here as a "great literary work of the 21st century, but can someone please tell me why a love story about a human and a vampire gets such a hard time from everyone, but a story about adolescents killing each other is praised to no end? I get that Twilight was cheesy and wholesomely romantic, which isn't something that many people value in our society anymore, but I'll take that over some teenager who has some pseudo internal battle with herself in order to actually battle others in the arena. (You'd think that being faced with Katniss' situation would prompt some serious character development. Guess what. This don't happen. Not even close.)
I haven't read the other two books in the series (yet), although I have read all of the books in the Twilight and Harry Potter series. Why is it necessary for 3 books in this series to exist? The ending was abrupt and didn't even leave me expecting that to be its ending place. It didn't wrap around itself to prepare for a sequel or a continuation of the story, or whatever is supposed to come next in the second book....it's like the author wrote one story, then chopped it into three pieces. It reminded me of a time that Sean and I were watching an episode of a TV mini-series, and I didn't realize that's what it was. I thought I was watching a movie and when it ended so abruptly, all I could say was, "that's it?". More books does not always a better story make. At least in Twilight, each book in the series resolved itself to a point of rest while still demonstrating a suspense for what was to come. Harry Potter has 7 books. This makes sense seeing as how right from the get-go in book 1, we know that the character will have a total of 7 years of schooling at Hogwarts, thus making a sensible case for a long series involving Harry's storyline. Why shouldn't there be one book for each year? The hunger games just stopped. In the middle of the end of the story. It makes no sense. Like I said, the book is very short. I think the world could have made it through a 900 page book that reads like a teenage version of an un-rhymed Dr. Seuss story.
The story was entertaining, at the very least. The idea of a post-revolutionary North America with a crazy controlling government is something that goes right along with our latest obsession with the post-apolocyptic movies and books that have come out in recent years. Except instead of involving mythical creatures like zombies, vampires or wizards, it involves a tale of survival--not just in the brutal arena, but in their separated districts and day-to-day lives as well. I was, however, utterly disappointed in the lack of description the author provided. I want the story to paint its own picture. I want to know what the landscape looks like in detail. I want to know how it physically felt for the characters to meet their gruesome deaths. I want to know how the amazing Capitol food tasted. And by wanting to know these things, I don't mean reading words like "forest-like landscape", "felt nauseous", or "best-tasting food ever". While some readers might want to project what they already know about these things, or what they can imagine about these things onto the characters to fulfill the storyline, I read because I want to get lost in someone else's world...and for me, the world of Panem was sorely incomplete.
Overall, it was an entertaining, easy read. It killed time for me that I didn't have to begin with (I should have skipped the whole thing and just edited photos or baked cookies, or cleaned something). It left everything to the imagination, which is not a compliment when it comes to literature--Twilight's and Harry Potter's accomplishments of this far exceeds the barely feeble attempt of The Hunger Games. Matt asked how I liked it, and I said, "maybe we should see the movie, because I feel like this would be a better movie than a book". Again, this opinion stems from a lack of creativity and descriptiveness that is impossible to leave out in a movie. It was all very PG, and when the main premise of the story is people killing each other for survival, I feel like there is a natural call for more intimate, descriptive, story-line-enhancing details.
I'd recommend this book to people who are looking for something else besides Harry Potter and Twilight to focus on, or to a 4th grader who has a book report assignment: "...and then Katniss killed a rabbit by shooting it with her bow and arrow. She is really good with a bow and arrow. It is her favorite weapon to use." Other than that, keep looking, because if you're like me, and want something more than just words on a page from your story, you'll be sorely disappointed. I feel like this book had the potential to be amazing--one of the most significant works of this young generation's time. But with a great idea for a story supported by absolutely nothing other than a simplistic telling of what should have been a truly epic tale, The Hunger Games falls short of everything that "good book" should be.