Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games seriously disappointed me.

They had been very talked up. I found a copy of the first book sitting in 133 White Building (where I dance) and read a few chapters. I was hooked. It was an experience rather similar to when I read the first few chapters of "The Sorcerer's Stone" at age 15.

I stalked the library for weeks and couldn't get a hold of the book. It seems the coming movie adaptation had prompted a frantic reading by everyone in State College. Finally, I found a fellow dancer who loaned me his copies of the books.

"The Hunger Games" was read in less than 24 hours. Alex handed it to me around 2:30pm on a Wednesday. It was done before lunch the next day.

I couldn't stop talking about it. The book was riveting. The characters were unique. The voices were clear. The dystopia was realized. All I wanted to do was find a group of college or high school students and throw that book into the middle of a conversation about "What makes us human? What are ethics? What affect does the media have on us and our perception of truth or personality?" I wanted to say during "The Bachelor" season finale that the whole thing reeked of "The Games" to me. I wanted to write essays on how "The Hunger Games" would be a great introduction to themes that show up in "Lord of the Flies", enabling a compelling reason to read this latter example of literature in later classrooms.

Then I read "On Fire" and "Mockingjay".

Meh. It took me several weeks.

Here are some reasons I was so disappointed.

  • The pacing went down the drain. It took over half of "Catching Fire" to get to the Quarter Quell. Was that really necessary? And "Mockingjay". There was close to zero rise and fall in action as it attempted to have crisis after crisis.
  • Katniss's voice gets lost in with some kind of objective narrator.
  • The Politics. By the end of Mockingjay, you had two dystopias facing off. The complecity of this issue was horribly dealt with. The only clear message she achieved was "Don't have wars.". Yeah. Great help there.
  • Katniss was neither a hero nor an anti-hero. I'm okay with unlikable characters. I'm okay (and applaud) writing that makes us uncomfortable with the ethics of our main character. But she didn't do this clearly enough.
  • Really guys. Assassinating one potentially bad person on your team instead of executing the dictator? And that helps the cause of justice how?
  • No one bothered to actually address the ethics of media and "sight" in the books. It seemed complex in the first book. But it never changed. It was an assumed tool.
  • Okay. I cried in a car on the way to Boston during the end of Mockingjay when **** dies. But it was so pointless and unnecessary. I felt manipulated.
  • It comes down to this: either you choose to subvert the classic "hero" narrative or your don't. Waffling between the two for the last two books of a trilogy looses us. No one wants a story where there is zero point. They wander around, get hurt and scared and killed for three books... and then end in a paragraph where they get married and have babies. The entire point of the series as it was promised and hinted at in book 1 was not even close to realized.


I found this magazine in Wegman's. You'd think the editors and designers of this cover just took it straight out of the book's tabloids. Ironic much?

1 comment:

Brittany said...

meh. i haven't read the second two books in the trilogy, but i think i'm in much less of a hurry thanks to your review :) Lol. Did you see the movie? What were your thoughts?