Edit March 4th: I take back everything I wrote here. I finished reading all three books and thinking about it, perhaps this book was the way it is for not only set up reasons, but also because it’s the first book of a brand new trilogy. It’s also YA. So playing it safe makes alot more sense in order to get it published. Again I’m just speculating. Regardless, the sequels don’t play it safe. Especially not in the third book, not at the end. But I’ll leave this post so you call see me write about something with such confidence when I don’t really have a clue what I’m talking about.
I read The Hunger Games in a single day.
A single freaking day.
Whereas The Hobbit and Unseen Academicals still lay unfinished months after I made their purchase. That should tell you something.
I saw the book and its sequels in Walmart, and I’ve always wanted to read it. With Borders having closed, and thus Puerto Rico’s last decent bookstore gone, I quickly snatched it up.
I started reading it…and couldn’t put the damn thing down.
Cost me an entire day of productivity.
But the worst part was…near Part III of the book, it got really disappointing. I continued reading till the end out of momentum (and I was still craving to see how it ended), but…but….
At some point, the romance or the fake!romance tearing at and conflicting Katniss took over and I was strongly reminded of Twilight or any romance novel (also the last scene of the Games where the last tribute was killed – trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible here— was just…cartoonish, unrealistic and out of place) and this is not what I was expecting.
Before I read the book and just heard what it was about, I would criticize it; say it was just a rip off of the manga Battle Royale. Thing is, I LOVED the concept of Battle Royale, and wanted to read The Hunger Games because of it.
But here is why I still love and will always return to manga and anime.
They push it.
They fucking push it.
Often, manga goes dark and it gets brutal and unforgiving with its plot. Good people die. People are put through unbearable situations and it never lets up. It’s one emotional, gut wrenching twist after the other.
During chapters 1 and 2 of The Hunger Games, I was near tears. I felt the characters. I was worried for them. They were by far my favorite chapters of the books. In fact, the book was near perfection…all the way until the Games.
Perhaps by this point my expectations were way too high. I was anticipating the worst of the worst for the characters.
Maybe it’s just because I was binge reading and wasn’t exactly in prime reading conditions.
But…I just stopped feeling it. Some characters, Katniss’ competitors were flat, one-dimensional….and also certain elements of the plot were also flat and too simply executed.
A little spoil-y, but I expected more twists or details or something more interesting regarding the characters and their deaths.
More specifically (and whole lot more spoilery, sorry I need to vent)….
The characterization of Thresh, Foxface and the nameless cripple boy. I was expecting all these to have small but more important roles and deaths than the ones they were given. We don’t even get to see how Thresh died and I was so sure it was going to be a plot point, to fan the flames of Katniss’ hatred for the Capitol (I could swear they killed him with the rain because he was too strong).
Also, Rue’s death seemed weird too. Well, not the actual death scene, that was beautiful. But if she was hard to catch, how did they catch her? I wanted to know. I thought maybe the boy did something clever and would have been a tribute to Rue’s character that she didn’t get caught easily. It felt anticlimactic when it happened.
I was kind of glad that the writer put in some heartless, cold, one-dimensional characters so I wouldn’t be so pained when Katniss had to kill them. But…at the same time, I was disappointed.
I wanted it to bearable, but not…TOO bearable. I expected this to be an emotional roller coaster and it really wasn’t at all. When Peeta foreshadowed not wanting to become a monster, I truly expected them in situations where they might have to act like one…but that never happened. Katniss’ choices were too easy, her actions too noble. I mean hell, she only killed 4 people and three of those were not directly. I wanted her in a situation where she had to kill when she didn’t want to. Where I didn’t want her to kill because I liked her opponent. Like put her up against Thresh or Foxface, who I really liked. I wanted to feel conflicted. But that never happened.
When they introduced him with Katniss’ flashback, I loved him instantly. I also loved him throughout the entire first part of the book. But then…suddenly his character sort of took a nose dive for me.
I had all these theories and expectations of his selflessness. I wanted to be shown that he went for the Cornucopia specifically for the bow, to get it to Katniss, because he already knew he wasn’t gonna survive and his plan was basically to help her in any way he could. His selfless love for Katniss is what made him shine in my eyes and I wanted to see more of it.
But it was all very much skimmed over. I suppose it’s a result of the POV, since Katniss wouldn’t notice such things, but still at the end when they watched the highlights of the Games, I really expected something to turn up, some new information we hadn’t known before.
A twist. Something. I was shaking with anticipation. Some last twist. Some last thing I couldn’t think of.
But no. Nada. Nothing.
It doesn’t help that Peeta’s personality sort of deteriorated as time went on. He went from this thoughtful kind boy with low self-esteem, worried about his identity and state of mind before the Games, to just a boy in love. This one note almost made me lose my love for him. He became…boring.
And I think that’s it. The moment the book had that long period of just Katniss and Peeta sitting in that cave and it sort of became more of a romance than a fight for survival, I got bored.
I loved the added element of romance at first. I loved the whole love triangle thing. But…I didn’t come for that. That was just an added thing to spice stuff up.
I came for the Games.
And they were kinda disappointing.
But why were the Games disappointing?
They were too SAFE.
They didn’t push it!
They needed to push the cruelty, the savagery, the unfairness. All that despair I felt during the parts of the book speaking of District 12 should have been brought into the Games…and intensified.
These are children made to fight each other for entertainment. Make it more real! More…ridiculously unfair and horrible, cause it is! I wanted to see more shades of gray, more difficult choices being made.
The mentions by Katniss of past Games were more dramatic than the Games she played.
I wanted her more traumatized, more….changed at the end of the book (think Ender by the end of Ender’s Game). But I didn’t feel she changed much. I mean other than the whole thing between Katniss, Peeta and Gale which will most likely dominate the next book…which is also what is hesitating me from getting the next book.
I was SO SURE that Katniss would have done something more against the Capitol or plan to by the end of the book (I mean she sort of did, but I was predicting something more intense and complicated).
But I suppose she is a true practical survivor from beginning to end of the novel, which I didn’t like, the fact she didn’t really change.
The book was still good…just not as amazing as I originally thought it to be.
But this just motivates me to not make the same mistake of pulling my punches in my own novel.
To push it.
To relentlessly make my readers squirm.
To not play it safe.
And make it real.
So um…have anyone else read The Hunger Games? What was your reaction?
(And on a side note…to those who read the book and are wondering how I feel about the love triangle…
Katniss and Gale are soulmates. Peeta is just unfortunate, despite how much I adore him, and will probably end up like his father. But I’ve been wrong in my predictions before in this book, so I could be wrong.
EDIT: Wow, was I WRONG. But then again, how was I suppose to know the things that were going to happen in the sequels. I had no clue. It’s one of those instances where I’m glad I’m wrong, so live and learn.)
On a side side note, the movie trailer for the movie looks freaking awesome! It’ll probably not be as good as it looks, but if they show more of the fighting than what it is in the book, I’ll be pleased.Edit: The movies will never capture the true soul of these books. Not if they hollywood it to death. So with that in mind, I’ll see it knowing it’ll pale in comparison to books and just focus on whatever does work.)