I’m something of a reading snob. There I said it. If a book is sensationalist, popular and making people exclaim wildly and in bad grammar over 8 million internet forums, there’s a big chance I won’t like it. Many times I’m right (cough Dan Brown cough) and I get to feel smug. Sometimes I’m wrong. Hello, Ms. Rowling.
And other times, well let’s just say, I get Suzanned. The Hunger games trilogy by Suzanne Collins had all the usual symptoms. Many internet forums, chatter about race prejudices, in-depth erudite sounding stories about young adult fiction and of course the series had TBHBT (The big Hollywood blockbuster ticket). I could totally tell where this was going. The jacket of the first book held a gushy fan-girl line from Stephanie Myers. I smirked. Man, it was going to be easy to hate this book.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, The Hunger Game Trilogy takes place in the country of Panem where 12 districts are all governed by the evil Capitol. As punishment for a revolt against the Capitol many years ago, the hunger games is an event where a pair of adolescents, one boy and one girl from each district, get themselves into an arena and fight each other to the death. The whole thing is televised.
The first book, The Hunger Games, went okay but I can’t say I was sold on it. I was a little put off by the short sentences (so pedestrian) but I could deal with it. Besides it had strains of another dystopian novel I liked: Lois Lowry’s The giver. But dystopian novels for young readers follow a pretty standard arc. Oppressor. Confusion. Must overthrow said oppressor.
Let’s move on. The main character Katniss Everdeen was grim and unlikeable but real enough. The love triangle was annoyingly Twilight-ish. Will she go for nice-guy-baker-boy Peeta or stick with badass hunter buddy Gale? Interesting Trivia: the second one shoots and eats squirrels with ghastly relish. The book picked up as fewer tributes remained at the games and at last ended with a cliff-hanger. I could see the appeal but I wasn’t a fan. For one, no humour. And don’t blame the circumstances. Harry Potter was funny and so was Percy Jackson and their plots had them pretty screwed too. Also, is it just me or was there very little dialogue?
I spent time between book one and book two in complete conflict. Did I like it? Did I not?
When Sharanya waved Catching Fire, the second book in the series in front of me, my precise reaction was, “YAAAAAAAAAAAAY. I mean…. cool. Cool, I’ll just take it. I guess. I mean, if you’re done with it. Whatever.”
And I was glad she was. Catching Fire seduced me. A quarter quell, where there’s an upped version of the Hunger Games aka more bloody animalistic murder? Bring it. The Games Arena (spoiler alert) designed like a clock was a small bit of genius. And now there’s political intrigue and a romance that actually adds to the plot? Well done Ms. Collins, well done. Even sullen Katniss was beginning to redeem herself. She was getting tougher, angrier and she dealt with adolescent angst by going out and shooting stuff, a huge improvement on Bella Swan. There still wasn’t much improvement on the jokes. I forgave that. At the end of the second book, I wasn’t in conflict any more. Was I on board with this whole hunger games hysteria? Hell yes.
On to Book three. (This time, I fair snatched it out of Sharanya’s hand). Mockingjay had the stirrings of a bloody war and revolution, plot twists and so much more darkness and despair. Having one of the main characters brain-washed into near-villainy kept things lively. And finally, oh finally, JOKES! There were funny bits. Mostly through a character called Johanna, who frankly, I’d have loved to see more of. Sarcasm. Wit. Banter. It’s like Suzanne Collins read my mind and gave me everything that was missing in the first book. Am I A Hunger Games fan now? Yes I am.