Friday, May 6, 2011

Fiction Friday: Hungry for More

I was going to blog about it.

Then I wasn't.

Then I was going to.

Then...I wasn't.

Then I was possibly going to blog about it, but I wasn't sure.

Then I wasn't going to blog about it.

Then I was running the other day and just kept thinking about this book series.  And I realized that I was thinking about this book series...again.  And I realized that I probably should blog about it.

You probably knew this was coming.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (and the two sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay) have pretty much consumed (any puns are unintentional...maybe) me for the past couple months or so.  I had heard of the series, but I wasn't that interested until the 12 year old girl I watch recommended the first one.  So I checked it out from the library...

...and wow.  Wow. 

I don't know how to do any fancy schmancy book reviews without giving spoilers.  So the basics.  It's a YA sci fi / dystopian (kind of the opposite of Utopian) series told in present tense from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old (when the series starts) girl named Katniss Everdeen.  Protecting her younger sister, she becomes a "tribute" in something known as the Hunger Games, in which 24 teenagers are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of "The Capital."  That's how it starts, and it gets WAY more complicated from there...if you can imagine anything more complicated than that.

When I was sixteen years old, my biggest concern was probably about not having a date to the homecoming dance...again.

But Katniss had already had a VERY hard life, and Suzanne Collins told Katniss' story in a believable and extremely entertaining, thought-provoking way.  She is a writer who knows how to keep a reader turning pages late into the night, just to see what happens next.  And Collins definitely kept me guessing (especially in the second book, Catching Fire).  She also handled the romantic scenes just as well as she handled the action scenes--and these books are FULL of both! 

What I really like about this series is the way it makes me think.  Even though it's been a couple of weeks since I finished the series and turned the books back into the library, I'm still thinking about the story.  I know I could not have made the choices that Katniss had to make--not as a sixteen-year-old and not as a thirty-one-year-old.  I know that the reason she had to make these choices was because she lived in a very corrupt, politically charged world.  And I know that the world I live in is capable of the same kind of evil.  In the light of a lot of current events, I'm thinking even more that we're not too far from the world of Katniss Everdeen.  And that keeps me up at night...thinking.

I did have a few problems with the series, mainly with the last book, Mockingjay.  Most of the problems I had were just that I didn't like certain things that happened, and well, Collins is the writer so I can't argue with her about how her story should go (I'm big on the author being right about his/her own story...probably because I write books, too).  I do think that she might have been rushed into getting the last book done.  Certain things just seemed slapped together, and I think they could have been handled slightly better if she had taken her time.  Editing is a crucial part of writing, and I don't think as much editing of the actual story went into the last book.  Probably because she had a maybe it wasn't entirely her fault.

Apart from that, I really think that the last book was far too heavy to be a YA novel.  The fact that the 12-year-old I watch had read it before I did makes me really nervous.  I think a lot of the details went over her head, so that gives me some peace.  But I know this book REALLY messed with my head.  There was a lot of psychological issues involved that, quite honestly, kind of bothered me.  I am not saying they had no place in the story, but I think they should have been toned down some for a book that is marketed towards teenagers.  If I, as an adult (okay, so I know it's a stretch, but still), was disturbed by some of the content of this book, it would probably be even more disturbing to a teenage audience.  I will also point out, though, that while these books had some disturbing, gory imagery, they were pretty much free of sex and foul again, kudos to Collins.

All in all, the last page of the last chapter of Mockingjay DID make me cry (happy tears).  I was happy with the overall outcome.  The epilogue seemed to be slapped together (again, I think she needed a little more time to develop it...maybe?), but it was decent and left me feeling good about parting with the characters and story.

The first two books were definitely better than the last one, but Mockingjay was perhaps a necessary conclusion to a story that just couldn't have a completely happy ending.  I like fairy tales and happy endings, but there is also something to be said for realistic stories that make you think about evil in the world.  And this was one of those. 

If you are looking for a good read, I definitely recommend The Hunger Games series.  A movie is supposed to come out sometime next year, so now would be a good time to read them.  Just make sure you have access to ALL three books before you start reading the first, because you will want them all.  I learned that the hard way.

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