I happily admit to being an intellectual snob. Frequently I keep my distance from the average person because I realize that they are just not all that interesting or intelligent, but I do hold out hope that there are smart people out there and occasionally I find them. :)
The phenomenon that has become Hunger Games has completely shattered any hope in the intelligence of the average American. The fact that this is not just a popular book, but a ridiculous multi-million (or billion with the movie revenue) product makes me want to vomit and then go live in a tree myself with some provisions and a bow (after, of course, teaching myself how to use it).
I've been looking forward to this series and I have amassed all three novels (two from a friend and one from the library) and was anticipating enjoying the 1100+ page thrilling read. So maybe part of this review is disappointment (rather than just plain honest criticism), but then again I feel like I generously did not give it a 1 so, maybe not.
Yes, it was entertaining, and yes it is a young adult novel. So I can look past (slightly) the fact that the language is very basic (simple reading for simple folk? What about challenging kids with vocabulary?) The sentences are straightforward (easy to read), but oftentimes so repetitive as to make me want to throw the thing: "He's asking for an explanation, and I'm tempted to give him one. We both know he covered for me. So here I am in his debt again. If I tell him the truth about the girl, somehow that might even things up. How can it hurt really? Even if he repeated the story, it couldn't do me much harm. It was just something I witnessed. And he lied as much as I did about Delly Cartwright. I realize I do want to talk to someone about the girl. Someone who might be able to help me figure out her story." Yeah, I know dirty trick to make the reader of this review read the paragraph above, but it is a great example of the extent to which Collins uses TOO MANY short quick sentences when one nice, elegant one with a few larger words would have sufficed. Is it that her readership (again back to my dismay about the intelligence of the average American) can't read a more complex sentence? Do we need endless blather to relate this slightly complicated emotional wavering?
So, now on to content. I was expecting a futuristic and fantastic world. Unfortunately, there isn't really much NEW here. For all of the talk about creativity in Hunger Games, the basic ideas are a melding of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery; Lois Lowry's work (several of her books deal with futuristic agrarian societies in which kids heroically break down the manipulative, misleading government); and Stephen King's Running Man.
People tout the benefits of such a strong female character. As I read this book I couldn't help but think that Katniss was a dolt. As obvious as it is to the reader (and even the Capitol audience) that Peeta is actually just a nice guy, Katniss is determined to believe he is simply faking it. Despite the fact that she likes some people (as Cinna points out), she is determined not to trust or like a potential teammate. This makes absolutely no sense.
Very early on (as soon as they were friendly on the train headed to the Capitol for training), I thought to myself that it would make sense for them to team up. Even if they have to kill each other in the end, at least they could do it humanely and help each other get rid of the other 22 competitors. Making alliances is a good strategic method. Despite this, all through training they do not team up and Haymitch does not suggest that they team up, and in fact, it is not until they are in the arena that Collins mentions that other players have teamed up and THAT THIS IS COMMON PRACTICE. So, coming into the competition both Peeta and Katniss know that alliances are an option and yet NO ONE SUGGESTS IT. This is completely and totally unbelievable and further evidence for Katniss's dolt-hood.
Instead, she teams up with Rue (strong female my foot...she teams up with the little one so she can feel dominant and be the "provider" and "protector" that she is at home). Certainly Rue is trustworthy, but so was Peeta and our (not so) endearing heroine has fully rejected him...not because she is using her brains at all, but simply because it provides Collins with more material for romantic plot-line twists (or lack thereof because if we don't actually care about these characters than it backfires).
Along the same lines, there is the whole ridiculousness of Thresh caring about Rue. Again, I understand why people back home may have sent a care package to Katniss after Rue's death. After all, her family wants to show some appreciation. BUT why does Thresh care? Certainly if there was some sort of district allegiance (which Collins is careful to avoid) then Thresh and Rue would have paired up. Again, why is it that alliances form as they do (Careers against everyone else)? Why don't the pairs from each district act as a team of sorts? And, since they don't, and presumably Thresh has not had any contact with Rue since it started and none prior to the training period, does he give a shit? CONVENIENCE...plot twist...an attempt to put the reader into suspense and then release the heroine. UGH.
The rule change. So...I get it; the viewers at home know that Peeta is going to die, the audience wants a love story and so the Gamemakers create the rule so that Katniss will go in search of Peeta and potentially rescue him. BUT...going back to the alliance thing, why not have this rule in place from the beginning? Why not encourage them to work as a team and then watch them backstab each other at the end (after all isn't that what Survivor is all about)? At the point in the game that they make the rule that both can live there are 6 people in the game...Cato and Clove (rule applies to them), Peeta and Katniss, Foxface and Thresh. This rule is no benefit to 1/3 of the people in the game. Seems rather harsh; seems like the people from District 5 and 11 might revolt at the fact that they get no benefit from this. Overall seems like another CONVENIENCE for plot...not something that could be real in this world.
Finally one minor complaint..the mutt(ation) dog-people at the end who attack Cato are just a distraction. So the Gamemakers can send atrocious creatures out, fine. So, they are mutations of sorts, fine. But why do they have to try to make them seem like the previous competitors? She wonders if they have some memories of the past (are their brains in there or just their eyes)...if the dogpeople had memories then Rue would be an ally, right? So there would be some benefit? Also, the dogpeople wouldn't just hate Cato, Katniss, and Peeta (after all these three didn't kill all of them), they would still have issues with each other and would not work as a pack, but would potentially disintegrate into a snarling mess. Either way, Collins does this throughout: she has Katniss waver on these "deep thoughts" that are either a)ridiculously simplified or b)completely wrong because Katniss is a dolt or c)just a distraction.
I started Catching Fire this morning and am trying to keep my mind open, although I was warned that it was a "bridge" (rather than a real book). I'll have to see how it goes.
I do have to admit that Hunger Games kept my interest (despite the comments above). It is fast paced and VERY easy reading. At least they are short; I don't think I would have the patience to read the whole series if I thought it would take much longer than a few days.