Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#6 (2012-cbriv) "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins seems to be all the rage these days, with the movie coming out this month, and pictures of the lead actress everywhere. And there’s no way I’m going to let any popular young-adult novels get by me. I think everyone who is interested probably knows by now, but sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to be in the Hunger Games in order to save her younger sister. The Hunger Games are an annual fight to the death on live television between 24 opponents from the ages of 12 to 18.

I couldn’t stop reading this book once I’d picked it up. I immediately got into the story and was curious about what would happen. It was a very satisfying, tense, and exciting book that I would recommend to almost anyone. However, when I got to thinking about the review, I realized that there were some parts of the narrative that didn’t sit well with me. I would suggest that, although very interesting, it’s not as well written as the Harry Potter or The Golden Compass books. Now, the writing is still much better than the Twilight series. But, when I read Twilight I had the same urgency to get through the story to find out what happens as I did with The Hunger Games. I’ve sometimes felt the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding Twilight was a little too strong. Sure, it’s a poorly-written, immature, and unrealistic view of love, but it was a quick and easy read. Bella always did what she thought was best. She wasn’t pushed around. On the other hand, I see The Hunger Games held up as the perfect antidote, and I don’t think that’s quite right either.

So, in the interest of looking at The Hunger Games from a different perspective, below are the similarities between The Hunger Games and Twilight.

1) Heads of the Family

Both Katniss Everdeen and Bella Swan are in positions of providing for their families. Katniss took over providing for her family after her father’s death by hunting and foraging to provide food. She also put her own life on the line in order to protect her sister. Bella Swan is self-reliant, mature, and independent for her age. She provides food and cooks for her father, who doesn’t really take the time to care for himself. And at the end of the story, Bella Swan provides protection for her entire family and vampire coven with her mind tricks. Both books involve mothers that are not fully involved or able to care for their children and both protagonists protect their families in significant ways.

2) Love Triangles: Jacob = Peeta

Poor Peeta. He fell in love with Katniss the first time he ever saw her—even though they’ve never spoken. And talk about a fantasy man! In the arena, he is only interested in helping Katniss survive. He would do anything for her, and he is endlessly patient, kind, and thoughtful. He can hug and comfort Katniss, yet their relationship stays relatively platonic. And just like Jacob, Katniss is never going to really love Peeta (I haven’t read the third book, so I’m kind of guessing here, but I’m pretty sure), even though he is often the more likable character.

3) Unrealistic Plot Lines in order to further the love triangle

I guess I’m kind of jumping ahead to the second book here with some possible SPOILERS, but I did not buy this whole ‘the only way to stop the rebellion is to pretend to love and marry Peeta. You better do it or everyone’s life is in danger’ thing. In fact, while I’m at it, the entire reasoning for the Hunger Games felt off to me. You know how to piss off a bunch of people? Arbitrarily take their kids and force them to fight to the death. Also, if you’re trying to isolate the different districts, then why bring people from all the districts together, have them train together and set them all out together in an arena? Why give anyone from the districts the ability to communicate through television to the entire world? Why would you allow the contestants to see how much better life is in the Capitol and how unfair their lives are? Finally, it’s very convenient that little Rue is killed by someone else, and that everyone Katniss kills happens to be a “bad” guy. That way she could still win the games without looking too heartless herself. I guess I got on a tangent there and forgot to discuss Twilight, but the unrealistic plot lines in Twilight speak for themselves.

4) Weddings and Dresses (SPOILER?)

Both Katniss and Bella get to be beautifully dressed—even though they both supposedly don’t really care about how they look. Katniss has her own stylist and Bella has one of Edward’s sisters. And they also both get to wear beautiful wedding gowns (again, I guess I’m jumping into the second book here). I think it's some kind of fantasy fulfillment thing. Harry gets to be a star quidditch player while the female protagonists get to wear wedding gowns? I do have to admit that Katniss’s wedding gown furthers the plot some while Bella’s is just part of her dream wedding.

Now that I’ve harped on some of the things that didn’t quite feel right as I was reading The Hunger Games, I should reiterate that I really did enjoy reading this book (and the second). And I’m looking forward to reading the final installment.

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