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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I read the Hunger Games trilogy in a week's time. The first book took me about a day. The second took me two days. The third took me a full four days to finish. I think that very accurately reflects the amount to which I enjoyed each book.

I don't read much Young Adult fiction, and truth be told I don't read much popular fiction either. This is because I am a snob through and through. Most of the time whenever I make concessions to the popular taste I find myself disappointed. (See: my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) But the ads for the movie version of book one of the Hunger Games intrigued me with their similarity to my favorite Schwarzenegger film, The Running Man. That combined with the first book's low cost on Kindle convinced me to give the series a try.

What I loved about book one was the feelings it recaptured for me. The writing isn't particularly lyrical or breath-taking, but the characters and the obstacles they face were intensely compelling. For those who somehow don't know, the book follows teenager Katniss Everdeen as she is forced by the ruthless totalitarian government that rules North America to fight to the death in an arena populated by two dozen children.

It takes some time to get over the unlikeliness of the high concept premise, but if you can suspend disbelief you will find yourself incapable of putting the book down until you learn what will happen to Katniss. This is something that hasn't happened to me in quite a long time in reading books written for adults. Most writers of literary fiction could learn a thing or two about story-telling from Suzanne Collins.

The second book is also quite good, but suffers a little from repetitiveness, as it finds some of the characters from book one facing similar, if slightly heightened obstacles. Still, Ms. Collins did a fine job in Catching Fire of building the world of Panem and setting events into motion for the finale.

Sadly, Mockingjay does not deliver on the promise of the first two books, and the trilogy ends with a confusing, unfocused morality tale which seems to have a lot to say about human nature, but really has no point-of-view or philosophy behind it.

With Mockingjay it seems as though Ms. Collins struggled to find a way to tie her storylines together, and made the unfortunate decision to opt for quantity over quality. With each extremely unlikely plot point, the book becomes less and less compelling as the reader becomes anxious for the trilogy to just end already before every beloved character is rendered unlikable.

It's an unfortunate occurrence, to be sure, and one that I'm confident is being fretted over by the people who will eventually have to adapt the third book into a movie. Still though, I am grateful to Ms. Collins for reminding me of so many of the things that made me fall in love with reading in the first place. I finished book one at 2am on a Sunday morning, lying in bed with just the lamp over my bed to read by. I couldn't stand the thought of going to sleep without knowing how the book would end.

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