I like a book that instantly grabs you, that doesn’t let go until the fading sunlight leaves your room in shadow and you realize that you need to turn a light on; a book that keeps your mind drifting back to your favorite character; a book that makes your real friends seem boring, and you can’t wait to get home to pick up your book. I’ve read books that have made me so sad that I would try to forget it happened by surrounding myself in reality. That’s a little backwards, isn’t it? So, I know what it’s like to interact with a really good character and get hooked by a really good plot, so maybe my sights were set a little high, but with all the hype over the The Hunger Games, who could blame me?
I’m not terribly picky when it comes to reading, but sometimes I shouldn’t be so impressionable. Maybe that’s why I was shocked to find myself critical right from the start. Maybe my creative writing classes actually taught me something – who knows? All I know is that I felt like I was reading a teen series. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking – this is a teen series! (Actually, it’s “young adult”) So was Harry Potter and Twilight (granted, I was a teenager when I read those) yet this felt different. I’m surprised even teenagers aren’t more critical of the shallow, unsympathetic characters, the predictable plot line and mediocre writing. Maybe after a semester of picking stories apart my senses were on high-alert. At any rate, I have composited a list of reasons why I hated The Hunger Games.
1) Let us start with the basics: the names. I used to read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction (and admittedly, wrote some) and Everdeen is such a predictable, unrealistic name that I think I literally rolled my eyes when I read it. So here’s what Suzanne Collins did. She went online, probably to Google, and found a name data base and searched for a really weird, unique first name. She found Katniss. Cool, all right, that’s fine. But then she obviously tried to tap in to her inner Tolkien and failed. If I don’t buy a character’s name, I don’t buy them as a person.
2) Speaking of Katniss Everdeen, doesn’t she seem an awfully lot like Bella Swan? And I’m not referring to their artificial names, but the whole tough, tomboy act both characters embody. Katniss’ talking about not wanting to be married is a little too similiar to Bella’s opposition to marrying Edward, the “love of her life”, don’t you think? This begs another question – what is it about these rather lifeless main characters that seem to draw so much attention from these attractive, devoted males? I wonder how novels such as this and Twilight affect teenage girls ideas about life and boys – and marriage.
3) Speaking of Katniss Everdeen – again – isn’t she also a lot like Harry Potter? Like Harry, she’s a little hard on herself, stubborn, loyal, and soon as there’s someone in need of saving, it’s Katniss to the rescue. She’s capable of so much, everyone seems to be in awe over her. All Katniss wants is a normal life, yet she can’t seem to stop hurting people. She is responsible for the deaths of many. Harry’s downfall was always his “hero complex” and he, too, led friends to their demise. Katniss is a very shallow replication of Harry yet the parallel between this novel and Harry Potter is found over and over again. Perhaps I am biased, but I definitely know I’m not the only one who read Harry Potter.
4) Predictable much? When Peeta admits his love for Katniss, she thinks it’s part of the plan to get on their sponsors’ good side. Puh-lease. I could see this “surprise” coming from a mile away! Peeta really is in love with Katniss and she’ll finally realize it, only to discover she cares deeply for him too. Oh, the conflict. And we can’t forget Gale – sexy, rugged hunter, the best friend – who also happens to be in love with her. I can’t emphasis this enough – WHY?!
5) Cheap thrills. Because Collins ran out of things to write about at the end of the first book, she employed very cheap tactics in order to keep the readers interested. Sending them back into the games, for instance, is boring and uncreative. As a dear friend of mine pointed out, The Hunger Games is kind of like Prison Break. It’s a really cool premise, but after the games end in the first book and the characters break out of prison at the end of the first season, what’s left to do? Well, of course, the answer is clear and easy (too easy?) – send them back. I could go on and on, but i’ll mention only one more: cliff-hangers. I hate them. If the only way people want to keep reading is by leaving a hook at the end of each chapter, what does that say about your writing skills? Collins used cliff-hangers constantly, especially in the third book.
As the same dear friend said to me, calling this young adult just seems to imply that we can’t understand more complex, “adult” novels by talented writers such as Hawthorne, Hemmingway or Dante. I’m not saying adults can’t enjoy it, of course. While the premise of The Hunger Games was unique and interesting, I was expecting more. It just didn’t deliver. The characters could have been developed more; the only one who I found really unique was Haymitch, the drunken mentor. Honestly, the book just left me baffled. How did this become such a sensation? I invite people to tell me what they loved about it. There were definitely a number of good ideas within this series, things that Collins could have really worked with, or things she could have eased up on (the love-triangle, for starters) but this has taught me a lesson that I should have already known: just because the media says something is good, does not mean it’s good.