I don’t like the writing, the characters, or even the story – what I do like is the framework behind it all. And that might make me the only positively negative reviewer of Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games trilogy has made quite an impression in teen literary circles. Not as much as Harry Potter or Twilight, perhaps, but an impression nonetheless. I think the reason for that lies in the lack of upfront appeal: you don’t read about adorably awkward characters learning how they’ll save the world, nor do you find a story of pathetically obsessive romance starring the undead. No, readers of Hunger Games find themselves looking into a bleak future that twists past horrors into new and vile tortures.
Physical and mental deprivation at the hands of the government. Forced viewings of murder. Merciless reminders of an enslaved culture on an everyday basis. The theft of human dignity. Hope abandoned.
Not exactly a love triangle or school bully (even one with a magic wand).
And then there are the characters: you’ve got a taciturn teen with superior survival skills, yet unaware of ‘the effect she has’ on others. A blonde baker boy, shy, with a heart of gold and some stalker tendencies. An aging drunk with secrets. A slew of empty-headed but well-intentioned fashion models. And a government full of liars and demons, each one the epitome of evil.
But even they wouldn’t be so bad if they were written better. Opportunities for development as bright as a neon sign, somehow ignored. Dialogues more suited to wooden mannequins. Inner monologues to compete with soap operas. Really? And the grammar was so bad at times that I had to wonder if the editing team (or should I say prep team?) had fallen asleep.
Underneath it all, if you mentally correct the questionable writing style, wipe through the grime of dusty character stereotypes, and silence the burning question of Gale vs. Peeta, you can wander your way through a very interesting framework of imagination. There’s just enough history to set up a believable time frame for the major cultural shift, just enough similarities to our own world to make a personal connection, and enough of an idea of a political system to play with.
Inside these boundaries, hundreds of stories could be written. There are plot holes and loose strings to tie up, back stories and empty history books to fill in. Kind of like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but the reader has the opportunity to supply the information. Not that that’s actually suggested by the author, publisher, or general public. But the editing team might just be nodding their heads and cheering wildly – hey, you never know. Why did the people submit to slavery after the destruction of District 13? If the people were smart enough to send phony messages by jabberjay, why couldn’t they come up with a means of secret communication among themselves? What happened to religion? Had anyone tried to infiltrate the government? Had anyone tried to escape the country? Did foreign governments know what was going on? Had the country become entirely self-sufficient? How could such small districts supply an entire nation? If Ms. Collins won’t answer these questions, I’ll have to do it myself.
Final thought: Have fun with what you’re reading. Odds are, the author didn’t think of everything. Since there’s no rule saying you have to take the book as it is, why not re-write, revise, even reinvent?
Do you agree, disagree, or have something you’d like to add? May the comment moderation be ever in your favor!