I was disappointed with “Hunger Games” (2008) by Suzanne Collins because I’d heard it was a great novel. It was entertaining and exciting at some points, but that was it. I felt like it was all surface with no deeper meaning. I don’t think it ever managed to transcend what it was, just a YA novel.
Katniss- Clueless about her looks and the effect she has on boys and men. Doesn’t understand social situations other people’s motivations. Thinks people in the Hob are nice to her because of her dad instead of realizing her own worth.
Peeta- He’s the “perfect” romance novel guy: Sensitive yet strong, loving, but brave and manly.
Gale- Only in the book at the beginning, but he is a presence throughout the novel. It is hard to know whether or not there is something there romantically between him and Katniss. Gale would have been the perfect excuse for Peeta and Kat to not have a relationship, but instead he’s a weird obstacle in a novel where Kat and Peeta’s relationship is the central theme of the novel.
The last 3rd of the book needed to be rewritten. I was with it until after Tresh lets Kat go. After that there was never anything that was as exciting as that confrontation at the Cornucopia. Instead it was anti-climaxtic since Thresh’s death, which I felt should have been significant, happened off-screen and the details were never revealed.
The bad guys on a whole were not developed. They were all just district numbers. So you felt nothing when they died and really had little reason to fear them. Tresh seemed to be the main villain. He stayed in this one area and feed himself and grew stronger. And yet no details about what he eat or where he stayed emerged. I think the ending should have been a confrontation with him on his own turf and Peeta and Kat only win by working together.
I loved the part with the poisonous berries. When Kat kept some of the berries in here pack I knew they would be important later, but I never suspected they might end up using them themselves. But the story should have ended with them about to eat. It would have been a great cliffhanger!
Instead we have a slow ending where after the games Kat is worried about saying a wrong thing and being arrested, but the reader in thinking, “how many more pages of this are there?” It was like a 30 page epilogue in which you never really gain any new information or have any major character developments. Yes, Kat doesn’t know if she likes Peeta because she doesn’t know what she has with Gale. We already knew that!
Kat may or may not have grown as a character. Certainly what she went through should have changed her, but it isn’t really clear how her experiences changed her. I don’t think the author ever really challenged her enough. I mean obviously she was put through an adventure, but at no point did I feel like she experienced anything that changed her. For instance, for the 2 times she had to actually kill people she never gives it any thought. Killing seems to be no big deal. She should have had some self-reflection. She should have felt guilty about the killings. She is supposed to be a human being and not a sociopath, right? I figured the only way she would win the games was to realize that even if she didn’t like killing that it was something she was good at, but the simplicity of the story didn’t seem to have any room for any kind of self-reflection.
I wondered what the sequels were about. I saw three possibilities.
1) Kat somehow ends up back in the arena the following year (My thought was Gale’s name gets drawn and she volunteers again hoping the district team rule will be applied again).
2) Kat has to work behind the scenes during a Hunger Game because she is a girl’s sponsor.
3) Kat somehow becomes involved in a military conflict against the Capital.
I looked up the next two books and it seems like 1 and 3 to some degree are going tot happen in the next books.
Peeta knowing how to make himself camouflaged because he knew all about making icing for cakes is like saying he’s an electrician because he made the candles for the cakes.
Hunger Games is fantasy rather than science fiction because no attempt is made to make the world-building in the story make any sense. In this universe California and the areas west of the Rockies are the overlords of the rest of the area that was America because they had nuclear weapons and the rest of the country didn’t. Why didn’t the rest of the country have nuclear weapons?
The movie version of Hunger Games seemed to put the novel on fast forward. The movie was 2 and ½ hours long, but in order to fit everything in the book in that time frame it had to move quickly. This is especially evident at the end of the movie. One of my complaints about the novel was that the ending dragged; well the movie turned that 30-page epilogue into about 5 minutes of screen time. But while the pacing improved that problem it made other problems even worse. For instance, I said that I wished Tresh had had a bigger role in the novel. In the movie he was onscreen for about 30 seconds.
Jennifer Lawrence made a pretty good Katniss, but she seemed too normal. When I read the book I pictured Kat as really socially awkward (like a few steps away from Lisbeth in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”). Peeta also seemed really normal looking; I pictured him as a big bruiser of a guy. The book makes a big point of the fact that since he was a baker’s son he never missed a meal and he’s supposed to be able to throw 100 pound bags of grain. Josh Hutcherson, the guy that plays him looks like he weighs close to 100 pounds. In fact the only casting I liked was Woody Harrelson as Haymitch; he was excellent.
The other major difference in the movie is that there are constantly cuts to the control room of the game and also sometimes you see reaction shots in the Capital and various districts including an all out riot in District 11 when Rue dies. When I read the book I thought the complete isolation from the outside was a weakness of the novel, but after seeing the movie I think it is one of the novel’s strengths. It was better to wonder what was happening then to see weird scenes of Donald Sutherland (as the President) gardening and making vague threats. But I suppose it is the movie’s way of setting up the story for the sequel.
The impossibility of Collin’s universe is only more evident when it starts to be explained. The movie suggests that the game environment is a computer simulation. Dogs are created from nothingness, Tree are created and set on fire instantly. So if nothing is real how are the tributes not all starving to death? How can you gain nutrition from computer-generated wildlife? And wouldn’t those berries at the end of the movie not really be poisonous, the game master could have instantly made them blueberries if he wanted to, right? In the novel as far as the reader knew the trees and everything in the arena were real. Did they uproot trees and move them there or build an arena around a forest? I have no idea. but I do know, that the dogs were cyborgs of some sort. That's what made them terrifying to Kat, that they were partially made from parts of her fallen friends and enemies.