[Book Review] The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
When a movie comes out that’s based on a book or series and the trailer seems intriguing enough, I like to make sure that I’m up to speed if I’m not already. This was actually a series that for some reason I had heard of but never had the chance to sit down and read—up until recently it’s just been one of those books that’s been on my ever-growing list of books that I plan to read sometime before I kick the bucket. I had forgotten about this trilogy until someone told me to check out the trailer for The Hunger Games on YouTube, making it one of the few movie trailers that I’ve watched on YouTube before I’ve even seen a trailer show in theaters.
This trilogy is a fairly easy read—I don’t think any of the books exceed 300 pages, and the number of pages actually decreased with each installment. The Hunger Games was by far the best, and Mockingjay was all right—I actually kind of have mixed feelings about that one—and I didn’t much care for Catching Fire.
I believe there has been a fair amount of criticism that The Hunger Games is a rip-off of Koushun Takumi’s Battle Royale, which written in 1999, due to their striking similarities. I haven’t read the book—I’m not sure if they have an English translation of it—but if they do, I’d definitely be interested in reading it just to see how similar the two really are. I know the manga version definitely has a lot of similarities though. And for those curious yes, Battle Royale came out first. Although I suppose it could be debatable whether or not Suzanne Collins really did copy anything from Battle Royale. On the one hand, she doesn’t seem like the type that would read a Japanese novel or manga, but then again I’ve been to my fair share of Japanese comic cons to know that the genre isn’t limited to Asian fans.
Anyway, more on that later. Here’s what I thought about each of the books:
1. The Hunger Games - 2008
Entertainment Value: ****
Re-read Factor: *****
OVERALL GRADE: A-
I borrowed this book from a friend, and I definitely had a difficult time putting the first book in this series down. It was pretty engaging and I did find myself invested in the main characters. I didn’t find anyone particularly annoying either, which was good. Out of the three books, this is the only one I would consider buying for my shelf. I probably won’t though, since I tend to only buy books in a series if I intend to purchase the whole series. I know, I have strange habits.
2. Catching Fire – 2009
Entertainment Value: **
Re-read Factor: **
OVERALL GRADE: C+
I read this and the last book in the series at a bookstore. Yes, I am one of those people that likes to treat bookstores like a library. I mean, they are usually more current than libraries and I happen to rifle through books fairly quickly, so bookstores are the only ones that can really keep up with my literature appetite. I will rue the day when digital books make bookstores obsolete. Then there probably will be no way to be sure whether or not a book is worth keeping because I won’t be able to read it all the way through. Sure, they’ll probably allow you to preview the book online, but in a way there’s so many purchase risks with that. What if the ending is horrible? What if the middle drags? What if the book is a part of a series, and it turns out that nothing really happens in it, like Catching Fire? These are all questions that probably couldn’t be answered anymore if everything becomes purely digital (which I imagine will happen eventually whether I like it or not).
Anyway, sorry for going on a bit of a tangent, but for those of you who were wondering what my impressions were of Catching Fire, I found it to be rather disappointing. As I was reading, I was constantly waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever really took off. Perhaps my expectations were too high from the first book, because in that one, I felt like I was swept into a roller coaster ride. There was a point in the book (in or around chapter 19, I think) where I thought the author was going to thrust us in another wild ride, but that turned out to be a ruse and that plot idea just kind of tapered off and ended with a whimper. It ended up just being a strange transition book leading up to the events in Mockingjay. It probably would have made more sense to combine Catching Fire together with one of the other two books, but then again at the same time I guess it kind of made sense that she decided to make that a separate book. Either way, it was definitely a let down for me.
3. Mockingjay – 2010
Entertainment Value: ****
Re-read Factor: ****
OVERALL GRADE: B
This last installment in the series was considerably better than the second book, but not as great as the first. I thought this book was good, but in a different way from my experience with the first one in the series. There were points where I was irritated by Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, but again, perhaps my expectations were too high from the first book in the series. I really loved the last line of the book, though I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me; I can see how some people could read it as a cheesy one-liner. The overall ending though, I will admit, seemed a little too convenient. If you read the series in its entirety, I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.
Now, going back briefly to what I mentioned before about this trilogy being similar to Battle Royale, there are definitely a lot of familiarities. For example, the “games” in Battle Royale are televised, just like they are in The Hunger Games. Students are chosen at random just like the kids are chosen at random from the districts. Students are also given supply packs filled with random items and weapons, the only difference with The Hunger Games is that the district kids need to race for the packs at the start of the game. Both games are also fights to the finish, so to speak, where there can only be one victor. (There are plenty of other similarities between the stories too, for those who care to look into it.) After thinking about it a little while, I do believe I can see why some people think The Hunger Games ripped some of the ideas from Battle Royale. There seem to be a lot of Battle Royale elements with just the slightest tweaks to make it seem like they’re not the same story at all. Again, I’m only speaking from what I’ve read, which is the manga adaptation of it. I’d be interested to see an English translation of the Japanese story to see if the way it’s written is similar as well.
The Hunger Games is definitely less gory than Battle Royale, or at least far less than the manga version, though it may be I’m only thinking that because I can more easily control how wild my imagination gets with words compared to when I look at visuals, since the only way I could control how my brain processes those is just to avoid looking at them altogether. Anyway, on that note, I can’t help but wonder how bloody they’ve made the movie, since it is a PG-13 rating. If it’s anything like the way they shot the “violent” scenes of War Horse (2011), then I’m pretty sure I can handle it with no problem. Although if that is the case, then I am really curious to see how they’re going to make the violent scenes from the book work. (Or maybe it won’t work, who knows.)
Well, I originally had this whole long thing written up in this entry, but somehow when I pressed “publish,” not only did WordPress not publish any of it, it also lost that large chunk of post that I had written. Sigh. Seems today is one of my more unlucky days with this blog.
I’m not sure if I’ll have the the time to write another entry or two for today, but in the meantime, I do want to give a shout out of thanks to the latest subscribers to my blog, and of course lots of love to those who keep up with this blog (especially those that have been, whether you’ve bookmarked or subscribed to the site).
Until next time!