The Hunger Games, nor will I be the last. I always feel a little silly reviewing books that have already gotten so much hype in blogosphere. Really, what can I add that hasn't already been said?
So I am going to skip plot summaries for both The Hunger Games and its sequel Catching Fire because... well, mainly because I'm feeling pretty lazy, and anyway, I'm sure you've all heard/read them before.
When I first started reading The Hunger Games, I was immediately reminded of Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery." I think if you've read both, you probably caught this, too. I was so much reminded of it, in fact, that I thought maybe Suzanne Collins was doing some sort of writing exercise, taking another author's idea and twisting it and changing it and morphing it into your own. The Hunger Games starts off with such a deliciously disturbing atmosphere. Something is wrong, but you can't quite put your finger on it. And then, BAM! All of a sudden, you are hit with all that is wrong and it just keeps growing throughout the entire book. I could not put The Hunger Games down. I read it in a day and then immediately demanded that my friend who lent me the book meet me ASAP so that I could get the sequel from her.
Catching Fire came out about a year after The Hunger Games did, so for people who did not read the one book immediately after the other, it probably was better. However, coming immediately after The Hunger Games, Catching Fire failed to er, catch fire for me (sorry- pun TOTALLY intended). Much of the first hundred pages sounded more like a summary than a story. After the intense first-person narrative of The Hunger Games, this was really disappointing. I also thought there was a lot of stuff rehashed in Catching Fire that was already done in The Hunger Games, and that was kind of upsetting, too. I must say, in reading Catching Fire, I was reading it to finish it, not in a grip of excitement to find out what happened next.
Mostly, this disappointment was due to the famed "love triangle." I don't know if one can even call it a love triangle as one side (Gale) has nearly no role in either book. He shows up, says a few words, and then Katniss dissolves into memories of him, but the poor guy can't make much of an impression on his audience, especially when The Other Man (Peeta) is front and center ALL THE TIME. But somehow, he's still a side in this love triangle, with Katniss, the girl who doesn't want to get married or be in love but somehow manages to have two highly attractive men fall in love with her, in the middle. This sort of plot device always annoys me, and I get even more annoyed when I feel it is being unnecessarily strung out over three books. Katniss went from being a decisive, quick-acting and practical character in the first book to being a very emotional and, dare I say it, whiny teenager in the second. In the first book, she seemed much older than her 16 years. In the second book, she definitely hit the delayed puberty drama.
And I feel bad for giving the love triangle so much real estate in this quasi-review because it's so clearly not the point of the series (at least, I hope it's not). There is so much else here. Self-determination. Choice. Pride. Absolute power. Rebellion. Political machinations. Censorship. Groupthink. Reality TV. And all wrapped up in a fast-paced, action-packed package. I don't read many books set in a dystopia, but these held my interest (except for the boy drama of Catching Fire), and I definitely plan to continue with the series.