It’s a good thing I didn’t have the entire Hunger Games Trilogy out of the library all at once, because I had other things to get done this weekend and if I had all three books, I would have stayed up all night reading them until I was finished.
This probably surprises you if you’ve been reading here long, because I’m not a huge fan of YA as a genre. Recently, however, I’ve been reading about Suzanne Collins’ books and even saw one literary agent note that The Hunger Games has one of the best first chapters ever.
“Ha,” I thought, “Yeah right.” I’ve read a lot of first chapters. But I try to keep an open mind so I checked the book out with the express purpose of only reading the first chapter.
Two hours later naptime was over, so I let the kids watch a Veggie Tales DVD (usually they are only allowed one DVD per week, and they had already had a DVD that week, and yes, they thought they had won the lottery) so I could keep reading and then I read the final 12 pages while Josh drove us to the kids’ soccer awards ceremony.
So yeah, kind of a compelling first chapter. 🙂 The entire premise and plot was riveting. That was two hours and forty-five minutes well spent.
Although the book is classified as YA, other than having a main character who is 16 it didn’t have the other characteristics I attribute to that genre (bad prose, annoying Sweet Valley High type slang, writing that feels “easy-to-read,” teenagers in impossibly adult situations, purple use of vampires, etc). Apart from the 16 year old heroine, The Hunger Games could have been non-YA commercial fiction. It’s a little easier to read than literary fiction, but not annoyingly or condescendingly so.
I appreciated that the author depicted the love story part of the book (which is not the main narrative) realistically – most teenagers are not embroiled in epic passions, they are bumbling around being kind of melodramatic about dopey crushes. At least that was my experience (at 16…18…20…) At the same time, Collins doesn’t make the love story seem dumb, which is good since that sort of stuff seems very important when you’re in the middle of it. So I liked how she combined the realistic level of external interaction and impression with a realistic level of internal confusion in the character. Better still, Collins keeps the language clean so you could feel comfortable actually giving this book to younger young adults.
The main strengths of the book are its fascinating premise, a great plot, and unrelenting tension. There is not a whole lot of deep character development or exceptionally gorgeous writing such as you’d expect from literary fiction, but that’s OK. If you are looking for fantastic premise and plot PLUS deep characters and clever writing, try Margaret Atwood or Michael Chabon (The Handmaid’s Tale and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union are good places to start).
At any rate, I greatly enjoyed The Hunger Games and am hoping that the 247 young adults ahead of me in the library hold line for the other two books in the series are quick readers.
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