I recently finished reading the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy, and then I saw the film version last night. The trailers made the movie look amazing, and several people had recommended the book to me, so I decided to check it out. I read the book first because typically the book is better, and–at least for me–seeing the movie first ruins the reading experience. With this one, I wish I had just skipped the book altogether.
I can’t hate on The Hunger Games too much: To be fair, it was a wonderful concept that suits the current trend of post-apocalyptic tales (Walking Dead, anybody?). The story has strong conflict, interesting themes, and the books are short, so it’s a quick read. However, I’m going to say it: Sorry, Suzanne Collins fans, but I hate her writing.
Here are the things I don’t like about Suzanne Collins’ writing style inThe Hunger Games:
- The first-person narration in present tense is distracting. When I read a story written in first-person point of view, I picture that the person is either writing the story or telling the story after it has already happened. With past tense, this makes sense. However, the character Katniss tells the story in present tense, so I imagine that she’s telling me the story as it’s happening (i.e. while she’s sneaking around to hunt or hide from people who are trying to kill her, she’s also blabbing out her story). If I had been Collins’ editor, I would have told her to keep the present tense for intensity of action, but have a third-person omniscient narrator who could go into Katniss’ head.
- There was little or no foreshadowing. Katniss would have a flashback that explained something about the world of Panem that Collins created, and immediately afterwards it would jump right back into the present tie-in. A good example of this is the explanation that Katniss gave for the “tracker jackers” which were deadly mutant bees, or “muttations” [sic] as they were referred to in the story. Instead of halting the action to explain it right then, Collins could have foreshadowed earlier by having Gale and Katniss take a wide path on their way to the lake to avoid a tracker jacker nest, providing explanation at a point when the building plot allowed for it. It would essentially be Chekhov’s gun.
- This one actually really pissed me off: Collins used the names of brilliant historical Romans on throwaway characters. I admire many great writers, thinkers, and poets from the Roman Empire, having studied much of their work in depth. Her lack of research was a slap in the face when some effort could have added depth to the novel as a work of literature. J.K. Rowling thought carefully about the names of many of her characters, so that each name had a profound significance. I understand that Collins was trying to invoke the corruption of the Romans and their gladiatorial games in comparison to Capitol, but she should have matched villains’ names with infamous villains and fools’ names with notorious fools. Rome had plenty of villains and fools whose names would have invoked a response from the educated.
- Finally, the word choices were overly simple and devoid of poetry. I did not have to pick up my dictionary once, nor did I pause to appreciate any clever word usages, which I found disappointing. Although Hemingway wrote simply, he still wrote creatively, and the depth of his writing was often in what he left unwritten. Unfortunately, in The Hunger Games it was all simplicity with none of the subtlety.
But enough about the book. The movie was a completely different experience for me. The acting was superb, the special effects were superb, and the action was superb. What’s best is that the medium of film and the necessary cuts of screenwriting trimmed out most of the things I hated about the book, which left only what was effective from the book: the plot, the characters, and the setting. Even the teen romance was toned down a bit, which I found refreshing. Discrete cinematography implied violence without necessitating excessive gore. Finally, the film’s withdrawal from Katniss’ point of view to to portray the gamemakers and politicians behind the scenes also smoothed out confusing parts of the story, demonstrating why the book should not have been written with a first person narrator.
For the movie, I was expecting a visually stimulating, action-packed film, and I was very pleased. On the other hand, with the book, I was expecting high-quality contemporary literature, and I was bitterly disappointed. I find it really disappointing that books like The Hunger Games andTwilight are where popular literature is headed nowadays. I don’t want my kids to read that sh*t as an example of what a good book is! But sadly, I’ve already heard of students being assigned to read both of those books in school. I guess time will tell.
I don’t doubt I’ve ruffled some feathers with this one. I didn’t really care for the books. I’ll probably finish the series because I don’t want to wait two more years to see what happens next, and they’re pretty quick reads. Feel free to leave me a comment about how much you liked the books and let me know that I can go f*ck myself. (Or if you have a degree in literature, you might actually agree with me. It’s not like a degree in literature is good for much else besides hating on lame books.)