Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I do approve of science fiction for teenage girls - too much fiction aimed at young women is vapid and self-fulfilling. And I habitually enjoy post-apocalyptic worlds. Also, nothing wrong with a little ultra-violence of the type the kids in this book must engage in. Plus, it's Suzanne Collins, my go-to gal in the children's section - I have yet to meet a kid (boy OR girl) who didn't thank me for introducing them to Ms. Collins's friend Gregor.

So why am I not jumping up and down about The Hunger Games? Let me break it down.

If I think young adult fiction has a mission, and sometimes I think it does, I think it should be to cause young people to question things that have been presented to them - truths (Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean), values (Uglies), government (Little Brother), commerce (So Yesterday), etc. Ok, yeah granted, books can be just fun too. That's fine. But speculative fiction particularly has this opportunity - because the context of the story is so different, the elements of the book's world that are the same as ours stand out in higher relief.

And to make a long sentence short, I don't think The Hunger Games takes that opportunity. There's no one element that is terribly similar to our world. Even the 'reality show' that is the titular Hunger Games is so dissimilar to our reality shows - watching it is mandatory - that it's hard to tell what, if any, comparison Ms. Collins is inviting.

I found the insertion of a little romance to be tedious. It felt like it was jammed in there to make the book more palatable to the teen girls. I'd like to think that not all teenage girls NEED romance for a book to be relevant to their interests.

I thought when the romance became a major part of the Uglies series, that's where it bogged down. God knows if the next Hunger Games books are all about Katniss choosing between Baker Boy and Hunter Guy, I will be disappointed.

I thought the very best parts of the book were the chapters that described Katniss's home town and the capital city. Suzanne Collins does wonderful detail, as we know from Gregor, and her alternate worlds are richly and roundly imagined and full of dirt and vistas and infrastructure.

I am hoping that Katniss takes a tour of all the districts of her world in the next two books, and leaves both those boys behind.

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