Book Review: Hunger Games

Mockingjay PinAll the kids are reading it, but the popularity of this book has been late arriving when you consider its September 2008 hardcover release. Perhaps The Hunger Games was a victim of those pages of pant wetting, hormone lathering excitement known as Twilight – the best selling book of that year.

Dystopia is the new ‘vampires’ and so freed from the shadow of Bella and Edward, Katniss Everdeen is our sultry, anti-social hero from Panem, a world of fragmented districts. Every year, two young citizens, one male and one female, will represent each of the 12 districts in a fight to the death presented by a charismatic host and aired on televisions across the world. It might be too much credit to suggest that this is a nod and a wink to our X-Factor obsessed culture.

The narrative moves along at a reasonable pace and, although occasionally cheap, there are  plot twists and devices to keep you guessing. There is occasional gory content that probably makes the book less suitable for the target audience, but on the other hand, many children will likely associate with Katniss Everdeen (or the boy from her district, Peeta). Most of the inevitable kills made by Katniss have a convenient moral context to make them more palatable.  And it’s not like most parents bother to check what their children are reading, anyway. Right, kids?

Unfortunately, the book suffers from occasionally weak writing, both stylistically and in terms of sentence structure. Although Katniss is supposed to be a brooding character and the book is written in the first person perspective, there is a lot of internal dialogue of the “woe is me” variety and not much actual dialogue. This is a shame, because some of the exchanges between Katniss and Peeta, further into the book, are quite amusing and the whining can become tiresome. Unless you are a teenager.

Perhaps I just don’t read enough “YA” (young adult) fiction and I’m being picky. Afterall, Stephenie Meyer said “The Hunger Games is amazing”, and with her level of prose, she should know. Sarcasm aside, Stephen King also enjoyed The Hunger Games. But maybe he was back on cocaine.

The occasional jarring sentence wasn’t enough to prevent me from finishing the book and, oddly, I thought the book suffered less in the latter stages. It also should not be enough to stop you from reading it. Based on the fact that this is a young adult book and not a work of literary fiction, I give it 4/5.

[xrr rating=4/5]

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