I am a great lover of books. I get it from my dad who since I can remember has always got two or three books, if not more, that he is reading at any one time. I love getting lost in my imagination. It runs away with me until I realise I’m on the last page and wonder where I’ll find my next adventure. It’s addictive. I always find myself wanting more.
My dad bought me my first book when I was about thirteen, Charlie Big Potato by Phil Robinson (About love, drugs, and the struggle of life; things I knew nothing about and in all honesty was probably too young to read. But I was cunning and somehow managed to convince by dad to buy it anyway). I’ve only read it the once and can barely remember it now, but it made an impression. And it was from this book I developed my thirst for books, for knowledge, and for hours at a time locked inside my vivid and growing imagination. I owe a lot to Charlie Big Potato; which along with countless other books I’ve acquired since then, have stayed with me, moving homes and in transition squished on my rapidly swelling bookshelf. I have read so many great books since and discovered some incredible authors. Often while my head is in one book I’m looking for what to read next. I rarely finish a book without knowing exactly what I’ll go onto.
However, of late I’ve struggles to find a book I could really get into. That is until now! There was a point when I just couldn’t stop reading. From early last year, at every chance I got before and after work, in the gym (it’s a welcomed distraction on the stationary bike which defeats me every time.), and on the train or bus; when I had a free moment I would read. I had so many books I wanted to get through, ploughing through them just to get to the next one. It was my “Beatnik” phase, reading everything from Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, and William Burrows. I was completely drawn in. Kerouac has become one of my favourite writers, falling in love with his stories detailing life on the road, filled with drugs, sex, and the search for “It”. They are profound pieces of literature and some of my favourite books to date. It’s hard finding something to read after that. I’ve scanned the shelves of Waterstones bookstore many times and I’ve bought several books since; which have been left unopened (apart from Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea; a beautifully written book but with a story that held no interest with me. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day).
But then came The Hunger Games…..
I had never heard of The Hunger Games Trilogy until I saw a trailer for the film adaptation in work a few months back. (I work in a cinema.)
It caught my eye and quickly got my attention with a cast of actors I’m particularly fond of and the trailer was pretty exciting. I researched it a little and realised it was of a similar thread to Battle Royal and the Running Man which left me with doubts because both of these films are favourites of mine so how could anything compare. But after reading some reviews (Stephen King won me over with his comments describing it as addictive and comparing it to an arcade game “you know it’s not real, but you keep plugging in quarters anyway”) decided to give them a go.
The books arrived in my post box two days ago and eager and excited to read them I finished the first book in one sitting. (It took me a while though. I started reading in the afternoon and didn’t finish till after 3am.) It sunk its hooks into me and I was powerless to the end. That’s not to say the book wasn’t without its faults, there were a few things I didn’t like. But I’ll get to those later.
The story centres round Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl from District Twelve whose entered into the ‘Hunger Games’ ran by The Capitol. Its set sometime in the future in what was once North America, but after wars and uncontrollable chaos there is barely anything left. All that remains are twelve districts that together make up Panem. Each year two people from each district, one boy and one girl between the ages twelve and eighteen are picked from a draw and entered into the Hunger Games where they must fight to the death in an unmarked location ( In book one this is a vast forest area). The ‘games’ take over a couple of weeks and are viewed by everyone in Panem. All for public entertainment and to show that The Capitol is in control.
There are obvious similarities between The Hunger Games, Battle Royal and The Running Man but they are nothing alike. These books are aimed at a far younger audience and that is clear in Suzanne Collins writing. And this was my first problem with the book. Although it has adult themes (murder being the most prominent) they are handled in a way where most of the action Katniss isn’t involved with takes place out of sight. It’s written in ‘the now’ and in ‘first person’ so anything she doesn’t see, we don’t either. Of all the deaths and violence we see less than a handful. And I’m going to sound blood thirsty here but I would have empathized with her far more and felt a greater sense of threat and excitement had she been more involved in the action giving her a greater challenge. Instead I found myself wanting to know what was happening with the other tributes. (Tributes being the people entered into the games.) But then I’m not the teenage girl Collins is aiming at.
However Katniss is a relatable and easily liked character. She’s independent, strong and deeply layered so I enjoyed following her and watching as she unravelled which is why I couldn’t put the book down. She has a great back story and some really juicy relationships which although they weren’t explored a great deal in this book, I hope they will be in the next. One relationship I found cliché and a little ‘samey’ was the standard teen love triangle which I was quite disappointing by. I wont spoil it or the story as they’re still in the early stages but It seemed a little forced, acting as a motive that gave the climactic but still disappointing end (of the first book anyway.) I’m not a great fan of female authors. (Please done hurt me!) I find their writing soppy and overly romanticized (in most cases anyway) and I find myself feeling nauseous over how sickly sweet they are. But that’s just me. Personally I think certain characters should have died when they didn’t. It just seemed like a bit of a cop-out but then these things could be integral to the rest of the Trilogy; and hopefully it will turn around. We shall see. One relationship I do love though is between Katniss and Gale. But their time together is so brief in the first book which is why I’m so excited to read the second instalment Catching Fire.
A highlight of the book was the incredible locations.
There’s such a stark contrast between the poor, run down districts and the ultra rich, ultra-stylish and wealthy Capitol. And both are incredibly interesting. However another fault would be its lack of detail in The Capitol and I think most of my imagining of the place came from what I saw in the film trailer. But still Collins is a masterful world builder and has created some incredible places which I look forward to revisiting. And where she lacks in location detail she more than makes up for in her descriptions of countless delectable meals which are described in mouth-watering detail. I had to nip for a snack several times during my read and probably gained a few pounds in the process. But honestly it was worth it.
Though I’ve complained a little, the book does have many highlights and redeeming qualities which are why I’m excited to read on. The first book, although part of a trilogy, could be read as a standalone book as the end gets wrapped up neatly enough to feel resolved; but you can see the beginning of a new story and a continuation of earlier storylines that will follow through. So if you find The Hunger Games entertaining and are hooked in like me then you’ll definitely want to keep reading. However I think I’ll take my time with the second and third book. I want to savour the enjoyment before I have to look on to my next adventure.