BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Hunger Games

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , , , , , ,
While chatting with friends on Twitter one day, we started discussing Hunger Games and how awesome it is, and how everyone should read it, and next thing I knew I somehow ended up in a book club.  I've never been in one before, but so far it's been pretty delightful.  So I'd like to welcome you guys to my first official Book Hungry: A Twitter Book Club blog entry.  August's book selection, you may ask?

I write young adult fiction.  I consider it my homework to be well-read in the genre (side note: yes, I do indeed assign myself way more fun homework than school ever did).   I was aware that Hunger Games was immensely popular, and yet, I held off on reading it for several reasons.  I knew it was part of a trilogy and that the series finale hadn't been released yet.  Because of some early childhood disillusionment awaiting Melanie Rawn's The Captal's Tower (the wait's going on 14 years now, and yes, book two ended on a cliffhanger), I know it's not a guarantee that the third book in a series will ever actually be written.  But mostly, I'd read the blurb for Hunger Games and it sounded absolutely horrible.  Harry Potter aside, I don't generally trust crowds to pick out the best books, and reading the blurb for Hunger Games was like reading a checklist of everything I find uninteresting.  Dystopias tend to be a touch depressing and bleak, and often feature really whiny characters.  Not to mention I'm really not into Survivor, or reality television (outside of dance shows), or hunting.  Even the cover for the book seems rather stark and militaristic and off-putting.  So I found myself standing in Barnes & Noble one sunny Saturday holding a copy of Hunger Games in one hand and a copy of Shiver in the other.  Both books are popular and well-reviewed, both books I'd been putting off reading for a long time, both were on my homework list.  I finally decided to read the first chapter of each, and whichever was more interesting would be the book I'd buy.  I sighed and started Hunger Games first.

Eighteen chapters later, I looked up and realized I wasn't actually in Panem, but sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble crying my eyes out in public.  And I didn't care.  I couldn't even gather sufficient willpower to go and purchase the book and finish reading it at home.  The ten minutes it would take me to accomplish that would be entirely too long to go without knowing what's going to happen next.  So I finished the book.  Then found a copy of Catching Fire, purchased that, dragged myself home, and read straight through that book too.

These books are fantastic.

I have a theory that Suzanne Collins' background as a screenwriter is what has honed her capacity for economic storytelling, and that that is what enables her to draw such extremely dynamic pictures in very few words.  Her pacing is top-notch.  Her characterization, almost always through action, is impeccable.  It's often through one quick image of a person as seen through the lens of Katniss's point of view, just a gesture a character makes, and you just know who that person is.  That's the sort of thing that's extremely helpful for an actor reading a script, and it's the sort of thing that's extremely delightful to experience as a reader.  I have to give credit, again, to the ridiculously adept world building she does here because I never once felt like Katniss lived in a vacuum.  I was always aware that there were other people with other things going on, things that Katniss had no idea about, but that you can sense even through the tight first-person point of view.  For instance, I have a feeling that certain factions intended to use Katniss as just a symbol for something, and like the mockingjay, she took on a life of her own as a competitor in the 74th Hunger Games.  I think it's important to remember that she is, essentially, still a child, and she got caught up in something extremely complicated.  I'm really curious about what the rebellious adults are up to.  Even though this is young adult fiction, adults are present, they have agendas, and they're complicated and twisted by the world they live in.  Katniss is an extremely visible figure because of her identity as a tribute, but the visible figures are not always where the heart of a rebellion lies.  And as we've seen, you have to be a master of strategy to pull off a win in Panem.  I want to know more about this world and all the players in it.  And I want to spend more time with Katniss, whom I just adore.

Katniss, for me, was simply a delight.  I read tons of romance, and that's usually my favorite thread in a story, but here it was almost a distraction.  Katniss is such a survivor, and most of that is due to the fact that she's extremely pragmatic and very in touch with her common sense.  She's flexible and logical, and yet impulsive and, at times, oblivious to those around her.  At heart, though, she's so grounded and comfortable with who she is and what's important to her that she doesn't really care about offending other people when she knows she's right.  She'll fight for her beliefs with everything she has.  Because when it comes down to it, if she's willing to fight for something, she sees no reason why she shouldn't commit everything to the effort.  When these boys start getting all emotional, she's at times a touch exasperated, and I'm 100% on her side.  I just love her.  I love her protectiveness of her sister, her clearheadedness, her ability to think outside the box, and her determination to survive.  She's just awesome, and such a great guide into this world.  The people around her, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, Rue, Cinna, even Effie, are such great foils to her.  I love them too.  I may be Team Gale as far as the romance goes, which is interesting to me since he's actually not very heavily featured in the book, but Peeta is such a decent person that it's impossible not to like him.  Which is the precise problem that Katniss has with him, of course.  Liking people is not exactly one's best strategy in the arena.  And Katniss is not interested in shooting herself in the foot when it comes to keeping herself alive, but she's a good person, and that can conflict sometimes with acting in one's self-interest.  It took me a bit to warm up to Haymitch, but after a little while I realized that his way of surviving and coping with the cards life dealt him was really the only option he had, and as a man honed by the Hunger Games, he was going to survive.  He's the tragic figure that absolutely refuses to allow you to pity him, and it's fascinating realizing how much he really does have in common with Katniss.

I could seriously go on forever about how much I love these books.  There are so many moments that are well done.  And so many things that made me cry (apparently respect and dignity are triggers for me, which...now I know what will cause me to burst into tears in public, so I guess we all learned something).  And even the covers make sense to me now, and looking at them all in a row, and seeing the progression from dark to light, from symbol to freedom, fills me with hope -- just from looking at freaking pictures of the covers, you guys.  But that's just it, once you get drawn in by all the subtleties that add so much depth to these books you'll wonder why it took you so long to read them in the first place.

So I'll leave you with this: This book is seriously great, and I think you won't regret reading it.  But maybe don't read the synopsis before you start.  Just dig in.  Believe me, it'll save you considerable mental anguish about how much you're not going to enjoy if if you just skip it in the first place.

And I CANNOT WAIT for Mockingjay. :^)  But then, clearly patience was never really my strong suit. (5 more days!!!)

Please feel free to check out the reviews from the other members of the Book Hungry book club below.  And if you're unfamiliar with any of their blogs, know that all these ladies are extremely nice and friendly, and despite the name of our club, none of them are capable of biting you over the internet.

So have any of you read Hunger Games?  What did you guys think?



I haven't yet--like you, I usually have no fondness for dystopian novels. But I have a feeling I'm going to be reading this one. Great review!

your review is gorgeous. your breakdown of katniss is spot on and it makes me love her even more.

and i adore the image of you sitting on the floor in B&N reading and crying and reading. it's actually a great marketing tool did scholastic suggest you do that??!! (hee)

is it august 24th yet?

I am with Abby on this one, you totally nailed Katniss. Excellent job!

Linda: Thanks! Strictly from a writing perspective, you won't regret studying it. From a reader's perspective, it's impossible not to get drawn in. Seriously, just impossible.

Abby: Aww, thanks! I seriously loved your review too. And if Scholastic wants to use me as a plant and provide me with an early copy of Mockingjay, I'm willing to make that sacrifice.

Kelly: Aww, yay! Thanks! Your enthusiasm through this whole process has been so fun, if I haven't mentioned that lately. :)

Great review! Loved your in-depth look at Katniss and what makes her tick, and how you pointed out the effective use of Katniss' limited perspective. Amazing writing job, Collins does. A-may-zing!

Great review! When I was reading the book, I was totally impressed with Suzanne Collins' writing style. Just like you, I felt like I was in Panem and somehow knew Katniss.

Thanks, Cynthia! And yeah, I agree. Super amazing.

Thanks, Celine! I appreciate it. And yeah, it definitely took a few moments at the end of Catching Fire, too, for me to register that I was actually sitting in my bedroom, that's for sure. Suzanne Collins's style is so immersing. Is Mockingjay out yet?? ;)

You poor thing, being left to wait on a series ending for so long. How sad! But what a sweet picture of you, devouring Hunger Games on the floor of a Barnes and Noble, sobbing. Ok, the sobbing part is sad, but yay for awesome books! I can't wait for Mockingjay either.

GREAT review Elizabeth! (ahem, sorry it took me soooo long to comment...ahem, vacation and all) And, that sucks that youve had to wait more than 14 years for a book...and youre still waiting. I really do feel for you on that :(

Carolina, I know, I'm sure I looked crazy. But it was very worth it. And the employees must have understood completely because no one said a word to me. :)

Karla: Right?? I feel like the least she could do is just put up a blog post explaining the mystery. Because seriously. I really need the answers!

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