Friday, March 23, 2012 The Hunger Games Review

Okay, so I’m going to attempt this again.

Big drum roll, and. . .

. . . the CUPE convention is done.  I only have a half day of a parliamentary procedure class to get through tomorrow and then I’m on my way home.  Yay!

Now,for The Hunger Games.

I finished the trilogy about 3 weeks ago.  I enjoyed the series, though got through the first two books a lot faster than the third.  This was for two reasons:

1.  the first two books are better
2.  I didn’t have as much time for reading with the third book as I did for the first two

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these books.  Because they’re written for young adults I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Collins, though, writes quickly, clearly and with definite purpose.  And these books aren’t all about girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again, girl lives happily ever after — Collins deviates from that formula just enough to make these books smart, intelligent and gritty.

I found myself really liking and caring about Katniss Everdeen, her friends, and family.  Collins creates a female protagonist who is very real; she’s got definite problems and they don’t just go away because a boy comes along.

The books are incredibly violent and deal with some pretty deep themes, which given the age they’re written for might seem surprising, but, if you stop to think about it, maybe not so much.

After all, Collins’ audience is one that watches movies like Saw, Hostel and the like, and that also plays some of the most violent and gruesome video games ever made.  These kids have been raised on this kind of material.  What Collins does do, though, is provide a backdrop of psychological terror and consequence that the characters in her stories must suffer as a result of the world they inhabit. It’s not just about who is stronger, and characters don’t get the living shit kicked out of them and then stand up victorious with barely a scratch to show.  And I think this is the real genius of her tale.

Katniss’ world is one of horror and hardship, but it’s a world she’s used to; she’s not looking for a knight in shining armour to come along and make it all better for her.  Despite her many problems, all she’s had to endure and all the horror that awaits her after winning the Hunger Games, Katniss survives because she thinks for herself.  Collins gives us a young female character who is fiercely independent, flawed and resourceful.  She is often wracked with self-doubt, as most girls that age are, but she never gives up on herself.

I hope that girls everywhere get that message.  The world is a messy place and you better be prepared to handle it on your own terms.  Bad things happen, but you can rise above them — and you don’t need anyone to hold your hand while you do.  No one makes it out of life without scars, it’s how you wear those scars that determines who you are.

Now for the nitty-gritty about the books themselves.  The first two were an incredibly fast read.  Book three, not so much.  It felt, as it does with most trilogies, not including The Lord of the Rings, that by the third book Collins was beginning to run out of steam.  It seemed rushed, like she just wanted the story to be over.  She does a credible job of ending it all, without the usual trite, happily ever after baloney, but I found it left me feeling a little flat.

Because these books were written specifically for a younger audience I often found myself frustrated by the lack of depth regarding secondary characters.  I found this especially troubling when it came to President Snow.  I wanted more — more history, more detail, more reaction.  It often felt like Collins took an ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ approach to her characters.  Still, in all, the books captured my imagination, and not once did I ever think ‘oh, get on with it, will you!’

Was I sad when they were finished?  No.  Did I wish they hadn’t ended?  No.  Did I find myself entertaining thoughts of a fourth book?  No.

If I were to use a star rating here’s what it would look like:

Book One, The Hunger Games — 5 stars
Book Two, Catching Fire — 4 stars
Book Three, Mockingjay — 3.5 stars

Monday Afternoon, Family Day in Alberta

Well, it is a gorgeous sunny afternoon here in Bon Accord.  A bit on the cold side, but, really, for February, not so bad.

I had a very nice visit with my sister Jennifer and her family this weekend.  Tried to work my son and his family into the mix, but, alas, it was not possible.  They are a very busy bunch!

As it is right now, I am enjoying the afternoon to myself.  Jenn, Dave and the kids went home this morning, and Tim went out for a ride with his friend Dave.

I finally finished Black House.  What an abysmal disappointment!  The Talisman was such a fantastic book, but this sequel was nothing but a sad mish-mash of nothing.  It took forever to get to the actual story, and then it was treated so tritely it was almost an insult.  Characters were never fully developed, and those I thought crucial to the story were just dropped off the edge of the story as if in to an abyss.  I have never felt so cheated as I have by this book and these two authors, who I count as favorites.  Surely, they didn’t write this book only for the money?  Neither of them needs it, so I can’t imagine why they bothered to waste their time and the reader’s.

As soon as I kicked Black House to the curb, I picked up The Hunger Games.  I have heard much about this book, and now the movie is coming out shortly.  Therefore, I must read it.  And so far, I’ve read four chapters.  It’s a quick read, well-written and engaging.  It’s a familiar theme found  in many futuristic stories, but there is an interesting little twist to it.  I have all three books in the series and think I should be able to get through them all in the next month.

I had set a goal of reading a book a month at the beginning of 2012.  It’s taken a month and half to get through Black House.  If I can read all three of The Hunger Games books, I’ll be ahead of the game!

Something to complain about:  Bruce Springsteen has not released any Canadian dates for his new WORLD tour.  What’s with that.  Are we not part of the world?  I really want to see him in concert again before he decides to retire.  And, as he is 62 years old, I can’t imagine that retirement is too far off.

I just bought two new Bruce albums (new to me)  The Seeger Sessions (absolutely amazing — what I wouldn’t have given to see him perform the concert version of that album in Ireland!)  and Lucky Town.  Lucky Town is an album of works from earlier in his career (a little before the mid-point, I’d say) and has some wonderful, haunting tunes on it.  If you’re a Bruce fan, I recommend checking out both of these albums.  The Seeger Sessions, though, is my immediate favorite — Old Dan Tucker gets me in a great mood on the ride to work these days.

I hope everyone had a terrific Family Day (those of us lucky enough to enjoy such a holiday) — and if you weren’t, well I hope you have a fantastic and stress-free week ahead.

Cheers!