narfna’s #CBR4 Review #34: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I put off and put off the re-read of this series for as long as I could, but I finally gave in. I picked it up, read the first paragraph, and before I knew it I was accidentally fifty pages in, so I was just like, okay, fuck it: this is my Saturday (and Sunday and Monday for books two and three, as it turns out).
It’s funny how when you’re a a part of an online community how different pop culture can feel, and how things can trend with a certain group of people. Everything feels more personal. The online circles I tend to frequent are full of smart, geeky, enthusiastic wonderful people, and in those circles shit like The Hunger Games – intelligent thrill rides that you can finish off (or rather, that you HAVE to finish off) in a single sitting – tends to flourish. Unfortunately, that also means I have little beyond my own thoughts and experiences to add to the discussion. This book might just be the most reviewed book in this here Cannonball. Plus, with the release of the film, it’s Hunger Games fever out there.
I do have some things to say about reading this book for the second time, which was a much different experience than reading it for the first time. It’s the true test of a good book if it’s still enjoyable the second go-round even though you know what’s going to happen, and the Hunger Games series definitely holds up (I will even venture to say that it was better on re-read for me).
I had some issues with the writing the first time through, but because I’ve now spent so much time with these characters and this story, and I love them now, that was much less important to me this time. This time around it was less about what’s going to happen next and more about watching how this thing sets up the next thing, or how this other thing is paid off later, or how this other other thing reads completely different now that I know how that thing over there turns out. The narrative makes even more sense in retrospect, as does Katniss. Especially after the glut of YA dystopian/romances I’ve subjected myself to since reading this book for the first time, I really appreciate the Katniss of it all. Her particular brand of individual personhood is refreshing. She struggles with her feelings, and she doesn’t act like a typical character in a dystopian romance, bland and non-specific. She is three dimensional and has a definite personality, one that is wonderfully grating at times.
Actually, I think the love triangle gets too much play out here in the real world. This book is not about a love triangle; that’s just a secondary thing. Katniss’s love life is secondary, maybe even tertiary, both to the narrative and to her as a character. Obviously, her fake “love life” put on by the cameras is very much in the foreground, but in those moments we’re inside of Katniss’s head, it’s almost never about love. It’s about survival, and playing the game. Any real feelings she develops for Peeta or discovers about Gale are so muted and confused for her that she can’t even begin to sort them out until all of this is over for good. This is a war story, a story about how greed and spectacle are used to anesthitize the masses and keep the status quo, and sure it’s got love in it, maybe even as driving force, but not the kind of love that makes teenagers ask each other if they’re Team Peeta or Team Gale.
What surprised me the most about re-reading this book is how completely absorbing this story still is, despite having read it before, and despite having just seen the movie. It was just as un-put-downable as the first time I read it, and because I’ve internalized it, the story feels like it’s mine now. So yeah, I’m adding a star to my previous four star rating. I think the book has earned it.