Yep, I am suffering a massive book hangover after my all-weekend reading spree. I still can’t believe that I stayed up all night reading Mockingjay, but it was just too hard to put down. After seeing the movie, I was actually a bit indifferent about reading the books. The movie left me with the impression they were leaving a lot out, but I was only mildly curious to find out what had been cut. I managed about twenty pages or so in the first sitting, but once I picked up The Hunger Games Friday afternoon and sat down to have a good (uninterrupted) read, I found I couldn’t stop.
Since I saw the movie before I read the books, my mental image of what things looked like in the first book was pretty much what I’d already seen. And every time Haymitch spoke up, I heard Woody Harrelson’s voice dripping sarcasm which, frankly, I thought was great. I’m not sure anyone else could have played him better. Same for Donald Sutherland as President Snow – he makes such a good villain!
Read no further if you’ve not already read the books. Spoilers abound.
I loved all the Roman touches – the names, the panem et circenses reference that so aptly describes the Capitol citizens, the Games themselves a nod to the gladiator events of antiquity. I loved the way that the author used a name to denote the punishment of criminals (Avox, without voice). My kids have both read these books, but I doubt that’s the sort of detail they picked up on, since they’re only ten. I also liked that many of the girls’ names were related to plants, though I didn’t realize that rue is actually a plant; it made me think of sadness, and from the moment I knew Rue’s name in the movie, I wondered if she would cause sorrow for Katniss, since that is one definition of the word.
I loved the romance in the story, although it took me a long time to decide who I ultimately wanted Katniss to wind up with. I love romances that grow out of friendship and at first I thought that Gale would be a natural partner for her, since they were such close friends and their relationship seemed to have such an easy rhythm to it. But the more I got to know Peeta (and picturing him as Josh Hutcherson didn’t hurt), the more I wanted them to be together for real, and not just as a ploy to get sponsors or ensure each other’s safety. I loved the way the development of their relationship was illustrated, and by the end of Mockingjay, I was crying over Peeta.
Nope, not ashamed to admit it. Books make me cry. But that’s a good thing, at least sometimes.
The way the book was written was a first for me – I think the only first-person present stories I’ve read are ones a friend of mine used to write. It’s been said before, but I’m inclined to agree: the writing felt much more urgent this way. I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I had to know what was going to happen next, even when it was 4:00 a.m. and I was exhausted and really wanted to just stop and go to sleep. But I couldn’t. I kept reading.
I really identified with Katniss. I could see myself in her – more comfortable alone than with others for whatever reason and struggling to fit in, fighting to survive after one parent dies and the other checks out. Trust has been an issue for me as much as it was for Katniss, and her struggle to accept Peeta without overthinking his motives, how overwhelmed she was by the idea of Gale and Peeta being in love with her, her fight to do the right thing when she’d rather do anything else made her particularly relatable for me.
Things I didn’t like? The end of Prim. That was just unnecessary. I think the number of children blown up would have been enough to influence Katniss on its own, without having her sister among the dead. I suppose the whole scene wouldn’t have had the power it did without Prim in the midst of it, but I still don’t like that they blew her up, especially with Gale’s own technique. I really cried at that.
Okay, so Coin had to make her point somehow, but I never liked Coin in the first place. She reminded me eerily of President Snow, only I pictured her looking something like Edna Mode from The Incredibles. I think it was the voice, you know? And the hair. Definitely the hair.
Overall, I loved the books and now I can’t wait to see Catching Fire, something I’d been ambivalent about seeing prior to my reading spree. If you haven’t already, you should definitely read these books. They are a great example of YA writing that doesn’t talk down to teens. Heck, I felt smart while reading them as I noticed one thing or another (that I should probably have made notes of for my book club meeting next week, but I fail at note-taking while reading most of the time because I get too absorbed in the story. This is a great story to get absorbed in.
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