Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Dave's brother, Michael, the dad to three teen girls, is an avid reader. Every time I've talked to him in the last year, he's asked if I've read The Hunger Games yet.

Then there's my 11-year old daughter, Daney, who's read the whole series -- twice. Not to mention the entire YA community who has devoured these books.

Why did it take me so long? First, I am always reading, always editing: student papers, college admissions essays, research, the San Francisco Chronicle, writing group fabulosity. When I do get to read for fun, and I definitely should do more of it, I tend to go for adult fiction. The next book on my nightstand is Lisa Genova's Left Neglected. So there's all that, plus, I don't love dystopian.

It took me a month to get through The Hunger Games, mostly because, though I was blown away by Suzanne Collins' brilliant, unique premise, I wasn't super invested in Katniss. She was not warm. Callous, even. Superior. And though I told myself this had to do with her survivor's spirit, I didn't care if she lived or died.

Several chapters in, however, I appreciated Collins' integration of huge themes: sociology, war, government control, the confines of poverty. Maslowe's hierarchy drove the characters' actions: safety, survival, food. There was more, too: fusing the Greek Olympic Games with America's obsession of reality TV. Our focus on appearance (the mention of plastic surgery, even), with a deeper theme of Shakespeare's self-sacrifice through poison. Love: Our human strength (and weakness). DNA manipulation.

For me, the book picked up speed in the end. I had bought into Katniss' winning The Games through her care of Rue, a genius complication to the plot.

While I'd hoped to see more dialogue, at least internally, I accepted the plotty narrative, and thought over and over toward the conclusion that Collins is a Big Thinker, that the editor was lucky to find this one-of-a-kind, multifaceted story.

Will I read the other books? Probably not. But I'm glad I (finally) got to this one, and can see how it was an enormous success.

Based on Book One, I asked my daughter: Does Katniss marry Peeta in the end, and together they take down the Games, then have a baby? To keep the depth and twists, Prim must die somewhere, so that Katniss has nothing to lose. And there has to be some revisitation to a song.

Daney giggled at me, which means that at least some of these happen. Where Collins must excel, then, is at the telling of how. I admire and envy her craft.


Catherine Denton said...

Glad you read it! I was late in reading it too. But unlike you, I HAD to know where it went. I finished all three books rather quickly. I will not re-read them. Some things were difficult to get through. But all in all, a good read.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

You are such a writing teacher!! Ha ha ha. At least you finally read it. I still haven't read Twilight. :-)

Bethany Mattingly said...

I was a little late in reading it too, but I really enjoyed book 1.

Jennie Englund said...

Isn't it funny, the subjectiveness of writing. Commercial vs literary, too much plot vs not enough, too much or too little character???

Anonymous said...

wow. everyone's read twilight! P.S: twilight = not good