NATE THE GREAT
After reading Battle Royale last year, I decided that we should compare it to the thing that most readily appears to imitate it. Unfortunately, Fortnite isn’t a book so we’re going with the next best thing: The Hunger Games
I read this when I was a wee lad at the tender age of 22 years. Those were the days. Waking up without back pain of any kind. Uhhh… that’s actually about it. My life is better in every possible way actually. Really I was concerned, after reading Christopher Moore, that this book would turn out to suck and my fond memories of it were because I was young and stupid.
Imagine my surprise when right out of the gate the first chapter sets a solid tone using descriptive wording and fleshes out our main character and the world she inhabits in a captivating and engaging way. From there it only gets better with the first third (roughly) of the book being dedicated to her preparation for the Battle Royale and the remaining two thirds divided into two separate stages of the game. All the while there’s a believable dramatic struggle.
We all know that the majority of the time the protagonist is going to overcome. The drama is how they overcome. This book has an added twist. How is our main character going to get out of a battle royale situation without killing a little girl or the guy who has a crush on her? There can only be one winner and escape isn’t an option! Is our hero going to have to do the unthinkable and butcher these people she adores? I think that’s the added seasoning on an already fantastic… uh… drama stew? I never said I was a good writer.
I’m going to go to the rubric now but I want to quickly touch on one probably-not-controversial thing: the book is better than the movie. Katniss is a character that benefits from an inner monologue. She has a lot of emotions under the surface but she knows that there are cameras always watching her so she has to act contrary to her thoughts and feelings to put on a show. In the book that comes off as stoic. In the movie it comes off as robotic. But this isn’t Words About Movies, this is Words About Books. Here we go:
THE HUNGER GAMES RUBRIC
CONTENT AND IDEAS: 15/20
Going to hazard a guess without looking that Ben will rate this at 11/20 for not being “original” because Battle Royale exists already. Battle Royale did it first, that’s a fair point. We agreed, however, that Battle Royale wasn’t so much a story as it was a way to indulge in the “what if” scenario of you having to fight your high school mates to the death. At no point in this book did I have to wonder who the main character was and who the important players were which is not something I could say for Battle Royale in the early goings. You know what else? I actually cared about these characters, so I’m calling that mission accomplished. The only downside is that this is part of a trilogy so there are a lot of plot threads that are left intentionally undeveloped so that they could be fleshed out in future sequels and the ending, to me, needed a little something more. Katniss herself is done better here than she was in the movie but she’s also an indecisive hormonal teen at the end of the day and so she cannot provide a satisfactory resolution.
I have nothing negative to say I don’t think. It was fast when it needed to be fast and action-y and it was slowed down when it was time to have some introspection and to flesh out the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. I think that relationship needed more fleshing out but that is a more “content and ideas” criticism.
USE OF LANGUAGE 15/20
There was nothing particularly flowery or next-level that would earn this a level 5 score of 20/20. But the word choice is evocative of the environment, the characters’ struggles, and their many set-backs. I call it a solid effort.
PERSONAL PREFERENCE 20/20
I was pleasantly surprised this was about as good as I remember. A really solid book and a good way to start a new year.
RECOMMENDATION STRENGTH 15/20
I think this falls under Young Adult? That’s how I’m scoring this for the “genre fan”. I think young adult readers will get something out of this book’s mixture of action and romance (and the obvious love-triangle that’s developing). For the general audience I would say this book can be weakly recommended to them without fear. I don’t think it quite escapes the bound of the genre but I think the book is well enough put together that a good chunk of non-genre fans can get something out of it.