The Hunger Games – On Creating an Independent Novel Within a Series

September 19, 2012

Let me first say that I didn’t plan this. On the night before a vacation, I needed a beach book so I grabbed what I thought was the second book in the Hunger Game series. It wasn’t until I’d checked into our condo and pulled out Mockingjay, that I’d realized my mistake, but with no other reading material, I was stuck. So I ended up reading the first, the last, and finally the second book in that order in the Hunger Games series.

So did reading the trilogy out of order matter? I have to say that the gap between the end of the first novel and the last was jarring at first, but after the first chapter I was once again sucked into Katniss’ plight. What was less easy to follow was the emergence of characters that were well-developed in book two (Catching Fire). Ultimately, the gist of the story was not compromised.

Did I need to read Catching Fire to experience the full story?  Nope.  Was I compelled to fill in the gaps?  Nope.  Did I enjoy reading the book even though I knew how the story ended?  Yes. Katniss is a compelling and likeable character.  The unique setting, the high stakes, and her relationship with Peeta are all intriguing.   I had heard numerous complaints about the ending of the second book and I would agree that it does not leave the reader satisfied, but having already read the final book the lackluster ending to  Catching Fire didn’t bother me as much as it might otherwise have.

I’ve heard it said that the storyline in novels in a series should be independent of the other books.  To that end, I believe Suzanne Collins succeeded.


The Hunger Games: A Review

January 3, 2011

I recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and was absolutely floored by it. I would never have picked a dystopian novel on my own, especially one with such a gruesome premise. [The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. made up of twelve districts ruled by a brutal, totalitarian regime. Once a year, each district is forced to send a tribute of its children to participate in the Hunger Games – a nationally-televised fight to the death.]

My daughter has been reading dystopian novels in English class and this was one of the selections. It’s been mentioned several times at writer’s conferences as well; thus, my curiosity was piqued. So I picked it up and started reading.

The novel pulled me in from the first paragraph with the mention of “the reaping.”  As the chapter unfolds, we learn about the Hunger Games and begin to fear for Katniss and Gale, who are at great risk of being chosen for the games. At the end of the first chapter, we discover whose name is picked.  It’s a twist that I didn’t expect and set the stakes very high.  And I was hooked.

The Hunger Games is written in first person present tense.  Using first person brings an immediacy and limited perspective that really adds to the tension. We only know what Katniss knows and discover things as she does.  I thought the use of present tense would be a problem for me, but that too worked given that the narrator is only sixteen.  It fit the teenage protagonist.  

While it does have its gore, the novel was far more hopeful and engaging than I ever expected. And the suspense was incredible. It’s the kind of story you can’t get out of your head. You end up thinking about it long after you close the book.