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Book Report: The Hunger Games

The last-but-one book Your Humble Blogger read in 2010 was The Hunger Games, the first book of a Big Deal YASF trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I have been hearing such great things about it for so long that I got past skeptical and was back around to eager again. On the other hand, I didn't know somehow that Ms. Collins was also the author of the Gregor the Overlander series, which might have brought me back to skeptical.

Digression: Hunh. I appear to have quite enjoyed the Overlander when I read it. My recollection is that I didn't. I have avoided reading the rest of the books, largely because I didn't like the first one, but it seems I did like the first one. I mean, with some annoyances. I suspect that in memory the annoyances have outweighed the pleasures, but is that a fault of the books, or of my memory? Quite often I find that my recollection of a book's pleasures and annoyances differs widely from what I wrote at the time. One good thing about having written actual blog notes about books, rather than just listing them, is that I do have that note to look back to. On the other hand, I don't know that my immediate response (or my would-have-been-immediate-if-I-weren't-so-bad-at-doing-things-immediately response) is any more accurate than my response after the book has sifted through my brain and ripened into memory. At least I am remembering the right book, so that's all right. End Digression.

I was utterly captivated by The Hunger Games. Y'all know that I'm a fiend for narrative, and the plot of this book moves along like a sonnovabitch. Rattling good plot. And the characters are good, too, although of course most of the minor characters are pretty minor. But I like a deftly drawn minor character that stands out without being either unnecessarily three-dimensional or taking up too much page-turning time. The fox-faced girl, for instance, or the hiding girl. Great, sharp characters, not because they are fully realized but because they are just right for their purpose.

And although there is a certain heavy-handedness to it, the book is smart and sharp-edged. I mean, yes, it's a dystopia with teenagers forced to kill each other until only one remains, which, you know, not the most original idea. But where I was worried it would be pale Battle Royale, it turns out that the book is at its best attacking reality TV. The whole thing is filmed, you see, and everyone is forced to watch it (no, it makes no sense, don't worry about that), but what everybody sees is highly edited. We read some of the ways in which the contestants are aware of their ratings (not exactly ratings, but that's the idea) and the ways in which the show and its outcome is manipulated by the editors and producers. My experience with reality shows is limited, really, to the cooking ones, and I got enough of an education about film and TV that I watched them with some awareness of what was going on. But most teenagers don't get that education, I think, unless they pick it up somewhere. Such as in this book.

I think the main success of this book, for me, is that. And if it gives an unpleasant connotation of violence and fascism to Chopped or Project Runway, well, that's a good thing, too.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,