Thursday, November 4, 2010

Battle Royale Revisited?

*A Note*
Starting with this entry, all books reviewed will be given a letter grade to make my opinion more clear. Older entries have been graded retroactively.

The Hunger Games Trilogy
by Suzanne Collins
Consisting of: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay

Thanks to a friend loaning me all three of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, I can finally join the rest of the YA-reading world in my frustration with the final book. I am, however, glad that I waited to read the series until it was released in its entirety, as I would not have been able to stand the wait between books. That said, I completed the entire trilogy within several days' time, thanks to a short trip back home for an interview.

For those of you living under a rock, Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a girl chosen to participate in an annual competition where youths aged twelve to eighteen must kill each other for survival. The games, we are told, are used to punish the twelve districts of Panem (a country replacing what remains of the US in the near-future) for an uprising that took place seventy-four years ago. So each year, two teens (a boy and a girl) are drawn at random from each district. People may volunteer to take the place of the randomly chosen, as Katniss volunteers to go, in order to save her twelve year old sister.

The remainder of the first book focuses on the events of the games themselves, and as Katniss is our narrator, we know only what she knows. At times, this can be frustrating, as she spends much of the first few days simply distancing herself from the other competitors. Eventually, she makes a few strategic alliances and wins the game. The two remaining books detail the new uprising in the districts and Katniss's integral role in the revolt against the capital.

As I've already complained, the choice to use Katniss as the narrator is problematic at times, especially in later books, as she is frequently kept in the dark about various plans until they are executed. What makes this choice worse is that Katniss is not a very likable character. She's cold, distant, and self-serving; ideal qualities for someone competing in the games, I suppose, but not for the protagonist of a trilogy.

The writing is rather brusque, which suits our narrator perfectly, but does not often provide adequate detail for my tastes. Some passages become especially muddled in the last book during battle scenes, and the death scenes of several major characters left much to be desired. One would think that after spending three books becoming attached to a character that they would be granted more than a few meager sentences! Additionally, the latter two-thirds of the last book are incredibly rushed; I would have liked a more even pace, though I understand that it may have been intentional, as one does not have time to collect thoughts on the battlefield.

I also really would have liked more information on the history of Panem. We are never told what led to the destruction of the US as we knew it. Why did the capital move to Denver (We are told it's a major city in the Rockies, which leads me to think of the Colorado capital)? Did the religious right finally attempt to secede from the union, ultimately destroying our nation? Or was it terrorism that brought about our demise? I am truly hoping that in the film adaptation, Collins gives us more information on the world she's created.

All in all, I can easily understand why the trilogy is so popular right now. It's a great read with some truly interesting ideas about revolution and society, even if those ideas could have been expanded upon. Go read it before the films are released.

Series Grade: A


  1. Catching Fire is EASILY my very favorite of the three, though I do love the first one too. But man, SO disappointed in Mockingjay. It just... wasn't remotely as good as the first two. My sister apparently really liked it.
    Also Finnick is my favoritest character (um, I'm sure this is a significant reason for Catching Fire's place in my heart), and while I thought the possibility of his death ranked in ninty-percents somewhere, I was devastated when it happened (IN LIKE, HALF A SENTENCE WHAT. I HAD TO REREAD TO MAKE SURE IT HAD HAPPENED.) and then the rest of the book had next to no emotional impact on me because I was still weeping/seething with rage over his death.

    My birthday twin loaned me Battle Royale so I need to read that now. How did you feel the two compared? I only know people who have read one or the other, so when I talk about Hunger Games, I get "OH THAT'S JUST LIKE BATTLE ROYALE" or vice versa.


  2. Heh, I totally know it's you. Follow my blog! And gather your YA reading minions. *shakes fist*

    Finnick was one of my favourite characters, too, so when his death scene was so abrupt, I was kind of annoyed. I guess with how emotionally distant Katniss is portrayed as being, I shouldn't have been that surprised by the lack of detail pertaining to his death, but really! In the entire series, I think Rue is the only character who received a decent death scene.

    As for Battle Royale, I've only seen the film, but there are definitely similarities. The main one, of course, is the death game that teenagers are meant to participate in. However, in BR it's an entire high school class that must fight to the death. And, like Hunger Games, a boy and a girl are the survivors. However, since the classmates all know each other, I think it's a bit more dramatic.