How was this even a hit? That’s my first thought, as I wrangle with its inelegant prose. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had an unpopular opinion: I hated The Road so much that I left it on the train. The first-person narrative is jarring, since it’s Katniss’s voice, and she uses a language that nobody real would speak. It’s how people in books speak. It’s awful, but somehow I make it through.
Then, some way in, I realise that I am sat on a bus reading this popular teen novel on the Kindle app on my smartphone, and that people are probably looking at me. I have tears streaming down my cheeks.
I am unable to stop. I cry several times on the bus while reading The Hunger Games, and by the last time I don’t even feel ashamed. Yes, it’s crass and unoriginal – Battle Royale with cheese, as the meme goes. Death Race, The Running Man, that one with Michael York. They all tell the same story, about gladiators in some future dystopia torn from their families and made to fight to the death. The granddaddy of them all is Stephen King’s The Long Walk: King loved The Hunger Games.
Katniss will win, and then she’ll take down the system: everybody knows this. It’s just the blunt trauma of manipulation I’m unprepared for: Suzanne Collins could put Steven Spielberg to shame.
There are a few surprises, which I won’t spoil for you, but basically the plot trundles along exactly on cue. It’s a very easy read – as you’d suspect it would be – with complex characters and questionable motives. It’s pretty violent for a “young adult” novel, but it has to be. It’s designed to repulse and incense.
I zip through The Hunger Games in just four sittings, and am actually pleased when it ends on a cliffhanger. I have the next one ready. Not bad for a badly-written book.