Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Fricassee

I'll confess. I've been rabidly re-reading Hunger Games and Catching Fire in preparation for Mockingjay's release next week. Yes, I've preordered. No, I've never been a fangirl quite like this before.

Mind you, I am reading more critically this time. Not in a let's-find-out-what's-wrong sense. On the contrary, I'm trying to determine what makes these books WORK SO WELL. Despite the jarring-at-first first person present tense. Despite the fact that--well, let's face it--Katniss isn't exactly lovable. She's fiercely protective of those she loves, which is her redeeming quality. But I'm not sure I'd like to spend an afternoon with her.

Even so, I care about what happens to her. A lot.

So, that's me. What about you? Forget "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" (or, in the case of certain-people-I-know, "Team Cinna"). What do you think makes these books WORK? Why do so many of us care What Happens Next?

Then again, you might be from the what's-the-big-deal-about-hunger-games crowd. In which case, please share why these books DON'T float your boat.

We learn by analyzing the work of others, yes? So have at it!


  1. I wrote a blog post about what makes books obsessive on my blog. Basically, I think it's the concept that hooks readers (and the first page, of course), and then I think the characters make it worth reading. They're all memorable and unique, and we all can relate to them.

    It helps that the writing is excellent, and there's something about it that makes the book hard to put down. One of the reasons that I kept on reading was because I didn't want Peet and/or Katniss to die, but I couldn't think of a way out. I had no idea how they would escape death, or if they would, so the ending was amazing.

  2. I've been avidly re-reading too! I think the books are so good, in part, because everything that happens matters to where the story is heading. As I re-read, I've noticed details that effect the way the end of 'Catching Fire' turns out. I'm amazed at how everything is linked. It's a great story with great writing.

    Of course, my book club just chose Hunger Games for the September read, so chances are I'll be reading Hunger Games for a third time. I normally never re-read books, so a book that does this to me is rare!

  3. Re-reading here, too. And I tried to read them critically this time around to figure out why they work so well. Um, yeah. Just got caught up in the story and the characters yet again.

    I like Katniss a lot. She's got major spunk. She's anti-establishment. She's loyal to a fault. She's fiercely independent. And yet, she's vulnerable in her ignorance of life and relationships.

    If it came to a fight, I'd want her on my side.

    (Team Cinna!)

  4. I think it's the stakes. Nothing creates tension better than high stakes and Katniss's are the highest they can be--she's fighting for her life. Or Peeta's life or Gale's life. Either way, her choices are weighted as heavily as they can be and that makes me unable to put the books down (plus Gale is hot :-P)!

  5. I just recently finished The Hunger Games for the first time and I've just started Catching Fire (no worries, it will be devoured by the time Mockingjay comes out). And I was one of those who hesitated about reading on about a character who was so...hard. But that's what I ended up loving about Katniss. She's who she is and is unapologetic. It's so refreshing to see that in a female MC. And, of course, the tension factor helps.

  6. LOL, I've tried about four times to read THG with a critical eye. Every time, I just get so sucked into the story that I forget to analyze the writing.

    I think it's a combination of the characters, the situation, and the way Collins writes that makes them so successful.

    Her every scene, her every word is necessary to forwarding the plot. It's spare when it needs to be, the violence is so accessible to youths, and her masterful use of 1st person present all help to yank the reader into Katniss's life.

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who has tried to read THG critically and failed, getting sucked into the story.

  7. What makes THE HUNGER GAMES so great? Concept, concept, concept.

    And whether you like her or not, you have to admit that Katniss is one of the most original characters to hit the YA market in years.

  8. I read Hunger Games initially because it's written in first person present, one of my favorite styles in which to write.

    I quickly got caught up in the tough-as-nails Katniss - I can't stand soft female characters (I was a tree-climber myself).

    What really caught me was the concept. Throwing children into a hybrid Survival/Roman games, to the death, was something I'd never encountered. I admire Susan Collins horrifyingly brilliant idea.

  9. I'm currently waiting for my Kindle to arrive in the mail (stupid supply and demand...) so that I can devour the entire trilogy at once. I'm eagerly anticipating it!

    To pass the time, I'm re-reading the entire Harry Potter series while doing the exact same thing: trying to analyze the writing to see why it just works.

  10. Okay, so I was hesitant to read these, mostly because I feared the books would be derivative. The basic idea's been done before, from Battle Royale to Running Man to Deathrace. But, my kids insisted, and I'm so glad they did. She reworks the basic premise enough, and gives it enough believable backstory, to make it fresh and compelling. Then she gives us characters that across the board seem real and worth caring about. I like Katniss precisely because she's for the most part an unlikeable badass. Finally, the plot moves like a freight train, with little if any digressions. We learn about the world of The Hunger Games in passing, without pages of info dump. We have 2 copies reserved, so no one has to wait for more than 1 reader to finish.

  11. Know what you mean about the fan bit.

    Found the Hunger Games in used paperback. Bought the hardback of Catching Fire used. I pre-ordered Mockingjay.

    I'm going to lose my credentials as a cheapskate.

  12. High-stakes fight to the death--between children--that concept has tons of heart-grabbing tension and conflict right there. Add to that a great romantic triangle, strong characters, fast pacing great writing...I think that's why these books are hard, okay impossible, to put down. I like Katniss. I think she has to be tough, even unlikeable, for it to be believable when she wins against all those tough competitors. In fact, I got a tiny bit aggravated at the end of Catching Fire because I thought she was being a little too dumb about what was going on for one so sharp. But that's nitpicking...can't wait to read the next!

  13. I love these books. There are a few pieces of prose throughout I might have done differently or that we could argue about, but who cares? It's a great story well told and that trumps everything. But I do believe Katniss is made more interesting because of her situation. If the book was only Katniss tries to get along in the world of a corrupt government, she wouldn't be as fascinating. But any character, so long as they are not an iredeemable jerk, would be interesting provided they were going to convincingly survive the hunger games. Even though the reader knows he or she will probably never have to compete in such a contest, it's nice to know how to do it just in case:)

  14. I like the Hunger Games series, but I don't love it. It's not on my list of favorite books, and I'm really sure why. I can't pinpoint exactly - I mean, usually Hunger Games is the kind of plot I love to read about, but I was able to put it down in the suspenseful parts easily, and if I hadn't won Mockingjay in a giveaway, I would have no problem waiting a few months to get it at the library.

  15. I actually did a series of posts on why I think these books work so well!

    Hunger Games:
    Catching Fire:

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks about things like that while I read, haha

  16. I'm sorry - I can't get into the Hunger Games. It's not an anti-trend thing. I love trends! It could just be that I'd read too much female POV YA when I picked it up, but I didn't respond to the tone at all. It was just too overwrought for me, to terse, too much. This isn't a criticism at all, because tons of readers and writers that I respect love these books - and I do plan to try again with them - but... I just didn't connect with the MC.

  17. Collins is brilliant. We could all learn from her. :)

    Yes, it's the stakes, but it's also the intriguing characters and how they respond to the stakes. The story is as much character-driven as it is plot-driven, and the balance is woven so well.

    Everyone has and keeps secrets. They all have flaws that cause heartbreak. It's fantastic.

    Katniss's voice, at first, put me off. I put the book down after the first couple of pages. But after I'd thought about it a while, I got back to reading, and I was entirely emotionally invested in KE by chap 3 that I couldn't put it down.

    The books are great for boys, too. My son is as excited to get his hands on Mockingjay as I am.

  18. Katniss is unlovable? Wow, I totally missed that. But maybe its because I'm like Katniss in so many ways. (To not love her would be to not love myself.)

    That's what really made these books great for me. I could identify with Katniss. She's a girl who would do anything for her little sister, who is pretty much completely oblivious to boys, and unapologetic about who she is. She sounds like someone I would be friends with (if she would let me).

    I haven't been excited about a YA book since Abhorsen hit the shelves, and it feels good to be excited about a book in the YA section of the bookstore.

  19. I enjoyed the books, but when I tried to share them with my mom, she tried but gave up. She couldn't get into it--didn't like the idea of the Games, the fact that they would have to kill each other. Well yeah! the Games are supposed to be horrifying, but I guess her point was she didn't want to read about something like that. Not her thing.

    I don't think ANY book beckons to everyone and anybody. There are actually people who (gasp!) don't like or don't want to read Harry Potter. But Suzanne Collins has reached a very big chunk of readership, regardless.