Ali Martell: Straight Up, With a Twist


Confession: I Didn't Love The Hunger Games

But at least my children loved it...

Back in the days when I worked in the education department at a major book publisher (you know the one; the one with all of the flyers), a big part of my job was choosing read-aloud books for our language arts resource for grades K-8. It was less exciting (albeit less time-consuming) to read, read, read all of the picture books when I was working on grades 1 or 2, but became more interesting to me as we moved up in grade and up from picture book to chapter book and then finally to novels. I read some great books all in the name of research. Three years ago, I'm fairly sure, one particular book was passed around our office and read by every single person. It was called The Hunger Games, and it was deemed the right mix for both boys and girls in grade 7. 

My kids were young at the time. 

And then I switched jobs. Three times.

And then there was THE BUZZ. 

And my son wanted to read it. And my daughter wanted to read it. 

And my heart, well, it swelled.

A book that both my son and my daughter wanted to read? It's some sort of literary miracle! They each got a copy of the book—Josh chose the Kobo version, Emily chose the paperback. And it was a race to the finish, as I told them I would take them to see the movie once they were both done. And then something happened? My children started talking to one another. They were discussing the book. They were critiquing. They were asking each other questions. They had both hopped on The Hunger Games 4Eva! love train.

I remembered, though, being just kind of 'meh' about the book. I read it, I enjoyed it. But that was about it. It was a kid's book, after all. And so, with all of the hullabaloo I kept hearing and seeing on various social media outlets, I re-read The Hunger Games, hoping that this time I'd fall head-over-heels obsessed with the book, like EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNOW.

But then, I didn't.

The idea of the book? Fantastic. A new version of Stephen King's Running Man. I thought, "Wow! Intriguing. Make us fall in love with many, many characters even though we *know* that only one can survive! That's new! Exciting!"

And it was most definitely a page-turner. I finished the book in a few hours. I was both pleasantly surprised by Katniss Everdeen, the anti-Bella Swan. She is strong, she is a survivor, she is a warrior. She is no Hermione Granger, of course, but very few are, I realize. Several other characters intrigued me—Peeta, Haymitch, Rue—no matter how ridiculous their names are. I remember thinking how much potential this book had.

So much. 

But then? Nothing.

The writing was poor. I mean, beyond poor. I kind of had to sit on my hands so as not to pull out my red pen. I'm kidding. Mostly. 

The characters were developed, but only somewhat. I wanted, nay, I needed more. I understand that The Hunger Games is a trilogy and that I probably have to read on to get more insight into Katniss and Effie and Peeta and Gale, but I shouldn't have to. Those characters, at least for me, needed the depth in book one. I needed to be emotionally invested full stop into all of them. 

The story was developed, but only somewhat. Yes. Only one person survives. Until, of course, they ever-so-conveniently change the rules on us. (COP OUT). Katniss is thirtsy, she's suffering, she's in pain. Until, of course, parachutes fall out of the sky to save the day. (COP OUT). I feel like Katniss was too lucky. 

And then I remember that it's a book written FOR CHILDREN. And that's why the characters and the story went so undeveloped. But one could argue that Harry Potter, too, was written for children...

I'm still pretty just 'meh' about it, but I think I might really like the movie. Which, interestingly, is exactly what happened with Twilight for me. The books were fairly awful page-turners for me, but the movies sort of left all of the stuff I didn't like back on the pages—sparkly vampires translated much better on the big screen. 

I'm fully hoping that distopian teenages tributes will translate better on the big screen too.

And if they don't, I know a brother and sister team who are going to LOVE it. 

And that makes it 150% worth it.