Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Hunger Games/Nicholas Nickleby Double Review

Hello, wonderful people.

I used to blog here, didn't I?

Sorry for the major disappearance. But I had promised myself NOT to blog until I had finished this review post, so now-- here it is!! Enjoy and welcome back!


Okey-day, folks! Here goes my first attempt at doing a double-review post, with two of the most opposite books ever. :P

Because I'm mashing these up, the reviews will be shorter, and hopefully, more to the point XD

First off: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Let me get one thing straight, before I start: (besides the fact that spoilers are inevitable)

Just because moi enjoyed said book, does not mean moi is recommending it to everybody and their dog. Thus, my thumbs-up to the book is not necessarily me saying, "I approve of this book! All of my friends should read it right now!"

Heh..... yeah. That's definitely not it.

Just so you know. ;)

Okay, NOW we can start.


In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. 

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. 

Collins's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like 'Survivor' and 'American Gladiator.' Book one of a planned trilogy. School Library Journal


It's a book about a televised gladiator arena.... and the participants are kids

If that sounds a little sick and twisted, you're probably right. However, placing it in a post-apocalyptic world makes it a little less..... weird?? Abnormal?? Anyway, it isn't as freaky as it sounds off the top. In fact, it very much feels like a modern gladiator story. Again, if you give it enough thought, it sounds pretty sick and twisted.

I've tried to pinpoint why the book was so hugely popular. My thoughts are these:

1) It's a pretty unique and crazy premise. Who wouldn't want to read something crazy? The premise is, much of the time, what gets people to pick up a book. And I don't think something like this has been seen for awhile, personally. I mean, the big gladiator stories that sell have mainly been in the form of movies, i.e. Gladiator.
The story places the characters in a situation, that I don't think anybody has really been in, and the immediate unspoken question everyone thinks upon hearing the premise, is, "How would one handle the situation? How would one survive?" That was my thought-- it was so insane that I had to read it.

2) It's a very fast read. It's incredibly well paced, and I didn't even notice how fast the pages were turning. Putting it in first person, present tense certainly helped.
 The fact that it was so easy to read, not to mention amusing and action-packed (but not at the same time), would guarantee a wide audience and that a lot of people would pick it up.

If anyone else has a theory, please leave it in a comment! ;)

With the exception of needing a few more commas here and there, I have absolutely nothing to say, critique-wise, about Suzanne Collins' writing. I had read The Underland Chronicles series by her previously, and loved it. 
This was definitely a drastically different story, but I had extreme confidence in Collins' writing and storytelling abilities. The protagonists are strong, the sidekicks hilarious, and the villains just as compelling, even if, for the most part, there really is no good and bad- just survival.

For the record, this is the first book that I've read in first person AND present tense, and it was definitely fun. I personally just got a kick out of reading something that was in present tense. Sorry. It was just... fun. 

However, the book is not for everyone. If you can't even get over the fact that the book is about kids being forced to kill each other, (and I hold nothing against you for being repulsed by that), then don't even pick it up. And if you don't like fighting, blood, and killing, and/or complicated romance, don't pick it up.

But accepting it for what it is, The Hunger Games is a fun, exhilarating, wild ride that keeps you turning the pages faster and faster and faster. Wouldn't exactly say that is has any moral value per se, and the bare bones of the plot are nothing new, but the details and nuances and the unforgettable, distinct characters make The Hunger Games something of it's own. I will admit, hearing the words "empire" and "rebellion" did make send my thoughts right over to Star Wars. Just for a second.

Violence? Yes. It wasn't all that graphic, though. Still not for younger readers, but it's nothing like watching a gore-fest movie. I would definitely not give it to anyone under the age of twelve though, maybe thirteen. Call me picky.

Romance? Yes. It doesn't get disgusting, though. Kisses throughout, however. It gets pretty funny, though, because it's a mostly contrived romance that Katniss and Peeta have to fake for most of the book. Think about it for a second and tell me if faking being madly in love during a fight to the death isn't at least mildly amusing.

Note for the Guys: the story is told from the point of view of a girl, and while it's not awkward on the whole, there is a scene or two concerning Katniss and her outfits and outfit designer that I thought would be mildly awkward for a guy reader. But that was my only objection.

[Click here for a very well-done review of this book by Kate The Parchment Girl]

*** ***
Okay, now, if you're still with me, we're moving on to Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.

(Don't forget-- spoilers are inevitable!)

I originally picked up this book because of the 2002 film, as you probably know, and I was required to read the book before watching the movie. So I read it, and fell in love with it.

Note: the wonderful experience of reading a Dickens' novel is highly enhanced by eating chocolate while reading.

Summary: Young Nicholas and his family enjoy a comfortable life, until 
Nicholas' father dies and the family is left penniless. Nicholas, his sister and mother venture to London to seek help from their Uncle Ralph, but Ralph's only intentions are to separate the family and exploit them. Nicholas is sent to a school run by the cruel, abusive and horrid Wackford Squeers, who is really running a scam. Eventually, Nicholas runs away with a crippled student named Smike, who works there as payment for his "schooling." On their journey back to London they meet up with Vincent Crummles and his acting troupe, befriend Ralph's good-hearted secretary Newman Noggs, and the two set off to reunite the Nickleby family.

Anyone looking for a book that has a broad, and I mean broad, cast of characters, takes place in England and has the most awesome protagonists ever must read Nicholas Nickleby.

It's one of those books that you cannot speed through-- you really have to take your time an absorb every letter to really enjoy it. But boy, Dickens' writing is so amazing, you come out of the story feeling as is you just lived side by side Nicholas in the crowded streets of London, the nasty school in Yorkshire, and among the good-hearted friends and allies that pass through his life. Perhaps, after closing the book, you'll be confused as to why you aren't still breathing Nineteenth-Century air, because Dickens had completely transported you to his world during those 700-something pages.

I watched the making-of the 2002 film adaption, and someone was saying, concerning Dickens and Nicholas Nickleby, "[Dickens will] have the main story going on, and then wander off a little and have a mini adventure, and then come back around and remind us what the story is about, and go on for a little while like that, and then go off and do something else for a bit and then come back, [etc.]"
(Not a direct quote. 'Tis from memory.)

And what the guy said is very true, and I think that that's where a lot of the charm of Nickleby comes from, that it's not on a direct route from point A to point B, but rather that is meanders along like a walk through the countryside, and there's no rush at all, and you can take it all in and enjoy it.

As far as morals go, this book is absolutely great :] It's a classic, duh. And I'm not even going to talk about Dickens' writing. It's beyond words..... which really sounds like an oxymoron. Oh well.

Content: while I would consider this book appropriate for anyone, I will note that there is some violence, a hefty dose of old-fashioned romance, and a *cough* suicide. But it's all done quite artfully, or... is tastefully the right word? At any rate, if the font was bigger I would suggest that my ten-year-old brother read it ;) Unfortunately, the version I have is almost 800 pages and the font is, seriously, smaller than size 8.

To the Potential Reader:

Please, please, please do me a favour and don't skip any part of this book, no matter how tedious it seems. For instance: early on, while waiting for their ride to Yorkshire, Nicholas, Squeers, and a group of people exchange some stories, and it seems like something to skip, because they're just killing time, right? Wrong. Those little short stories are well worth reading. So do me a big fave and don't skip them, alright?

As well, all the little histories of various characters were not written to be skipped ;)

Since I have absolutely nothing against Nicholas Nickleby, my final conclusion is that anyone who loves a heartwarming, rousing comedy should go pick up Nicholas Nickleby as soon as they can. It's a bit of a long read, but it's well, well worth it.

{Question for those who have already read this book: Who was your favorite character and why? Besides Nicholas, I absolutely fell in love with Smike. I was wanting to give him a big, big hug during the whole book. Poor wretch of a thing...}


Jake said...

I've only read two books in first person present: both by Kerry Nietz. Great books, they were.

I'm still not sure if I want to read The Hunger Games. The first book seems good enough, but perhaps I'll wait for your opinion on the rest of the series. :) I thought I heard somewhere that the series goes downhill...and I dislike reading a good first book and terrible sequels.

That's the key with some books; have a lab rat. ;) You're more of the lab mouse though. :|

Pathfinder said...

I've heard a lot of good things about The Hunger Games, but I'm not sure I'm going to read it. (I have an enormous amount of books on my list already)

Welcome back, by the way!

Everyone's Favorite Composer said...

Congratulations! That was very reader-friendly (at least to me). I knew it- I kept asking people at school about Hunger Games, whether it was violent, romantic, etc. and they never replied. They only told me I should read it. I don't think I will. Nicholas Nickleby, on the other hand, has officially made it onto my Summer reading list.

I love first person. There's something very satisfying about it. In fact, I just realized that all the books I've read/am reading lately have been in first person.

Joryn said...

I'm glad you're back!!!

And I thought your double review was very readable :)

I'll definitely have to consider both books...

By the way, I couldn't help but notice that at one point you spelled favor the british way (favour) and it made me smile :)

Lady Greenleaf said...

Smike! It's been a few years since I read Nicholas Nickleby, but I remember loving it. And Smike. Dickens' characters are always fabulous.

Josiphine said...

I'm currently going through 'The Old Curiosity Shop' once I finish that, maybe I'll read Nicholas Nickleby, :D

Georgianna Penn said...

I really need to read Nicholas Nickleby... but I already knew that.

From the few Dicken's novels I've read, you shouldn't really skip anything as it is. His plots have so many links back, hints on what's coming, and explanations. It's awesome.