Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In which I review, compare and contrast The Hunger Games and City of Bones, and probably give away major plot points

I am a reader. I devour books, and by "devour" I mean I can get through a 500 page book in a matter of hours. If it's good, I mean. If it's not, why would I do that to myself?

My (literary) drug of choice is mostly Young Adult Lit, and usually I explain this by saying that it's cleaner than adult fiction while also being more creative. This holds true when you look even more closely at my library history and see how much fantasy/ science fiction I read.

Recently I read two new series based on the gushing by various Twitterers I follow. The first was The Hunger Games and its sequel Catching Fire.

I borrowed The Hunger Games from the library, then, out of sheer desperation (and the fact that to borrow Catching Fire, I would have to wait for the forty-four library patrons ahead of me to read and finish it), I bought Catching Fire.

I don't buy books. It's a waste of money and shelf space. I only buy books that I plan on rereading or want to have in my collection or that I'd like to have available to my family in the years to come. Actually, the handful of times that I've bought a book without reading it first can probably be counted on one hand, and at least half of those fingers turned out to be horrible books that I quickly donated to the library or Goodwill, probably with an exclamation similar to "Yuck! Get it out of my house!"

However, with Catching Fire, I was desperate. I needed to know what was going to happen next, and I reeeeeeally didn't want to wait three months to do so. I justified the purchase by telling myself that if the book was not worth keeping (and buying The Hunger Games to keep it company), I would donate it. No biggie.

Oh, it was worth it; I've since purchased The Hunger Games, and I'm dying to preorder Mockingjay (out in August). *Fingers crossed that it won't suck*

The second series -- The Mortal Instruments -- has three books released: City of Bones (book 1), City of Ashes (book 2), and City of Glass (book 3), and I hear rumors that there will be a fourth. I will not be buying these books.

It's been driving me crazy: why I liked The Hunger Games and Catching Fire enough to buy them but not The Mortal Instruments books. They were both entertaining, both action-packed, both sort of romantic and sort of strong girl protagonists. So what's the difference?

For one, though The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian society amid governmental interference and wildly unrealistic genetic experimentation, it's believable. You can believe that Katniss lives in this world. You believe that she's hardened by her life despite the fact she's sixteen, and you believe she will kill whomever she must to survive... if she has to. You believe Peeta is good, mostly because we also see that he too will do what he must to survive; his goodness is tempered with humanity.

It's taken me at least a week of mulling to realize that Clary and Jace of The Mortal Instruments bugged me because they're caricatures. I have no trouble diving into a premise of super demon killers, et cetera; that's not the problem. It's the fact that they're melodramatic. Dramatic I can swallow. Fantastical I can swallow. Melodramatic makes me cringe and gag.

Okay, so the character's bugged me. I read many books and even enjoy some with annoying characters. However, it's more difficult to get past the annoying characters when I see the first plot twist halfway through the first book and the second twist at least a chapter before I was meant to, and a third twist (meant for the 3rd book) somewhere in the 2nd book. That's annoying.

Also, you can't have a story about tragic lovers without something to keep them apart. Usually, that something is some kind of immature communication breakdown. For Clary and Jace, it's incest.

Give me a minute to get around the skeeviness the very idea of this still gives me.

Okay, I'm good.

How in the world am I supposed to feel sympathetic toward the star-crossed lovers? How in the name of all that's holy am I supposed to root for them? Because that's what you're supposed to do. Even if it ends tragically (hello, Romeo & Juliet), I'm supposed to want them to triumph! And I didn't. I was torn. She loves him; he loves her. But, ew. Ugh. No.

Now, having complained and ranted, I will say that the books are absolutely readable. You have a weekend and need a good demon-fighting trilogy to occupy yourself? Definitely borrow them from the library. I will even attest that you will not ultimately be skeeved out. But remember that I warned you about the melodrama and (at this moment) about the point of view jumping randomly from primary characters to secondary characters for no foreseeable reason, or the fact that there are scenes that will seem out of character and make you not trust what you're reading. It's okay. Go with it. It's only fiction.

On the other hand, I definitely recommend The Hunger Games books. They're not literary masterpieces, but the books are solid YA reading. I, for one, cannot wait to see where Mockingjay is going to take us.


  1. You know, I felt disconnected from the characters in the Sarah Dessen book you lent me enough to not bother reading the second.

    Also I would like to add that while I will not be reading the second set of books based on your analysis, but I still want to read that other book Bryan has. I'm headed to the library so if I can remember the name of it before I get there perhaps I'll check it out.

  2. I love The Hunger Games series. I havent read The Immortal Instruments series, and I don't plan to. most of the reviews I've gotten for it just arent that great. I also love YA Fiction because its cleaner then Adult Fiction. And its much more fun to read, in my opinion. Thank you for the compare and contrast. You have further cemented my not wanting to read City of Melodrama....isn't that what its called? ;)

  3. On second thought, I won't be reading The Mortal Instruments Series either. I'm sure The Immortal Instruments Series would be way better...if it existed. haha my bad.