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The Redhead

Taylor Kowalski, babbling about books.

Currently reading

Until We End
Frankie Brown
The Golden Compass
Philip Pullman
American Gods
Neil Gaiman
Megan
Steven Novak
Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Vintage)
Brian Greene
The Painted Bird
Jerzy Kosiński
Unteachable
Leah Raeder

Golden

Golden - Jessi Kirby I got through about 60% of this book before deciding that I'm simply not interested in reading anymore. It's been a brief, sadly trite journey with Parker, one I don't intend to pursue any farther.

The writing is drab, a characteristic perhaps unfairly emphasized when juxtaposed with Robert Frost's all the damn time. The plot is stale and predictable. The characters' internal and external progression both had me yawning. What's worse, I can't get over the author's damaging implications that one has to reinvent themselves in the light of an SO--Parker with Trevor and Julianna with Orion--or that doing well in school and keeping your future in mind is somehow boring or less important than inane high school compulsions.

Not my favorite book, to say the least.

Quick edit: After skimming other reviews, I decided to power through the rest of the book. Still a tidy, bland book rife with increasingly dull characters.

Throne of Glass

The Assassin and the Princess - Sarah J. Maas What even is this cover:



Whew, good thing she remembered to pluck her eyebrows and get her mascara right before going out murderin'.

(By which I mean to say that, yes, this cover is the one that drew me in:



and I am appalled that any other was considered.)

Until We End

Until We End - Frankie Brown I'm so excited this is out! My interactions with Frankie on the AW forums have been brief but pleasant. I've been aching to read her book for a while now. I'll post a review once I've finished it. :)

Fangirl

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Rainbow Rowell frustrates me. I wanted badly to like her last book, Eleanor & Park. I'd heard nothing but good things, mainly about it being an unconventional romance, a heartbreaking ending, etc.

Unfortunately, for reasons I won't expand upon in this review, E&P didn't work out for me. However, I liked the glimmers of talent in Rowell's writing enough to go and pick up her latest book, Fangirl. Everyone on Goodreads and Tumblr have been communally freaking out over this book, and the adorable cover art looks like a bit of Noelle Stevenson's work, so I thought this would be a fun, light read.

If you don't know, Fangirl is about this girl, Cath, who's a wildly popular fanfiction writer for Rowell's version of Harry Potter, which she calls Simon Snow. She goes to university and has to generally grow up. People are identifying with it and lauding this thing left and right.

I'm afraid I've once again missed out on the hype.

It's consistently frustrating to pick up a book that's supposed to be crazy, wildly popular, and just not enjoy it. It happens to me constantly. It happened with The Hunger Games, with Divergent, with Shadow and Bone, even with Harry Potter. And now Fangirl.


Maybe I'm simply a fickle book reader. Maybe I'm just an elitist who can't enjoy a decent story without picking it apart.

Whatever's wrong with me, here are my beefs with this book.

Plot
I understand that this is a work of literary fiction and that it's fundamentally character-driven. I also understand how tough it is to write a character-driven novel and maintain focus and cohesion; I'm experiencing that right now on one of my WIPs.

However, Fangirl just felt huge and uncertain. There were glimpses of this uncontrolled enormity in E&P, but it's crazy amplified here. A whole lot of stuff happened, but very little of it felt significant. There are several plot threads introduced in this book, and not all of them tied up so neatly. I was pingponged back and forth between Cath's struggles dealing with the terror that is starting university, to Cath's relationship with her writing partner Nick, to Cath's floundering bond with her sister, to Cath's father's wandering mind, to Cath's broken home life, to Cath's growing obsession with Levi, to her utterly boring fanfiction (more on that in a bit). All of that compounded and compounded and made the novel feel increasingly unsure of itself.

I couldn't tell if Fangirl was supposed to be about Cath coming to terms with herself as a writer, a lover, a sister, a daughter, a scholar, a grownup, or what. I'm not saying that she can't have been doing all those things.  Rowell just didn't weave all those elements together succinctly enough that it felt like a natural character transition, like all the upheavals in her life were somehow related and dependent on one another. Instead, it felt like she was just ticking off a checklist of all the Big Character Transitions she wanted to put Cath through. It was jerky, awkward, and boated.

The closest Rowell came to a cohesive organization was by splitting the book into two halves, between fall and spring semesters. While I like the idea of it, I think that more internal structure to the story itself would have helped keep the plot from dragging, because that middle twenty percent was hard to slog through.

But, hey. It's character-driven. Maybe the characters made up for it.

Characterization
...said the optimistic reader, who is unfortunately very incorrect.

The main character of this book, Cath, is one of the most singularly unlikable people I have ever come across. While there's nothing wrong with a book character being unlikable, I found Cath to be a rude, immature, selfish, narrow-minded person. She's irritating as hell.

From the first time she arrives in her dorm, Cath actively turns down invitations to go outside and do anything, then gets all down on herself when her whole floor goes without her. What's more, she actively avoids making friends, only sometimes stopping short of rudeness.

I understand introversion and social anxiety well enough --more than I'd like to, honestly--through personal experience, but it's not like Cath is just reluctant. She's not simply crippled with fear at the thought of trying something new: she's critical of everyone. She and her roommate make a sport of mocking and judging everyone who walks into the dining hall, which makes me wonder what their respective problems are. Even worse, when her buddy Levi tells her he's not really a book person, she replies with "'That might be the most idiotic thing you've ever said to me.'"

As a book reader, I scoffed. I honestly got a bit pissed off at an imaginary person for being such an uppity, conceited brat. That's Cath effectively saying that if you don't like the things she likes, you're obviously just stupid. But wait, it gets better. She maintains that bitchy attitude even after Levi tells her that he has a learning disorder that keeps him from being able to read more than a paragraph or so without losing focus. He loves books, as long as they're read to him. And Cath still considers them to be two different species, still internally criticizes him for not loving reading.

That really bothered me. And that same pompous inferiority complex saturates the rest of the narrative, even when one hits the conclusion, when Cath is supposedly grown up.

Finally, my biggest problem with Cath is her frankly unhealthy obsession with Simon Snow. I get that this is the basis of her entire character, that she's this famous slash-writing internet author who gets thousands of hits a week or whatever. But goddamn, she is so singularly focused. Her bedroom is papered in Simon Snow posters. Most of her clothes are Simon Snow related. She even turns in a university creative writing assignment about Simon fucking Snow characters and gets all bewildered when her professor isn't cool with that plagiarism.

It's immature, and it's boring. Have some varied interests, Cath. For God's sake.

(Spoiler alert: She doesn't get any. Unless you count her boyfriend.)

All of that would be much better if at any point in this book she gets over herself. However, these flaws just become more internalized and subtle as Cath grows throughout this book. She's still being a jerk to everyone she meets, but she's less obvious about it. It's sort of the opposite of character development.

However, I do want to note that Rowell has some intriguing side characters in this book. They're what really kept me reading. I liked Cath's twin sister Wren for the vast majority of the book, until she turned into a giant freshman stereotype. Her father was interesting and weird and deeply empathetic, as was his relationship with her mother. There were a few other characters, like Levi and Cath's roommate Reagan, who were cool, too. Honestly, I would have been happy if literally anyone else narrated this book instead of Cath.

Writing
The writing itself had its high points. There were some awesome descriptions, like when Levi was described as "the smilingest person" Cath had ever seen. I also teared up when Cath recounted her memories with her mother, though I'll remain purposefully vague enough to avoid spoilers. I remember snippets of scenes where I was really caught in the moment, and while those were short lived, I did genuinely enjoy them. They were only about twenty percent of the book, unfortunately.

One thing that did really bother me was how scripted the dialogue felt. I frequently caught myself rolling my eyes, because no one in real life talks the way that Rowell's characters do. It was tough to stay focused and in the story when I kept getting bothered by how every character seems to have a witty comeback for every possible situation. Dialogue like this


"You're so blindingly cute right now, I feel like I need to make a pinhole in a piece of paper just to look at you."


while fun, is everywhere in this book, and it's just not realistic. Nobody talks like that. It all sounds so fake and planned and written. There's no fluidity to it. It's like Rainbow Rowell had Levi say this thing, rather than it reading like something Levi would actually say. And there's a huge difference between those two things.

I think that my biggest problem with this book was that I just couldn't relate to it, particularly on its overarching theme:

Fanfiction
Perhaps I live an unfulfilled life, but, uh, I don't like Harry Potter. I don't dislike it, either, but I got bored with the first book around the Quidditch stuff in elementary school and never went back. I'm told it gets better, but I am uninterested in reading a few hundred thousand words waiting for that to happen.

As such, I've missed this huge pop culture thing that's so stupidly popular with my generation. All the gifs, the slash fanfiction, all the midnight premieres and thematic birthday parties and Lego sets and lifelong devotion to this one thing.

I never got that.

And I honestly still don't get it.

So, if you don't care for fanfiction or fandoms at any level, but HP in particular, you're going to have a really hard time relating to this book. The vast majority of Cath's character lies in her identity as a fanfiction writer, which Rowell spends a long time trying to justify as "real writing." Cath's fiction writing teacher, Professor Piper, represents the traditional writing monolith of people like me who think that, at a certain point, you do need to learn how to make up your own stuff. Fanfiction is excellent writing practice, but inventing your own characters and world to shape and change is even better. It's all a part of maturing in your craft.

If you don't want to do that, whatever. Another topic for another post.

A large portion of this text ended up being devoted to Cath's magnum opus, a slash fanfiction about Simon and Baz (i.e. Harry and Draco, I wager). She reads excerpts of it aloud to Levi. Long, tedious, poorly written excerpts. If you're going to make such a big deal about what a good writer she is, it would be wise to have her excerpts be slightly more than witty, flirty dialogue between the boys and discussing their hair/eye color over and over again.

Honestly, I began to skip all the excerpts around 33% into the book, according to my Kindle. Which wasn't the best, because the ending was an excerpt from something about Simon Snow.

In short, you'll probably like this book if you like contemporary romances and have ever been truly tumblr-mad about a book series. If neither of those things generally appeal to you, I'd advise you to approach with caution. You probably won't enjoy this book too much.

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell This book was definitely not my cup of tea. I didn't care for the writing style, which was carefully, purposefully, inanely immature. Rowell also had an overabundance of eighties pop culture references, like she couldn't go five pages without reminding us that THIS IS SET IN THE EIGHTIES, GUYS.

But, perhaps most importantly, I just didn't care for Eleanor and Park's relationship. I couldn't empathize with it. I can't even fathom knowing someone for only a month or so and then declaring that you live for them, like Eleanor did Park, or that you love them, like Park did Eleanor. Maybe it's because I'm not hyper-romantic, but it's not a relationship dynamic that works for me. You don't go from barely talking to loving one another ten or twenty pages. That's just ridiculous.

I'm a bit bummed. I heard a lot of great things about this book, but it was just kind of boring to me. Even the parts that were supposed to add some depth to the characters--Eleanor's abusive stepfather, Park's racial insecurity and neglectful dad--just didn't do much for me. The home scenes felt a bit contrived, exactly like they were put there to make the plot a little more than awkward handholding and X-Men references.

If you like corny, sugar-sweet romances, however, this might be just your kind of book.

Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk - Neil Gaiman, Skottie Young This book is funny, sweet, and short.

My only complaint is that I wish it were printed a bit bigger. The book is about the size of a gift book, maybe four by six inches. Skottie's illustrations are stunning, but I'd love if they were larger.

Antigonick

Antigonick - Anne Carson, Bianca Stone I honestly don't know what the fuck I just read, but I enjoyed it immensely. I'll reread a few dozen times and write something coherent.

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo I posted my initial thoughts on this book earlier, which can be found here, if you’re interested.

This is a tough book to review. I genuinely did not enjoy the vast majority of it. The only thing that kept me reading was that I spent ten dollars on it and had written in it at one point and surely couldn’t return it now.

Despite that, I might give the next book a shot. Elaboration below.

Plot
If you read the back of the book, you’ll think that this is going to be something with political intrigue and violence and maybe even sex. If you read the inside of the book, you’ll find it’s only one of those things, and even that is falteringly and easily remedied by the Grisha Healers. (So, no. It’s not sex.) You’ll also find that it takes Bardugo 236 pages—maybe 53,000 words, if my math and cross-productin’ are right—to arrive at the blurb’s stakes.

So, what are the first 50,000 words of this book about?

Alina getting pretty and going to school.

Really.

After she makes some glowy stuff with her hands to ward off some freaky shadow monsters, a gang of greedy Grisha haul her away to Os Alta, the Little Palace, to exploit her power. They’re led by the Darkling, who’s smoking hot because of course he is. From there, she spends the next 150 pages getting makeovers, trying on pretty clothes, and going through tedious descriptions of her schooling.

If I’d known I was signing up for the nineteenth century Slavic edition of Gossip Girls, I wouldn’t have read this book.

The ending rushes towards some violent conflict that resolves itself too quickly. This book exists as buildup for the second book, as the only worthwhile thing that happens is in the last quarter of the thing. A better writer could have done twice as much in half the word count. Unfortunately, Shadow and Bone wasn’t written by a better writer; it was written by Leigh Bardugo, and you gotta take what you can get.

Characterization
Alina Starkov. Main character. Blatantly dislikable. She’s a passive aggressive, vapid, weepy, bitchy, and generally selfish human being. What was probably intended as cutesy sass is little more than Alina being a twat.

The secondary characters surrounding her are overwhelmingly flat. There’s the senselessly mean girl, Zoya; the carbon copy Mr. Miyagi, complete with a cheap pseudo-Chinese accent, Botkin; the fairy godmother/guide Genya. We’ve even got a love triangle in the works, one corner occupied by Alina’s childhood best friend Mal and the other by the Mysterious and Steamy Newcomer ™, the Darkling.

The characters are strung together by cheap stereotype after cheap stereotype, shambling around as if some vaguely Russian names are diverse enough to salvage their identities.

Also, 99.99999% of them are beautiful or gorgeous or stunning or whatever. It’s nauseating.

World Building
Much like her plot and characterization, Bardugo’s world building was shallow, her culture middling and vague. It felt like she let the Russian inferences establish her world, rather than doing it herself.

The biggest problem with that is that it’s lazy and cheap writing. Smaller problems arise, however, when she makes some pretty big cultural divergences from traditional Russian history. For example, Bardugo warps several names by breaking the rule that Russian first and last names need to be of the same gender. She has masculine first names with feminine surnames, as with Ilya Morozova, feminine first names with masculine surnames, present in the very narrator’s name, Alina Starkov. She also mentions people getting drunk on kvas all the time. Which would be hard to do, since kvas has a less than 1% alcohol content and is essentially nonalcoholic beer. These small details ruined the credibility of her already thin world building for me.

Another thing that bothered me about this culture is how modern the dialogue and narration sounded. This book is set in a time when guns were only recently introduced for military use. That’s the nineteenth century, more or less. Her Ravka is clearly based on imperialist Russia. However, the dialogue sounds like these people could be from the twenty-first century. It’s hard to believe in a fantasy world set in the past with contemporary diction.

All those qualities squished together made Shadow and Bone more than a little underwhelming. If you like light fantasy, boring characters, and aristocratic drama, here you are.

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys  - Maggie Stiefvater I worry that this will be another Shiver. I'll give it a try regardless.

Teeth

Teeth - Hannah Moskowitz I finished this book moments ago, and my thoughts are a bit incomprehensible.

There's this kind of ache in my stomach, an imperial affliction, as I realize that in the past four hours I've spent on this book, no one else in this house and this winter quiet was as deeply affected as I was, and no one else can or will share in this. It's that kind of the book. It's the kind of book that becomes brands that become all of your insides.

And most of me is raging because I can't make up how I feel about this story. It's mad. It's legend colliding with reality. It's a fairy tale dependent upon and desponded by real life.

Teeth is not the love story that it's marketed as, but rather (as hannah readily confesses to) it's about family and a reckoning one's own self. It's about making mistakes and owning up to them and dashing out romantic unreality from one of the most unreal books I've ever read.

Read this, if only for the juxtaposition, and the consistently gorgeous and gutting (haha fish) writing.

A Study Of Communism

A Study Of Communism - J. Edgar Hoover An interesting book if you consider it a psychoanalysis of Hoover himself, not a far and balanced view of communism.
SPOILER ALERT!

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, Book 1)

The Hunger Games - Suzanne  Collins So I don't read much YA, haven't really since about fifth or sixth grade. It lost my interest. There are some authors I enjoy, like John Green, Maureen Johnson, or Philip Pullman (can we count Neil Gaiman because of The Graveyard Book? I THINK WE CAN), but otherwise, I'm pretty much outside of that literary sphere entirely.

And then I heard about The Hunger Games. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book lately. Praises trumpeting to the skies. The heavens themselves singing the glories of this book.

Wow, I thought. Suzanne Collins must be pretty good.

I picked up the book for a couple bucks at a Scholastic warehouse sale, read it, and was stunned.

How. Do people. Like this?

I'm shocked. Completely, utterly shocked.

The writing is tosh, the characters dull, the action ridiculous, the plot poorly executed, the "romance" horrid, the climax pulled out at the last minute, and rather poorly, too, the whole concept so completely screwed up I couldn't believe it.

And to add insult to injury, I mosey on over to Amazon to read some reviews and find people comparing it to The Lord of the Flies.

EXCUSE YOU?

EXCUSE YOU?!

No. Not now. Not ever.

Right, so, let's be professional about this. A copy-and-pasted summary from the back of the book (I would suggest reading the wall o'text, 'cos, if you don't know the story, you won't know what in the hell I'm talking about):

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

Aw, you might think, reading that summary, that sounds like a multi-faceted, heartbreaking work of staggering genius (reference noticed? Yeah?) that I am really going to enjoy. What a stunning display of the true depths of humanity.

Ah hah. Ha ha. Hah hah hah.

Maybe I was expecting too much. 747 5-star reviews on Amazon at the writing of this, another 180 that were 4-star. Only 71 3- to 1-star reviews. Mm. Definitely in the minority there.

Let's get into this.

I did not enjoy this book, as I've said.

And here's why.

The Writing.
The writing was less than enthralling. I'm not looking for Dickens here, but Lordie. Keep my attention. There are some strong moments. The first couple of pages? Yeah, I wanted to keep reading. Right when the Games started, too. Collins hit a stride here and there in the book, a stride that was so genuinely Katniss that it kept me in the story.

Don't ask me about what happened with the rest of the story, though.

The present tense was tedious, Gale's dialogue ridiculous and unrealistic (no one tirades like that, especially not an eighteen year old man raised in such a tough life), an overabundance of rhetorical questions that were beyond obnoxious riddling Katniss' narration. It was a weak voice that felt weak, like Collins wasn't going as far as she could. Like she was just as bored with some bits as I was.

This whole book read as a middle-aged woman trying to write as a teenager, and not very well either.

Also, Collins chickened out. Where is my violence? Where's my gore? Where's the pure emotion and intensity of these Games? 'Cos, frankly, man, I wasn't feeling it. It was all tell-tell-tell, all through the book, but at the Games especially. There is a particular point in the Games, right at the start, when all 24 of the competitors entered the arena and an enormous golden Cornucopia is out there. Katniss constantly refers to it as a coming "bloodbath," even after the fact.

Bloodbath, you guys. You didn't see it, but it was intense. Too bad you missed it.

The fact is, it's lazy writing. This first person narration, the evasion of action sequences, it came across as Collins not wanting to write the hard bits. We're told how horrid those Games are the entire 147 page build-up to them, and it just deflates. Katniss, our narrator and protagonist, is thirsty. She's hungry. She's lost in unfamiliar terrain. She's tired. People are trying to kill her.

Oh, boo hoo.

I don't care. There is a complete lack of emotion and intensity in this book that all possible impact is lost. All the possibilities mentally from the pure terror associated with these Games, the constant fear of what was around the next bend, what was waiting behind a bush or tree to dash your life out, the suspense, the relief, the thrill over the smallest thing, was gone. Every little opportunity to connect the reader to the text, the characters, the world, was missed. I never felt more disconnected from such a politically vivid world.

The closest I got to feeling something, anything, was when Katniss was still back in her home district, District 12. There was some genuine emotion there, when she took her sister What'sherface (ahaha I can't remember her name) AHH Primrose that's it. If that tells you how little an impression these characters make. Couldn't even remember this kid's name. Anyway, when Katniss takes Primrose's place in the Games, there was some emotion there. Some feeling.

Don't ask me what happened to it.

After that, it was all very disconnected. Didn't care. All possible effects of this book were lost.

Let's talk for a bit about the point of view it was written it, shall we?

First person narration is such a hit and miss. If you've got a little Holden Caulfield on your hands, with such a stark voice that you can't help but love it, then I love you. I love you, and I probably love your story. If you've got Generic Narrator #6932, wow I don't want to read your story. I might still love you, but that depends on who you are.

In this book, it definitely did not work. Not only did Katniss not have a voice, but it was just a logistically bad choice on Collins' part. God, man, I didn't want to be stuck with this kid the whole time, not with the pure scope of this story! I missed so much. It was like being shown this whole feast and just being given the grubby little fish sticks that your Aunt Edna brought. You've got twelve districts, the entire capital, at your fingertips, and you choose first friggin' person? Are you insane? I wanted to be at the campfire of the Careers, the players who had been training their whole lives for the Games. I wanted to watch the silent District 4 member Thresh work. I wanted to see the stupid bloodbath at the Cornucopia, for God's sake.

I felt ripped off, gypped. It was like Collins weaseled out and said, "Mm, you know, nvm, you just get Katniss here." And Katniss said, "But I'm boring. ):"

AND SHE IS.

But that's not what we're talking about at this point.

So, the writing of The Hunger Games? Not totally horrid, but not exactly good. Two out of five stars.

The Plot.
Dude. That was just cool. It was a fantastic idea.

Less than well executed.

The "love triangle" felt rather shoved in, linking back to the crummy writing thing. I'm pretty sure that Katniss didn't love Peeta OR Gail. Well, you wouldn't get that from the actual story, anyway. It's pretty convenient that Collins went out of her way to tell us that Katniss loved the kid, right? The boy from the bakery that she never cared about until the Games started. Or, hey, how about this: Katniss loves her best friend Gail who is eighteen and physically desirable even though they all live in muck houses and probably look gross and hollow-cheeked and malnourished in general from how Collins describes it from back home! Isn't that completely and totally original and not thrown in at the last second to make some horrid attempt at drama!

Yeah. Wasn't impressed by the love triangle. Felt trivialized, like she was doing it 'cos All The Cool Kids Were Doing It.

It also really pissed me off that whenever Katniss needed something, it just floated down on a little silver parachute from the heavens, with the little excuse that it was a gift from her sponsors. What a horrid little cop-out. Lazy writing. I felt cheated every time one of those little packages came in, like Collins was making this writing business easy for herself.

It was all relatively concise, didn't really lag too often, I thought (though it came pretty close. If the pre-Games writing went on another 10 pages, I would have put the book down. Too much exposition, not enough story, sort of like listening to sport commentators).

I don't have much to say here. Not shabby, at its core, and for that alone it gets three out of five stars from me.

Characters.
Gah.

You know what?

Prepare yourself.

This novel contains an overabundance of unrealistic characters in its little pulpy self.

Let's start, shall we?

Katniss Everdeen. Our narrator. Our beloved protagonist. Our lighthouse here.

Katniss. Everdeen.

I think her mother the apothecary must have poked around and found herself a little marijuana from those fields before giving birth to this kid. Good Lord. No one of complete mental awareness would name a child that. Not unless they happened to be a psychopath and enjoyed that moment when the kid came home in tears from elementary school because Little Timmy made fun of her name. We won't even go into some other character names. (Like fucking Glimmer. No shit.)

I'm getting carried away.

Right, well, Katniss. Wow. What can you say about Katniss?

She loves her mother and sister. She talks about her dad a lot. She speaks with too many exclamation points and uses too many rhetorical questions. She hunts a lot.

She's also really, really boring.

There is absolutely nothing spectacular about our narrator. Nothing that really makes her... matter. She's just like every other independent, stubborn female character out there. So Strong and Stands Up For Herself. What a Great Role Model. She's dull. Another nobody written like she's a nobody. A face that matches thousands.

We're told people like her. That's great. Because I'm pretty sure I don't.

There were sparks of characterization. She always kept the audience in mind in the Games, which I rather liked. Showed her priorities, how the world of it has affected her not only in the immediacy of the moment but also over the years. Manipulative. That was cool.

But otherwise, she was... bland. I only remembered her name because it was so WEIRD.

The other characters don't get much better. Stereotypes. Not very... impressive. I barely remember half of them, and that was not for a lack of attention while reading. They just weren't memorable. I'm guilty of this myself, but I recognize it. Not so sure that Collins does. Haymitch was such a pathetic display of the typical "drunk gruff guy who really cares deep inside" that it was painful. Gale, Kantniss' hunting partner and friend, barely registered to me. I only remembered him because Katniss kept talking about him in the much aforementioned retarded rhetorical questions that she asked herself to keep from getting lonely, I guess. I dunno. Guess that's what happens when you don't have any friends.

Peeta, Katniss' fellow District 12 representative, was relatively okay. Didn't love him, didn't hate him. Wasn't horrid either way, didn't seem like a total failure of a character. Generally meh. Average.

The only ones I liked were a few of the Capitol characters, like the stylist Cinna's assistants or Evie, the District 12 spokeslady person. They all did a good job of presenting the flightiness and materialism of the Capitol, a remarkable contrast to the general plain and woodsy main character. That I will give her credit for.

Also I loved Cinna. He made an impact. He was original. He was quiet, level-headed, a voice of reason from the Capitol. Reminded me of the, well, pretty much the clown from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at first, just because of the shared name, but I got over that.

Other characters I liked: Thresh, Rue, "Foxface" (she was a redhead. Don't judge me), Katniss' father.

Yeah, you know what?

THEY'RE ALL DEAD.

OF COURSE.

Except for Cinna. He's still alive and kicking.

Also, something of note: What's with all these District 12 characters having such a great education? I mean, good Lord. This is a mining district. First priority: don't starve. Second priority: get a job. I was stunned that there was a school to begin with, much less that not a single District 12 resident used double negatives at least. It didn't make sense. That's the kind of environment where schools and proper grammar are for rich kids, you learn your letters from your mom and dad, and the joined up letters were harder and you don't read much higher than a fourth grade reading level.

I mean, use some realism, please.

I give it three of five stars. The extra one is for Cinna. It's a Cinna star.

The World.
Right.

Here's the basic scheme of things:

Twelve districts of folks ruled by a Capitol of a bunch of rich guys obsessed with their appearances. Totalitarian.

The explanation for how it came to be like this is stupid and makes no logical sense. I would have preferred that Collins had just set it up as an alternate reality, or never given a full explanation at all. Would've worked out better for her, I think.

I've got nothing against this system. For the most part, it's got the realism things down. There are some misses, but it's at about a four-star rating. It's pretty darn good. With some refining, and it would be a good dystopian society to add to the list.

Here's what I'm a little less thrilled with:

The painfully obvious parallels of the Capitol to ancient Rome.

They weren't missed, Miss Collins. Nor was the fact that they weren't very well done.

The Games are an obvious nod to the Roman gladiatorial games. Pitting human beings against one another as a fight to the death for the thrill of it. Collins takes it a step further, enhancing the arena, televising it across Panem (which is straight Latin for "bread." What the hell? I thought when I first saw that. That doesn't MAKE SENSE. And it still doesn't. Don't ask me why the hell it's name "bread." I don't know why the hell it's named "bread."), chucking in 24 players in there instead of just 2.

All right, I could live with that.

Then there are the Capitol members with Roman names, like Octavia, Cinna, and Venia. Heavy emphasis on Good Food.

Call me cynical, but my next point, I think, was completely unintentional on Collins' part. The treatment of districts by the Capitol is distinctly Roman in nature. As the city expanded, right around the gentle shift between Republic and Empire, Rome began conquering more and more places, they had a general method of treatment post-conquering: the carrot-on-the-stick idea. You do good, you get rewards. In Rome's case, it was special treatment, the allowance of every member of the conquered area to become Roman citizens, sometimes tax redemption. Just send the Roman army some troops, and you're gold. You do bad, you get punished.

The treatment of the various districts is a lot like that. Some are favored by the Capitol and treated well, and others are not.

I don't think Collins intended that, haha. She's not one for that kind of careful weaving of a story, I've found. Probably dumb luck.

Otherwise, I dunno. It didn't feel like she knew much more about ancient Rome than a generic Google search would tell her. Call me a Latin dork, but there was so much more she could have included, militarily and politically, to really embody this idea that the Capitol is supposed to be like Rome. Right now, message was only received because of the Games and the characters' names. Oh, and the Avox, traitor people who got caught, got their tongues cut out, and became Capitol servants. Isn't that tasty? Their name literally means "without voice," a splice of "vox" and the preposition "a/ab". Pure Latin there, behbee.

It was a real hit and miss for me, the Roman references. It stopped a bit too short for my taste, like it really biffed it on the chance of enriching this society even more.

Speaking of. The society wasn't half-bad. It was pretty accurate, economically and socially, to a surprising degree. There was some spots of general "what?" reactions, such as the surprisingly high-quality and important education I mentioned earlier, in District 12. Otherwise, though, it really wasn't too shabby. I'd give it 3.5 stars.


Overall.
The Hunger Games definitely wasn't a complete waste of my time, but good? Nah, not in my opinion. It's a mindless read that I probably won't pick up again. Left me generally unimpressed. Not even Cinna could earn it another star.

Ultimately? Two out of five.

(Yeah, I'm aware that you don't get the same result mathematically when you average it out. Math doesn't count here.)