Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

My reaction to this book was very interesting. I was so repulsed by the subject matter I considered putting it down after a few chapters. But I kept reading because both my kids raved about it. This is significant from my son because he reads so much, and significant from my daughter because she almost never reads if she's not forced.

Anyway, the subject matter is 24 teenagers chosen by lottery who are all forced to fight to the death--only one wins. This annual event is sponsored by the government and all citizens (including families of the teenagers) are forced to watch--it's televised live. Yes, I'm a mother of teenagers, which probably didn't help my perception of it, but I think many (most?) people would be a little disturbed by the concept. I couldn't help being a little uncomfortable that my kids had read it, but then again, maybe it's good for them to read something like that and think about why it's so wrong? The story takes place in a future America, so in that way it sort of has a 1984 feel to it--that maybe the creation of a concept that is repulsive to us might help ensure it doesn't turn out to be a prophecy?

It's a YA novel, published by Scholastic, and despite the subject matter the author did a really good job of minimizing the gore without making it seem like it was glossed over. Even though the world the characters live in is so far removed from what American Teenagers are used to, the reader can easily relate to many typical teenage emotions, and can imagine the terror in the games.

In the end, I kept reading because of the characters. Every one of them has complexities that make them interesting. The main character, Katniss, evolves and learns and grows in her emotions, in some ways losing part of who she is and in some ways learning to think differently. And then, I HAD to see how the story would resolve itself. How could Katniss possibly keep her innocence and still win a game in which all other contestants have to die?

The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy. The second book (Catching Fire) is in the hands of my daughter and I can't read it until she's finished.

And I actually want to. The Hunger Games ends at the end of the games, but I'm hoping to see the government punished for it's brutal treatment of children (and families, actually).

You know, it's interesting how the Capitol citizens in the book are so completely narcissistic and so obsessed with their ultimate "reality show." It makes me uncomfortable how it may not be too far removed from today's United States. Again, 1984--maybe we won't go that far.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thoughts on Writing vs Storytelling

I'm reading a book right now (I'm not going to say what) that I'm really enjoying for the most part. The story is very intriguing and at this point I really want to follow it through to the conclusion.


Occasionally I run across some writing that pulls me out of the story and makes me think about the writing instead of the story. Has anyone else had this experience?

There are a few areas of dialog that didn't seem natural to me, and there have been a few parts that seemed "clunky." I'm not sure how else to describe it.

When I'm reading a book, I want to get absorbed in the story. I don't want to be trying to follow the story or thinking about how something doesn't make sense or doesn't seem plausible.

I've read two other books recently that I really enjoyed and got fully absorbed in the story without thinking about the writing. They were "Canticle" by R. A. Salvatore and "Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)" by Heather Brewer. I enjoyed them enough that I immediately ordered the rest of the series in both cases.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I've been thinking about the concept that the goal of writing fiction is to convey the story, not to showcase your writing. To me, at least, writing, if truly flawless, will disappear and not be noticed. Which seems to be an oxymoron.

It's a bit intimidating. I don't want people to be thinking about my writing when they read my stuff. If I ever get published, I hope I have an excellent editor who cleans up all my "clunky" writing, and I hope I listen to him/her.