Should I read Hunger Games 1? I've already seen the movie.
August 22, 2012 12:40 AM   Subscribe

Stupid question: Should I read Hunger Games 1? I've already seen the movie. This is normally a no-brainer because usually book >> movie: in this case, I have seen the movie first and have the book on-hand already, plus tonight I have a book swap and dibs on many other books that I don't know yet! Bonus: your opinion on reading parts 2&3.
posted by whatzit to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, read the first book; I honestly couldn't put it down (and yes, it's superior to the movie). The second and third books in the series aren't nearly as good, in my opinion, but I would recommend reading them all regardless (and preferably before the next movies are released).
posted by Defying Gravity at 1:02 AM on August 22, 2012

Yes. I read it straight thru. I read the other two nearly straight thru.
posted by violetk at 1:05 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Yes, I just finished reading the first book after having seen the movie. And then I watched the movie again! They are both great in their own right. I just started the second book, and so far it is just as engaging.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:17 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read it. It's a quick read and it's actually pretty good.
posted by inturnaround at 1:17 AM on August 22, 2012

It's an easy read and certainly better than the movie - it adds a lot more depth to the relationships that are critical to the second and third books (and presumably the movies). I got through the trilogy in a weekend of not particularly concentrated reading, but I read quick so YMMV.
posted by MrBear at 1:21 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: The book isn't anything great but it's a very quick read and it is hard to put down. I thought the film was better, and a lot of that is down to the author's style and failure to develop characters or cut down on unnecessary fluff (and she repeats herself a lot). The book has loads of problems but I don't regret reading it--it's not much of a time investment at all--and it did make me want to read the other two (which also have problems but I also don't regret reading).

Again, very engaging books but the author's writing frustrated me. And the way she chose to develop Katniss into a grade-A idiot and, ultimately, typically weak female character when she had a great opportunity to develop a strong female character. Katniss comes across better in the film.
posted by Polychrome at 1:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Read book one if you like - it's quick and fun, but skip two and three which I found boring, overemotional and a waste of time. Also read Battle Royale, which the Hunger Games author claims she'd never heard of when she wrote her books. Personally I'm not sure if I believe her due to the eerie plot similarities. I read Battle Royale before Hunger Games and thought it was the better book.
posted by hazyjane at 1:58 AM on August 22, 2012

Yes, read it. Much better than the movie. Book 2 is the weakest of the three, but book 3 is incredibly good.
posted by kyrademon at 2:21 AM on August 22, 2012

Definitely read the first book. I'm looking forward to a re-read, actually. I was really enthralled by it and immediately downloaded the other two. I had finished all three within a single weekend. Given some distance, though, books 2 and 3 are not nearly as good and I probably won't read them again.
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:37 AM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for your feedback. Looks like I'll read book 1, and I'll look into the others if the library has them. The fact that the protagonist becomes a wimpy female, and another commenter describes the latter books as overemotional, is a turn-off for future reading. I will also look up Battle Royale.

For those who like the concept, you may also be interested in reading Acide sulfurique by Amélie Nothomb (published 2005), which seems to be available in English as Sulphuric Acid. It has a lot of common points with Hunger Games. I read it in French, so I cannot speak for the English translation.
posted by whatzit at 3:01 AM on August 22, 2012

If you're planning to read Battle Royale and have a bit of time, I really recommend the manga over the novel. Some of the best, most morally and philosophically serious science fiction writing I've encountered. It moves very, very slowly but this is one of the things that make it good.
posted by Acheman at 3:32 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I liked the book and the film equally, but for different reasons - I thought the film was a tighter, better-paced story, and that the book was a rather chilling sketch of the morally questionable choices that could be necessary to survive in a world where you are nearly - but not completely - powerless.

I don't think Katniss becomes a wimpy/overemotional female at all. In fact, I think she's alarmingly cold throughout, and the only true bits of emotion are when she's doing something for her sister. (She does kind of go crazy at one point but that's more down to PTSD than being overemotional, in my opinion.)
posted by Xany at 4:25 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

I also *completely* disagree with the characterization of Katniss as a wimpy or overemotional female in the later books.

Unless you think that soldiers who spend extended periods under constant threat and have watched a number of their friends die are "wimpy" and "overemotional" for having a reaction to it.

Having a heroic character who does not breeze through horrific situations as if they have no more effect than making it through another level of a video game is one of the best things about the series, not a problem with it.
posted by kyrademon at 4:38 AM on August 22, 2012 [23 favorites]

I think books 1 & 2 are terrific, book 3 goes off the rails trying to close up all the plot lines she opened in book 2. But you have to read them all. I thought the movie was a major let down. I watched the movie a week after reading all 3 books within about 10 days.
posted by COD at 4:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I certainly wouldnt have expected her to breeze through, but I found her overemotional in her dithering between the two men she was interested in. To me it was overwrought and got boring. Ymmv, of course.
posted by hazyjane at 5:15 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read the first book in 3 hours, which was just a bit longer than watching the movie. For what it's worth, I feel absolutely no need to read books 2 & 3 and will probably just watch the movies when they come to the Redbox.
posted by Maarika at 5:32 AM on August 22, 2012

Books 2 & 3 are worth reading if you've read book 1, many plotlines get wrapped up and it isn't as satisfying without them.
posted by epanalepsis at 5:32 AM on August 22, 2012

Absolutely read the first, and you should probably read 2 and 3 - the tail off a bit, but thye're quick reads and it's nice to see how things wrap up.
posted by ominous_paws at 5:43 AM on August 22, 2012

Read them all! I'm in the camp that loved book 2 and 3. Book 3 particularly gets a lot of hate, and admittedly, I didn't love the plot. However, to echo what kyrademon said, there's a lot of value in seeing a strong character react to the situations she is put in, and then deal with the aftermath. Katniss doesn't necessarily deal in the healthiest way (honestly, after what she goes through I don't know if there even is a healthy way to deal), and the trilogy, when all is said and done is incredibly bittersweet. I'd have been disappointed if it had ended any other way. Not the best writing, but in my opinion those books really have their head on straight.
posted by 9000condiments at 5:54 AM on August 22, 2012

Yes to all 3.
posted by elizardbits at 6:15 AM on August 22, 2012

I agree with ominous_paws - books 2 and 3 aren't as good, but probably still worth it if you like the storyline. (Yes, read book 1)
posted by getawaysticks at 6:21 AM on August 22, 2012

The second book I liked just a bit less than the first. But the third one, it's kind of like the 3rd Matrix movie. You've got to do it because it's there but it's not really anything too special.
posted by theichibun at 6:43 AM on August 22, 2012

Yeah go for it! They're very fast, enjoyable reads!

On Katniss's weakness: I don't think she is weak or overemotional. I think she is a follower without agency even in the end when she should have been a great leader.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Katniss isn't weak or emotional---she is constantly fighting depression though. That's the key to her character, why she comes off cold and disconnected and why she avoids leadership roles. Her battle to function despite wanting to run away from everything and curl up into a ball makes her one of the better sketches of depression that I've seen in teen literature.
posted by bonehead at 7:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

No spoiler, but if you do choose to read to the end, you'll see the ending coming a mile away.

And Katniss is the least-developed protagonist I can think of in recent memory outside of Twilight (which, admittedly, I have not read.)

And the author completely wastes the two most compelling characters she creates - Haymitch and President Snow.

I'd much rather have read the book from Haymitch's point of view than whiny, underdeveloped Katniss.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friend watched the movie without reading the books and was kind of lost at some points. The book will clarify that stuff for you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2012

Mod note: This is sort of an asked-and-answered "should I read this" question, not a general HG book grope; please do not go down the arguing-about-the-book road in here, thank you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on August 22, 2012

Katniss was a grade-A idiot, not to mention a first-class moper in the 2nd and 3rd books. But the idiocy was the author's fault. The book rarely left Katniss alone, and never ever hung out with major characters when Katniss wasn't around. For that reason, if the author wants to keep a secret from the reader, she pretty much had to keep it from Katniss, too. I would've preferred the old "So, Katniss, here's the plan..." and the cut to a time hours later, or whatnot, but that pretty much never happened. Katniss is a tough kid, and frankly I thought the mental bruising she and the other characters took in the later books was unexpected realism, rather than the romantic fortitude one expects. But she's the series mushroom in later books, just so you, the reader, can one too: kept in the dark, and fed shit.

I read all 3 in a week, reading only during mealtimes (and a little more time on weekends), so it can't hurt to read the first. Reading the book didn't spoil the excitement and tension of the movie, which was very well done.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Speaking as a grandma, not a young adult, I felt the third book really wrapped up the series, solving the main dilemma in a mature, realistic way. I would have felt the story-telling dodged the issues it raised if it hadn't had the ending it did. And I think the books are well written, in strong, simple, vivid language, much better written than say, Harry Potter.

It depends what you want from a story. The film provides gorgeous visuals and hints about background and character, whereas when reading you have to supply these from your imagination; and as the author does 'show, not tell', you have to read between the lines a bit and interpret what you're being shown. So it depends on how best you like your entertainment I suppose.
posted by glasseyes at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess you could look at it this way: Knowing they are making more movies, did watching the first movie make you want to see the rest of the movies?

If so, I would read the book. And then you'll probably want to continue onto the 2nd and 3rd books which you'll be able to finish way before the next movie comes out.

If you watched the first movie and don't have any interest in spending any more time in that world with those characters, well just give the books a pass and grab something else.
posted by dogwalker at 12:44 PM on August 22, 2012

I watched the movie first, and then read all of the books. I thought it was interesting to find out what Katniss was thinking. Also the book has details that the movie doesn't. So I suggest reading the first book, and then see if you want to continue with books two and three.
posted by oceano at 7:03 PM on August 22, 2012

Book 3 might actually be my favorite of the series - the depictions of PTSD, etc. are vital to the books' subversion of tropes about heroes and the glory of war and that sort of thing. The deeply serious stuff going on here is a lot more interesting than an unfailingly badass Katniss would have been. As for her decision regarding her romantic prospects, sure, you can see it coming a mile awhile, but the path that takes her there is still powerful, and furthermore the imperfections and limitations of the adult life she chooses are acknowledged, are realistic and, as one of the above comments put it, bittersweet. I'm not the biggest fan of Collins's writing style, but honestly it's some of the most thought-provoking fiction I've read in a long time, and I don't think it gets enough credit.
posted by naoko at 9:32 PM on August 23, 2012

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