So I finished reading the entire Hunger Games series of books (Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay). I decided to read the books because, for a sci-fi flick, I found the movie severely lacking in developing the world these characters exist in. I thought the book would expand on this, and give me a deeper insight into the world and the characters. Sadly, I was grossly mistaken.

For a book series that’s as popular as it is, I’d expected more from it.

And before you say it, yes I know this book was written for teenagers and young readers. The problem I have with it is that it reads like it was WRITTEN by teenagers with little storytelling experience. But more on that in a minute….

If you’ve read my review for the movie, then you know I was kind of disappointed to begin – but interested enough to learn more. From the get-go the book turned me off because it’s written in first person present tense – which I despise. It’s the kind of perspective every single creative writing professor has told me to avoid my entire educational career – and rightly so.

This tense makes it incredibly difficult to expand on your world or explore other characters. However, it should allow you to connect to the narrative character and understand the world through their eyes. If nothing else, you should have such an intimate understanding of this character and how (and more importantly, why) they respond to situations or conversations throughout the story. This is not the case in Hunger Games at all.

The character motivations make less and less sense as the narrative progresses, to the point that I think the writer was more interested in having the characters make decisions that propelled the plot forward instead of made sense from their own personal motivations.

Writing 101: Define your character and what motivates them, put them into a situation in an environment, and let events play out. This is what most writers do (Hell, it’s good enough for comic legend Alan Moore), but this is not what happens in this series.

There’s a scene in the second book when the President shows up in the main character’s house, and she’s freaked out. But I kept asking myself why she was freaked out? Is it because it’s the president and the dude’s in a position of power? Is it because he’s ruthless and created the Hunger Games? We don’t know, and this distances us from the character of Katniss – who’s narrating the events of the story in the present tense. So we never really understand why this is significant. We don’t see the big picture – and we can’t, because of the narrative.

***MILD SPOILERS***
Additionally, her motivations make no sense throughout the series. In the first book, she volunteers to be in the Hunger Games to save her sister. This identifies her motivation as protecting her family. In the games, it’s all about survival.

In the second book, she’s forced to go back (so danger is not a choice) – but she does things in the story that don’t make sense…like shooting arrows at fizzy spots, which somehow triggers a riot. How did she know she was supposed to do that? Why did she do that? In a first person narrative, we would know the answer to this….

In the third book, she volunteers to go into dangerous situations. This isn’t to protect her family anymore, no…it’s about getting revenge on the evil President. But why is he evil again? What has he done (other than stick you in the Hunger Games twice) that was so terrible? And still does things that don’t make sense. I won’t spoil the book, but the events leading up to the ending and the ending itself make no sense what-so-ever after what this character has gone through and the decisions she’s made throughout the story.

***END MILD SPOILERS***

Ultimately, I was very disappointed with shallow characters, an undeveloped world, and a sloppy story with a juvenile narrative.

Do yourself a favor and skip the books. In this particular case, the movie was much better – since it actually gave us more insight into the world and the emotional motivations of the character. I can only hope the movie sequels improve upon this source material and further fill in the gaps about the world, the characters, and their motivations.