I finally read the Hunger Games trilogy. After watching all four movies and getting caught up in the story, I wanted to see how the books held up. I wasn't disappointed.
In the movie, Peeta is a whiner. I could not understand how Katniss could ever have a moment's hesitation about picking Gale over him when she finally had a free choice. In the books, Peeta is noble, brave, and a whole lot better than in the movies.
Katniss is much more likable in the books. Since they are written first person from her point of view, you get a window into what she's thinking, her logic behind her choices. She's still not the nicest person ever, but she's at least sympathetic. The movies fail on this point.
The story is a pretty standard YA dystopian story but it's so much more than a twisted love triangle story. The books are more about getting caught up in a revolution, fighting for what you believe, and searching for enough faith in that belief to keep fighting when things go wrong. Katniss is an accidental hero. She's fairly selfish and self-centered when you start poking holes through her logic. She's doing it for her family, yes, but only her family. Even towards the end, when she's become the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion, she's still more concerned with her family and her own love interests than anyone else. But she also comes across as human. She's not a larger-than-life hero. She's just a girl caught up by circumstances in a war she doesn't want. She wants comfort and security. Even at the end, when Katniss is free, she's still making the "safe" choice, the selfish choice, because it's comfortable for her. She doesn't want to emerge from her shell or grow into what she could have been.
The writing is solid, too. Suzanne Collins knows how to put words together to tell a compelling story.
The books are pretty dark. There isn't any humor anywhere and hope only makes very rare, brief cameos, usually for someone other than Katniss. Grim is a good word for the story, but then, it is about watching kids kill each other gladiator style. It's about repression and abuse and all sorts of grim things.
The books are worth reading, at least once, but I don't think they'll stick with me. Katniss was not the hero I wanted. No one in the books really was, except maybe Cinna.
If there's a market out there for hopeful YA stories with heroes who actually step up and stand for something other than themselves, I have yet to find it. I want hope in the stories I read. I want characters that, while flawed, are still trying to be good people who do things for good reasons. I want characters I like and can respect.
While Hunger Games has good writing and a compelling storyline, I wasn't a fan of Katniss. Am I sorry I read it? No, I did enjoy reading it and the books added much more depth and nuance to the story. Would I recommend it? Yes, but only if you enjoy dark, moody, grim stories.