Second, I'll say that if you adore this book as everyone seems to, don't read this review any further. You'll get angry.
There will, in fact, probably be spoilers below. I refuse to cover them under a tag because I think what I have to say needs to be said, even if no one reads it.
Great. That said, shall we begin?
I'll start with Collins' writing style, because that's what offended me first. Collins' writing style is bland and boring and flavorless. She uses flat, blunt, very spare descriptions for everything. I appreciate leaving some room for the imagination, but this was really ridiculous - I never once felt like I was there with the characters, or even that I should care about them. Collins' writing gave the world no heart and no soul. The characters all talked the same way. They had no depth and no personality. I didn't like a single character in the book, except maybe for Rue, and they shamelessly slaughtered her when I was pointing at her and shouting, "Let her win! Let her win, darn it!" Right off the bat, the writing gave me the impression that I was watching a bunch of cheap plastic game-pieces scuttling about on a bit of painted cardboard.
Next rant: the characters. Ugh, the characters. I hated them all (except maybe for Rue, and they...) Katniss was SO full of herself. Everything she does, she does well. She's beautiful. She's heroic. She's selfless and courageous and lucky as a leprechaun. Dang, that girl's good, but it sure is a good thing she doesn't care about any of it! Oh no, all she wants is to survive! (Doesn't the fact that she's contemplating the slaughter of more than 2 dozen children detract a bit from her appeal? No?) Anyway, back to Katniss--who is named after a potato--and her "personality". This book was huge for praising her intelligence, among other things. Can I point out the fact that Peeta--named after pita, I assume, since he's a baker--was stalking her since, like, kindergarten, and continues to confess his undying love for her every four pages throughout the book...and Katniss NEVER catches on? Not even at the end of the book, when they're basically "free"?
Peeta, king of girly-sounding names, was as flat as the rest of them, and he was in more than half the book. The only personality he had was the fact that he was obviously devoted to Katniss. Gale was talked about enough to make it annoying, but Collins very carefully avoided mentioning anything about his personality in Katniss' musings. I assume he gets a bit of flesh on his bones in the other books, but then, Katniss didn't in this one, so maybe not. Prim was the typical little sister (I will forever hate Katniss for what she tried to do to the cat), no surprises there. She displays just enough naivete to make you notice her, but my reaction to this was probably not what Collins hoped for--"Oh, get a grip, girl" rather than, "Oh, she's so sweet." Neither I nor my little sister ever acted as brainless as these two sisters. Cinna (oh my gosh, Collins, you like your men to have effeminate names) would have been okay, except for the fact that he was in with the darned child-slaughter Games (I'd be cursing and swearing all over the place, but I don't like to do that), and the fact of his name. I kept seeing a brunette fourteen-year-old girl pasted over him, so every time it said "he" it was jarring.
My review is getting horribly long. I'll try to hurry it up.
I'm puzzled by the fact that so many people worship this book, when all I got out of it was that Collins thinks we should all bow down to the government, and that she thought child-slaughter would be a fun subject for a novel. I'm puzzled by the fact that no one seems to be revolted or angered by the Muttations--I think she actually called them that, though it sounds like a bad superhero tag. I mean, she just threw that disgusting scene in there at the end, when I was starting to be relieved that I was almost done with the thing, and SHE STILL CLASSIFIED THE BOOK AS YA. You know, Collins, it's not uncommon for a twelve-year-old to wander into that section of the bookstore and grab a book off the shelves. Sometimes they're even younger, because a lot of the stuff on those shelves is okay for them to read--nothing nasty in it. The Muttations scene was repulsive and idiotic. I mean, how can anyone support ANYTHING that would not only encourage child-slaughter (which everyone is forced to witness yearly), but then, after the poor kids have been laid to rest, THEIR DNA IS/MAY BE STOLEN AND PUT INTO THOSE MONSTERS?!!!
Okay, so most of the stuff in the book--especially the first half--was pathetically childish. I suppose, balanced with gross, graphic, gory scenes, it ends up in the middle: YA. Most of the violence in the book I can ride with in the YA category, even. There wasn't actually that much action or violence in the book, since most of it was spent traveling, arguing, throwing temper tantrums, putting on makeup, or drowning in mush with Peeta. But the Muttations scene...I can't get over that scene.
There was not enough action in this book. I was promised gladiator stuff, but Katniss actually hardly had anything to do with the Games once she got there. She spent time sitting in a tree, searching for water, bemoaning her horrible position, gritting her teeth, and walking. And drowning in mush with Peeta. The only two people she ever connected with were Rue and Peeta, and she didn't have to kill either of them, which ruined any thought-provoking moral tie-ins Collins might have meant to include. All the other kids were the bad guys, because Katniss, our oh-so-special Katniss, only kills as a last resort or in revenge. That makes her not a bad guy--girl--at all, right? I mean, she only murdered a few of the other kids, and murder by accident, revenge, survival, or at least in small quantities is okay, right?
They literally used poison by accident, and the ensuing death occurred "off-camera". We don't even know how most of the children died, because, again, we didn't see it. Not that some of that doesn't make sense, but Collins dragged it out to a truly ridiculous extent.
Okay, I'm wrapping up now. I'll just ask one more thing: how, exactly, am I expected to sympathize with Katniss, when her defining characteristics are emotional blindness; a pointed lack of self importance, even though she's awesome at everything; and her decision to smile and bow down to a culture, a government, a people (if they are still people), who encourages children to murder other children in cold blood...and then encourage the parents, friends, family, next-door neighbors, etc. of these children to CHEER WHILE THEIR LITTLE ONES ARE BEING DISINTEGRATED, RUN THROUGH, POISONED, SWOLLEN UP WITH STINGS, OR GNAWED DOWN TO A HEAP OF SCREAMING GORE AND OOZING BLOOD???!!!!
Yes, Katniss, I understand that they'll kill you for doing otherwise. Shut up already. A real hero would A: do something about it, at least in secret, or B: make a stand and die, rather than put up with their garbage. Real heroes make a difference--that's why they're heroes. You didn't do anything to impress me, except blow up someone's supplies.
I mean, Collins wanted me to like this person? To like all of these people? To sympathize with her world in general? I honestly don't get it.
If you liked the book, great. I'm happy for you. Just...leave me out of it. I want to forget.