PROS: - I freakin' love Penny, the nerdy best friend. She's adorable, self-possessed, and is as sexual as she wants to be. - Natalia (protagonist) like...morePROS: - I freakin' love Penny, the nerdy best friend. She's adorable, self-possessed, and is as sexual as she wants to be. - Natalia (protagonist) likes purple. My best friend and my boyfriend loves purple.
CONS: - BAD WRITING It's bad X-Men/Heroes/Matrix fanfiction. There was an enormous radioactive spill that affected people worldwide yet there were no fatalities, no environmental impact, and no setbacks. People got superpowers or developed an extra eyeball and technology is supposedly super duper advanced. Natalia's parents are brutally murdered in front of her (from which she never exhibits PTSD from or anything) and she is adopted and admitted into Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters the Talented Organization for Extremely Interesting Citizens (aka TOXIC)...
Might as well come out and call the organization EVIL. Her mentor, Mac, is less like Xavier and more like Magneto. It could have been a cool twist had she not dropped a bajillion hints that were as subtle as a firecracker.
She spends all of her time whining, crying, worrying about boys, and all the other characters are two-dimensional. Natalia is also an exact combination of Charles Xavier (telepathy), Jean Grey (telekinetic), and Eden McCain (mental persuasion). Making characters overpowered creates no conflict, no suspense, and it creates a detachment between them and the reader. That's one reason why this book was so boring, in addition to the excessive amount of exposition. There's no world building and no character development. Not to mention, she'd shift from first person to second person and break the fourth wall. NEVER DO THAT!!!
The writing is just plain bad. In the ways of "I cannot English" and "this is actually a fanfic" but "I can string words together to make you fall asleep." And I've used this book to fall asleep a few times. It works!
There is a shitload of repetition. Here's the word count for phrases/words she can't go without: blue: repeated 10 times in TWO CONSECUTIVE SENTENCES!! communicate: 58 mental ("mental connection, I mentally said"): 178 mind ("I opened my mind"): 247 [feelings] washed over me: 28 willed ("I willed the door open"): 105
Quotes of the awkward writing:
The practice was intense, charged with unspoken anger (Erik), anxiety (Henri), and nerves (me). --- "Because every girl talks about him! He's like the closest thing to famous that we have here!?!" --- "WHAT?!?" my mental voice screamed at him. Was he joking?? This was an initiation ritual?? --- She returned his smile with a high-wattage one of her own. --- I may have transferred the pain to [the bad guy] but I was still the one not-so-slowly bleeding to death.
That last quote there. Natalia transferred the pain she felt from a fresh bullet wound to someone else. If you want real conflict that the audience can relate to, don't make your main character so fucking overpowered. Save it for an epic final battle. Not when they're fighting cardboard dummies and simulations. This was not good writing. She's always able to do something new when it's convenient for her.
[after finding her boyfriend sleeping with another woman] Feelings of betrayal and pain swirled inside of me, fighting to get out. Thunder boomed, rods of electricity streaked across the night sky. A huge explosion reverberated through the cabin, blowing the windows inward and spraying the entire room with shards of glass. ----------- The lead man raised his gun. "NO!" [the bad guy] screamed, but it was too late—the man fired. I deflected the bullets with my mind. He fired again. And again. And again. He emptied the entire clip into the room, but all of his bullets hung uselessly in midair until I let them drop harmlessly to the floor.
Not to nitpick but the even the author's Acknowledgements section wasn't written well. Every single sentence began with "I would like to thank." a;sdflkjas'asd'faksdj.
- SEXISM (femininity) There have been a grand total of FIVE women other than the protagonist out of about ~50 or so characters.
- Penny, the fashionable and nerdy best friend. - The blond woman Natalia's boyfriend cheated on her with. - Natalia's mother—who is murdered in front of her. - Natalia's adoptive mother—who she's uncomfortable around because she showers her with feminine gifts. - The group of fashionista city women that Natalia is uncomfortable being around. Their description sounded a lot like the Capitol citizens in The Hunger Games.
Soooooooo what I got from that was "I hate femininity and if you are a woman, you have to die or I have to hate you. Only got room for one bubbly bestie and that position is filled. Sorry." These authors seriously need to stop demonizing fashion and feminine-coded objects/things and start criticizing the culture for making it a bad thing. Criticize the culture for choosing masculinity over femininity. And yes, The Hunger Games—of my favorite series of all time—is guilty of this as well. MovieBob did an amazing video on our culture of femmephobia in his video, "Pink Is Not The Problem." You all should really check it out. He does a great critique of 300 and The Hunger Games.
This book gets negative points for shaming women for not being "natural." The character prided herself in having "natural purple-blue eyes" and it was mentioned every fucking opportunity she had. Please, Dita von Teese, lay it down for us:
If people are going to market harmless products for women to use, women should not be shamed and made to feel shitty for using and enjoying it. So you can fuck the fuck off with your "natural is better" bullshit.
There was also a rape culture-perpetuating scene where Natalia was drunk and Erik (love interest) almost has sex with her but stops himself because she's drunk. I was really, really proud of the message...until she whined, cried, and then threw a tantrum because she was literally begging for sex. Just...no. Then it took the potentially good message of "hey, don't take advantage of irrational drunk people" further away by making him sad about being rebound so that the audience feels bad for him instead of the fact that he almost took advantage of her drunk ass. I don't understand life anymore *facedesk.
Natalia was creepy as fuck too—and not because she has PTSD from witnessing her parents' brutal murders as a child—she doesn't have PTSD or exhibit any signs of being disturbed by it. She would purposefully "invade" (literally her words, not mine) people's privacy by reading their thoughts—even against their will. It nearly killed her ex-boyfriend at one point. To justify it, people can read Natalia's thoughts as well when she "opens her mind" to read theirs but nobody does. She spends most of her time invading other people's thoughts when her "mind is open."
Writing your character as constantly whiny, angry, sociopathic, boy-obsessed, and overpowered is not interesting. It's regressive, boring, and creepy.
- RACISM (whitewashing) The protagonist is described as having "olive-toned skin" and "wild dark curls." Lots o' y'all white authors seem to not know what that is so lemme show you:
What "olive skin and wild dark curls" actually looks like:
Versus what most white authors (including this one) think it looks like:
I think you get the picture. You can't just make like Jackson Rathbone and say you'll put on a tan either. By doing that, you just waste another opportunity for a person of color to be visible and represented. Other than the protagonist, there wasn't another person of color in this thing. Shame on you.
It's safe to say I won't be reading the sequel.
"...he pulled away from the kiss just long enough to pull his shirt over his head, and I stared in amazement as his muscles rippled with even the smallest movement" (less)
If I were to describe this novel in a gif, it'd be this:
First, the good stuff. It's a fun, silly, entertaining, fast-paced, somewhat action-packed ea...moreIf I were to describe this novel in a gif, it'd be this:
First, the good stuff. It's a fun, silly, entertaining, fast-paced, somewhat action-packed easy read. There's an interesting concept where a city is divided into five factions that represent a virtue of the society that created the new standard of living to dispel evil. AND THERE'S NO LOVE TRIANGLE!!!!
That's it. Now the bad...
First, this book needs trigger warnings so...BOOK TRIGGER WARNINGS: flippant use of suicide, racism, misogyny (body shaming, male entitlement, girls hating girls, damsel in distress).
How is there still modern religion in a utopian society that has no necessity for it? Roth never went into detail about religion or spirituality in her world of factions so it was weird that her characters continuously alluded to a Christian/Catholic deity and even mentioned a baptizing. I don't know how long her society dates back but it must be more than 50-70 years considering how easy it was for each member to accept and adapt to their utopian society. It seems that they have been adjusted to it for a long time so a religion like Christianity doesn't fit in this kind of framework. Anomalies like this breaks immersion.
The body shaming is absolutely unreal in this book, especially to the women. Actually, now that I think about it, it was only women's bodies Roth demonized. Besides making a villain of people who enjoy piercings and tattoos, female antagonists were written with perfectly fine physical human traits that were exaggerated to make the women seem uglier. Because a woman having stretch marks or a muscular body or teeth that isn't as straight or white as a Disney star's is extremely unrealistic, unattractive, and unheard of /sarcasm. Let's not forget how Roth kept reminding us that Tris (the female protag) is just a small and weak little girl over and over and over again. Totally doesn't perpetuate any sexist standards like the "damsel in distress" trope or that women aren't allowed to take up as much space as a guy. Hence, her weakness and smallness to create multiple environments for a strong man to swoop in and save her. I hate damsel in distress stories. If she's so weak, how is she 1st rank overall after failing to be top-rank during the first round? It doesn't make sense, especially because she only got top rank during the second round. It also doesn't make sense to constantly use her smallness as a weakness, especially after her smallness was established as a strength. It's fine to be weak and accept help but deliberately writing a female character as weak for the convenience of your male characters, whether they're saving her or abusing her, is not okay.
Speaking of perpetuating ridiculous standards, this next piece of conversation is a doozy:
"Can you be a girl for a few seconds?" "I'm always a girl." I frown. "You know what I mean. Like a silly, annoying girl." I twirl my hair around my finger. "'Kay." [commence chat about kissing boys]
Was this really necessary? Stuff like this is out of place and doesn't belong in a society that's supposed to improve upon a flawed one. If I wanted to see girls hating other girls, I'd watch Fox News. I hope to all that is mighty that Roth doesn't do the whole "virgin-whore" complex in any of the sequels 'cause that is one of the reasons why people think this stuff is okay to write. Earlier I called the book "silly" because the "butterflies in the stomach" moments were cute for all the teeny-bopper charm that it was worth but it quickly became "boy obsessed annoyances" that stunted Beatrice's potential to be a stronger character. Let's not try so hard to fail the Bechdel test, please and thank you.
As if internalized misogyny weren't enough for Roth, we've got racial ambiguity and a whole lot of colorblindness going on. She makes it perfectly clear who is blond, blue-eyed, and white but racial ambiguity is all up in that brief "dark-skinned" description. Come ooooon, people of color aren't difficult to write. Look at a picture of a person of color, copy & pasta features, and you're finished—straight blond hair to curly black hair, blue-eyed to brown-eyed, alabaster skin tone to deep mahogany skin tone. And no, "flesh tone" doesn't cut it 'cause that's worse than anything else. Things like "dark skin" tend to fly by readers who are more prone to colorblindness aka averse racism (re: Hunger Game's Rue character). I'd imagine post-apocalyptic societies understand not to be racist and sexist buttfaces better than our current society does so all this white privilege junk goin' on makes no sense unless a white supremacist power took over. Then it needs to be made clearer.
Oh yeah and let's not use suicide so flippantly and call people cowards for it through your main character, Roth. The main characters were just as bad as the antagonists. If anyone here plans on writing in the future, please please please do not fall prey to sexist tropes because 1 woman surrounded by 5 guys isn't progressive (nor is 3 women and 2 guys when 2 ladies end up dead). Don't find reasons to exclude or minimize PoC/WoC representation either 'cause constantly writing a character as half-white and half-non-white isn't progressive either. And don't include depression or suicide if you don't know how to write it without doing your research and being a offensive about it. Thanks.
I have the sequel so I'm gonna give it a go. please please please sequel be better. otherwise (less)
I'm going to go more into detail about this book later but I thought it was fairly good. I wasn't too happy with the epilogue but the final product wa...moreI'm going to go more into detail about this book later but I thought it was fairly good. I wasn't too happy with the epilogue but the final product was mid-satisfactory.(less)
PROS: - Engaging. - Fast-paced. - Brilliant world-building. - Brilliant storytelling. - Great commentary on society, exploitation, capitalism, and current...morePROS: - Engaging. - Fast-paced. - Brilliant world-building. - Brilliant storytelling. - Great commentary on society, exploitation, capitalism, and current-day social issues. - Good blend of Greek mythology (minotaur), modern day, and Battle Royale. - Like watching a good action/sci-fi film.
CONS: - Cliffhanger in the end. I love cliffhangers if the story continues but I had to find a con and this is the only "flaw" I could find in the book.
COMMENTS: I don't think very many people enjoy reading about children fighting each other, much less to the death. Let me tell you now: this book is not meant to appease anyone's comfort. You are 100% guaranteed to feel uncomfortable at one point or another unless you're a sadist.
The book is a well thought out commentary on how ignorant and desensitized humanity has become what with the way they glue themselves to the television screens, watching mindless "reality" television shows. It's calling people out on the exploitation and it's supposed to make people realize the horror of using other people's pain for their own entertainment, reality or not, child or adult. There are shows where kids are being exploited because their parents have them pit against each other to win $50 grand (I Know My Kids [sic] A Star). Or the show where 40 children compete against each other to win $10-50 grand (Kid Nation).
Not only that, I love how Collins manages to make it clear that if the cosmetic "beauty" industry continues the path they're on, society morals and ethics will follow suit. If people are unhappy with their skin tone, they can turn it neon green. If people are unhappy with the way their skin feels, they can make their skin satiny with advanced plastic surgery. If people want to draw attention to themselves and a tux isn't enough, add fire. The author makes people realize how much our society cares about the way people look instead of caring about the way people are. The world has replaced character-building with an image-obsessed business (as it is today). You see that throughout the book.
I cannot fully express how happy I am to finally see a solid, independent and intelligent female character (who is a person of color!!!) take the lead in a bestseller, especially in the Young Adult genre. Today, there are plenty of white male leads for young men to look up to: Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Eragon, and Percy Jackson to name a few. Where will you find a woman of color lead whose mission isn't to look for love? Not a whole lot of places to look. I love how Katniss is willing to sacrifice herself for her family and how she isn't willing to sacrifice all of herself for the sake of the government. At least, not without consequences. She's willful but she isn't without flaws. Katniss is a good person to look up to and young adults could learn a lot from her, especially young women.
Besides the incredible societal ties to our world, Panem's world-building is absolutely incredible. Goods from poor states are sent to The Capitol which are sold for profit and to benefit the people in The Capitol. If a laborer "steals", they pay a high price. What most people don't understand is that this is actually happening today, right now. Coca Cola, Starbucks, Marlboro, your clothes, your tea—it's being harvested by children and families in fields and people die in those fields. And when they get home, they get terrorized and tortured by similar police officers that you read about in THG. With this book, there's an excellent commentary about exploitation of labor that's Marxist-like in narrative. It brings to light the issues happening today that not enough people know about.
For this, I love dystopian novels and I love how realistic this novel feels. I haven't been able to hang on to every word since Harry Potter. The writing is great and the storytelling is captivating. Collins did what she set out to do and executed it with success. I'm glad she continued with sequels and that this series won't be ten books long. I thank the author for gifting us with this series and can't wait to see how Katniss outsmarts The Capitol in Catching Fire.
JAN 2014 EDIT: I was extremely disappointed with the film. They failed to illustrate the desensitization the way Collins has and trivialized it into a film about teen romance. I asked my friends and peers what they thought about it and they said they didn't even know that The Games were being filmed and broadcasted on television after I'd explained why The Games existed and what it entailed. Not only that, KATNISS. IS NOT. WHITE. HOLY SHIT. And NOBODY understood where The Capitol got their shit and who was being oppressed for it and JUST HOW BAD CORPORATE EXPLOITATION REALLY IS. I just can't. (less)