There is one really important note to add to the beginning of this review: if I was a member of this book's target audience, that is, if I was a 11-15...moreThere is one really important note to add to the beginning of this review: if I was a member of this book's target audience, that is, if I was a 11-15 year old girl, this would be a 5-star review.
I say this because The Hunger Games has just about everything that would appeal to someone in that target audience. Katniss is the archetypal strong, yet sympathetic underdog female lead. Peeta and Gale are the formulaic love interests for the female lead: one is kind, easily hurt, and hopeful for a better world, while the other is more tough, cynical, and willing to do just about anything to get what he wants. In addition, the book is the perfect teen action-love story: the underdog, sympathetic main female lead has to ensure her own survival while fighting against the establishment (symbolized by the Capitol) while leaving her with just enough time to fall in love with one of the formulaic love interests. There is action, romance, and a call to Fight the Power. What is there for a teenage girl not to love?
In short, The Hunger Games is perfect, which is the exact reason why I can't give it 5 stars. Every action, every significant character (especially Rue), every plot turn, fits in its exact spot so perfectly that it is almost dull. Reading the book feels as if Suzanne Collins discovered the Recipe for Writing the Perfect Teen Novel and then followed it to a T. While this is a great strategy to create commercial value, (after all, The Hunger Games is wildly popular and has likely made Suzanne Collins rich), it is a strategy that strips a lot of artistic value from the book.
One of the books main problems that came from using such a strategy was that reading it leaves nothing for the reader to think about. Suzanne Collins talks about Katniss' harsh life, but then she neatly wraps up the ugly underside that is part of such a life. For example, despite the book being about kids killing each other, Katniss almost never has to kill anyone. Even when she does, the few children that she kills are written not as regular children who are just like her, but as soulless, evil monsters. All of the other kids are either killed by the soulless, evil monsters, or by accident. In doing this, Collins takes away all of the moral ambiguity and most of the hardship that Katniss should have faced, and as a result, removes all opportunity for her and the reader to grow.
If I had to summarize the book, I would say that it is like taking a romp through dystopian society in a Rolls-Royce. One can see the hardship, but one is never forced to actually deal with it. In that regard, it is the perfect novel for the young and the superficially rebellious. Anyone else though, will note the irony in that while The Hunger Games talks about going against society and fighting against the convention, it makes no attempt to do so itself. (less)
Remember that one kid from college? That white kid from Greenwich, CT who would walk around in a dirty T-shirt and talk about being a Societal Rebel a...moreRemember that one kid from college? That white kid from Greenwich, CT who would walk around in a dirty T-shirt and talk about being a Societal Rebel and a Free Thinker? The one who would major in Medieval Woman's Basket-weaving just to talk about how much of a Conformist, Capitalist Pig he wasn't, even as he was receiving a $10,000 monthly stipend from his father the investment banker?
This book is like being in his head. All the time.(less)
The world that Morgenstern created is so exquisite that it should have been easy for her to spin a good story. The Ni...moreThis book had so much potential.
The world that Morgenstern created is so exquisite that it should have been easy for her to spin a good story. The Night Circus could have been a story of intrigue and manipulation. It could have been a heartfelt romance. If Moregenstern wanted to, The Night Circus could even have been a coming of age story with a thoughtful message about growing up and the choices we make.
Instead, the final product is a badly written soap opera. The main characters, Marco and Celia, were very hard to like. They were supposed to be adults, but I personally felt as if they had the emotional maturity of pre-teens. For example, after one of Celia's friends dies, she goes to Marco for comfort. While crying in his chest, Celia says that this character had often written letters to her. This is what Marco says: "I would have written to you as well if I could. A sea of ink is not sufficient to describe my feelings for you." This then turns into an entire conversation where they sap about how much they love each other. Mind you, the friend had been dead for less than a few hours. That's alright though, his death was clearly not as important as their love.
Speaking of their love, it was melodramatic and unrealistic. Marco is enchanted with how beautiful Celia is. Celia plays hard to get, but after one evening in which they have a stale, uninteresting conversation, they are suddenly madly in love. In one scene, Marco held Celia's hand, and the mere touch of his skin on hers had her gasping for breath. Honestly? In another, he grabs her and kisses her in front of a ballroom, and the chandeliers tremble. Every interaction basically involves them either being used a plot vehicles to explain things to the reader, or was an excuse for them to state their love. Over and over and over again. Each time in a more melodramatic way than the last. Never mind that nothing happens for them that actually would cause them to fall in love. Finally, just to drive my point home, here is an actual line from Marco: "I would rather die by her side than live without her!"
Even when their interactions could have been meaningful, one or the other finds a way to devalue the entire scene. At one point in the book, Celia is complaining about the emotional toll that this competition is having on her. Marco offers to go to his mentor and have Celia declared a winner. Hey! Problem solved! (Well, not really, but neither of the characters know that yet)What does Celia do when she is given an answer to every one of her problems? She decides that it is much too tiring to talk about. So instead making an honest effort to figure out their problems together, she enchants him so that he can't speak, complains more about the emotional toll that this competition is having on her, and then has emotional sex with him.
It was such a pity that Morgenstern chose such god awful characters to be the focus of the book. She had so many characters at her disposal who were much more likable and three dimensional. I would have loved the book if it had been about Chandresh and his pride, and how Marco and A.H manipulated that to their ends. Or if it had focused on Prospero and Mr. A.H as they dueled with their ideologies. Though the Burgess sisters were minor characters, their slow realization that something wasn't right with the circus could have made for an interesting main plot. Even if the story was about Bailey, it could have been sweet and adorable. Out of all the potential characters and stories she had, Morgenstern chose the worst, and magnified them up to 1000.
Besides the characters, this reader also had problems with the plot, namely that fact it was vague and riddled with loopholes. The reader is never quite shown how the magic in the book works, or even how the competition itself works. Without this understanding, it was hard to know why Celia and Marco did what they did, because there were a million other things that they could have done that would have made more sense. Lucy's review provides one glaring example. In addition, the plot itself moves dreadfully slow. It takes 16 years for something to actually happen, and Morgenstern tries to distract the reader from that by filling the pages with pretty imagery and tone.
In short, what could have been a fantastic story was ruined by lazy plotting and dreadful characters. Morgenstern should consider a career in art directing-she can create beautiful images and obviously has a vivid imagination, but she cannot create any substance behind her images.(less)