OK, everyone say it with me: The Hunger Games has flaws. There, don't we feel better? Let's be honest, these aren't classic works of literature. The setting is colorful and dynamic, but doesn't really hold up to any logical inspection. The "muttations" (what a stupid name) in particular feel like plot devices more than actual setting elements. While the writing does improve, the first book has quite a few egregious prosaic problems, including chunky exposition and semicolon failure. Amusingly, Chapter 1 of Book 1 is by far the worst offender—of all the chapters for the editor to take a nap! It's not exactly subtle, either—themes are sometimes quite clunkily handled. Shakespeare it ain't. I still loved it. The series makes up for its not-insignificant flaws with impeccable plotting, quick pacing, and above all else, an incredibly compelling cast. Katniss may be my favorite "YA" lead ever: she's complex, tough, and eminently likable despite a whole host of character flaws. It's so refreshing to come across a heroine who is neither a passive distressed damsel, like the heroines of too many YA novels, nor a man with breasts, like the heroines of too many comic books, nor a Mary Sue, like the heroines of too many fanfictions. She's genuinely relatable, she emotes convincingly, she kicks ass without compromising femininity. The supporting cast is likewise excellently drawn, to the point that it's hard to pick out a favorite supporting character. The pacing is terrific, helped by brutally succinct prose (which, as mentioned above, drastically improves after the first chapter and again after the first book). The books are as close to un-putdownable as anything I've read, ever. This perfect pacing helps the reader to overlook some of the setting inconsistencies; after all, the characterization is the main attraction here. The plotting is swift and well-executed, and the series features the best gut-punch ending I've encountered in a good long while. I admire the author for having the conviction to write the ending that made sense, and not the one readers wanted. Bravo, really. Look, these books aren't going to change your life. They aren't masterpieces. What they are are incredibly entertaining, well-plotted stories about compelling characters in a colorful setting. They should make great movies. Read them. You'll have fun.
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