I started doing a Harry Potter vs Hunger Games vs Twilight review when I stumbled upon this awesome blog that did just that. So, instead of reinventing the wheel, let me just add my two cents on how I would rank these three and then on to that review.
1. Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling’s characters and world building are way beyond what either Stephanie Meyers (Twilight) or Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) were able to accomplish. The storyline is infinitely more gripping, and it has mass audience appeal.
Total Books Sold: Over 400 million worldwide
Movie Gross: Over 7.7 billion
2. Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins did a fair job at world building and character development for The Hunger Games, although there were times when things seemed a bit flat. The pace was so fast you almost didn’t have a chance to appreciate the characters.
Total Books Sold: ~3.5 million
Movie Gross: N/A (First movie to be released March 23, 2012) Watch the trailer at the bottom of the page.
3. Twilight Saga
Honestly, the characters were boring, the world building fairly non existent, and the overall writing style was very mundane and repetitive. I understand there is a huge following for this book but the demographics is pretty telling. And yes, I shamefully admit I read the books.
Total Books Sold: Over 100 million
Movie Gross: Over 1.8 billion (with 2 new movies to be released) Watch the trailer at the bottom of the page.
Thanks to Kaede + Jun for this review!
Anyways – I’m writing this because I have finally finished reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy, and it’s being touted as the next “Harry Potter” – sort of. It did get a lot of attention over who would play the lead character Katniss Everdeen.
To figure out the furor around this book, I wanted to find out how it compared to two previous series – Harry Potter and Twilight. I couldn’t find any review satisfying enough, so I decided to make my own. Hence, I spent the last two nights sleeping at 2:30 am trying to finish reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
I could add “His Dark Materials” series into this post too – but I think it would make it insanely long. Unless you want to know what I think of it.
So on to the reviews – from most recent to oldest.
The Hunger Games:
The series is comprised of three books, “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire,” and “Mockingjay.” It follows the protagonist Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old huntress who lives in an almost post-apocalyptic North America, where the country is called Panem and thirteen districts surround the Capitol. It’s ruled under a dictatorship, where the districts are held under strict control and serve only to fulfill the excessive lifestyle of the Capitol citizens. Panem is all about propaganda, reality television, and The Hunger Games, an annual reminder of the districts’ failed rebellion seventy-five years ago.
The Hunger Games is pretty much like Battle Royale – two representatives (a boy and a girl) from every district is sent to the Capitol and trapped in an arena, where they must kill each other for the amusement of the citizens. Katniss is sent in as the representative for her district, along with Peeta Mellark, “the boy with the bread.” He’s the only one who’s ever looked upon her kindly, aside from her best friend and hunting partner Gale Hawthorne. He also harbors a secret, longstanding crush on her.
I won’t spoil the rest of the series, but needless to say, Katniss’ actions during the Hunger Games spark a flame within the dissatisfied citizens of Panem, and her subsequent actions catalyze a rebellion that was long brewing.
Clearly, this book was addicting enough that I stayed up all night for four nights to read each book. I couldn’t wait one more day to finish it. “Mockingjay” took me two nights, only because I had to force myself to sleep. I can’t explain why the books are so addicting definitively, but I think there are three parts:
- The series is complete and I can find out the end if I wanted to. Had I discovered “The Hunger Games” when it first came out, I might have been less addicted, forced to wait the months in between publications.
- The book is fairly easy to read, and doesn’t really try to confuse you.
- It moves fairly quickly. Within a couple of pages, we can go from a battle ground to the aftermath weeks later.
Despite having stayed up reading the series, after I finished it I realized I had a very conflicting feeling of dissatisfaction and satisfaction. It’s as if I was missing something in the books. “Harry Potter” didn’t have this problem for me, but I think one of it’s flaws is that the book moved too fast. I didn’t get a chance to enjoy and appreciate each character. In fact, I don’t think I ever really liked the characters. I read the last page of each book before finishing them because I just wanted to know what happened. Once I knew the ending, I wondered, “Well, how did we get there?” That’s what kept me going in this series.
I honestly must say that the plot is mundane. Battling to survive and sparking a rebellion, with the standard archetypical love triangle – wow so original. Its only highlight is how it is more critical of society than it is of politics today. The idea of lives being under the lights of a camera almost 24/7, and of how we viewers enjoy watching the trials and tribulations of people we don’t know mocks at how American society has become obsessed with reality TV. The excessive use of plastic surgery in order to form the most beautiful of beings reminds us of our own fascination with it, and the idea that everything must be dressed up prettily in order to have power over the people is sad but true.
But this message is not as effective to me as I thought it would be. While I do believe in Collins’ message about how reality TV can be destructive (if that is her message), I am ambivalent to her comments about beauty. A great deal of words is spent on describing how Katniss must be beautified before she makes a public appearance, and about how beautiful she appears once transformed. To me, it just felt like the author was having a field day describing and thinking about the makeover process. (It would certainly play out well in the movies.) There is a purpose to her transformation, and it can be made parallel to her personal growth (though I don’t think she grows very much), but it feels shallow because we are constantly reminded that Katniss is prettier than she thinks, that she can command a room’s attention without trying. Oook – so a girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty is actually pretty, and all the while gets the makeover of her life?
“The Princess Diaries” was much better in telling that plot line.
Now as to the characters, I don’t like them very much because I don’t think they grow very much. Peeta remains the same caring, unselfish protector, even if he does go crazy for a bit. Gale is ever steadfast, and also headstrong in that he believes in rebellion before he knew that there were rebels in the country. And both of them unconditionally love Katniss, which bores me. Their love triangle was the most ridiculous thing ever because Katniss has to choose which boy she likes better. Oh the pains! The horror! Which to choose? Can she have both? Or none at all?
As for Katniss, I find her a sniveling brat, a self-deprecating wit, and a young child all rolled into one. She’s incredibly self-aware that she could be manipulating people she loves, and incredibly sharp about what her role is in the rebellion. However, there are times when she is completely naive about her feelings, and constantly misunderstanding those around her (particularly Peeta and Gale). I am never convinced whenever she thinks badly of Gale or Peeta, or anyone else. Maybe because I’m jaded, but also because there are signs that clearly show they aren’t trying to betray her. Also, I find that she always manages to black out and/or go insane at exactly the right moment, so that we never have to go through how the rest of the battle plays out, and we have everything told to us later on when we’re safe in a hospital bed at a bunker with an IV drip ensuring our life. Wow.
I have plenty of issues about being shown rather than told, and Collins prefers to tell in as short paragraphs as possible. That definitely accounts for why the books speed by so fast.
I enjoyed the second book the most, as there were more unexpected twists in that one than in the first or third book. The first book was a tad predictable and regular; it also wasn’t trying to pack too much story into it. The point of that book was to survive the Hunger Games. The rest of the series had to pack in all the other political details, all the other subplots; basically, they had to reflect a bigger world around Katniss. Book 2 did well in capturing that big world; Book 3 did not, and it was clear the purpose of that book was to just give us closure. There were moments in the first book when I was reminded of
“Eragon,” where in that series, chapters would be spent describing the desert, the slow journey from point A to point B (I don’t even remember the story – that’s how memorable it was). In book 1, there were plenty of moments spent just watching Katniss trying to survive her harsh surroundings in the
Hunger Games arena.
I also never felt complete closure with the last book. I don’t think Katniss ever really improved from how she was in the beginning, and if she did I was told
about it, and therefore I am not convincedof it.
“The Hunger Games” could have been quite the series, but I think book 3 didn’t do it justice. I have to say that the themes in it do make the book better, because I feel like Collins is at least saying something – about how people can easily get caught up in an endless cycle of destruction, about our obsession with beauty, about questions of reality and fantasy, and about our sickening fascination with reality TV, in whatever form they come in.
I don’t think the movies will do it any justice though, as when I tried to visualize the world it wasn’t very imaginative. I get this feeling that it might end up being like “The Golden Compass” movie – where it should have been a movie franchise but wasn’t.
Verdict: Read it, but don’t expect much from it.
Next up: “Twilight”
Doesn’t everyone already know this story? Bella is a loner who is uprooted and moves to Washington to live with her father. She keeps to herself, excepts she gets entangled with Edward and his family of vampires. They’re good vampires though, as they don’t drink human blood. She is interested in him, and he is in her – because he can’t read her thoughts. Needless to say they fall terribly and desperately in love, and once again we have a female protagonist who doesn’t believe she’s beautiful and wants to be a vampire as well.
Of course there’s also Jacob, a Native American who’s a friend of the family, her close friend, and also a werewolf. Jacob and Edward battle for Bella’s heart but Bella is solidly in love with Edward. Of course, her dalliance with vampires doesn’t go very well with the rest of the vampire world and she also starts a war. Especially when she gives birth to a half-vampire, half-human baby.
What is up with female protagonists who don’t know how beautiful they are? Ugh. Secondly, this is once again a standard love triangle – except I think the love triangle takes center stage. In the Twilight series, every subplot/plot revolves around the fact that Edward and Bella love each other. In the Hunger Games series, survival is key, and the love triangle is a subplot. Love in general is what motivates the characters.
I will admit that when I first read this series, I ate it up. Until I got to book three – “Eclipse.” Oh my God that book was painful – I was able to drop it in the middle because it bored me that much. I forced myself to finish it one night, and after that I had an easier time finishing the rest of the series. But “Eclipse” was hard for me to finish; I don’t remember why per se, since I read the series a while ago. As for “Breaking Dawn,” the final book, I didn’t enjoy the switch in points of views between Bella and Jacob, but I dealt with it.
I read it because I wanted to know what happened. (Clearly, I have a penchant for closure, whether I will enjoy the series or not.) I cared enough to know what happened. However, when I look back on it, it feels like a trite melodrama. Weepy and pathetic, all about love, sex, and vampires. I mean, who could not ignore the glaring signs that when Bella said she wanted to be a vampire, she really meant she wanted to lose her virginity to him? Also, I hated that Bella wanted to live solely for Edward, that she wanted to do nothing but be his wife (and perhaps sleep with him all day long). I’m not a feminist, but I’m pro-woman. I do not think Bella was strong at all. When she finally discovers her special talent or power, which every vampire has, I cheer – only to discover that it’s to be able to create mental shields. That made for one exciting final showdown – Mental Shield! Woosh! Enemies ram into an invisible force field! Win.
The characters are not compelling in that I don’t really like what they are all representing, or how they all act out of love for Bella. However, I will give that Stephenie Meyer definitely made me understand the characters. With only one book over “The Hunger Games” series, she managed to still tell a story that didn’t move too fast, and was a saga in its own way.
I still have the series on my bookshelf. I bought it hardcover. Big mistake. I wish I returned it sooner – but then again, it took me longer than the 14-day limit on returns to finish book three. I’d like to think it will be worth something when I sell it, but I doubt it. So until then, it sits on my bookshelf, collecting dust.
I don’t think the movies made it any better. I watched the first movie because I was a fan of Kristen Stewart. Go figure. Unfortunately the script was so laughably bad – ripping lines from the book – that I lost interest in the rest of the movies. No way in hell is anyone going to convince me otherwise to sit through the rest of the series.
I will give “Twilight” one thing – it had a satisfying ending. But then again – how could it not? A happy ending for the series would be for Bella and Edward to end up together free of any otherworldly threats. Bella and Edward also both got what they wanted. It’s a simplistic ending, compared to Katniss Everdeen’s ending (which is wrought in pain, memories, but also hope). Perhaps the ending to “The Hunger Games” was more complex, and I would have appreciated a non-happy ending – if only Katniss had convinced me that she grew and became a stronger person out of the ordeal. Bella and Edward didn’t convince me they were better off from the start of the series, but I don’t think they ever intended to from the beginning. No expectations, no disappointments.
Stephenie Meyer was lucky – she was able to get a lot of people talking and going crazy over a mindless series that extolled true, all-consuming love and passion. Ick. A romance novel for the teens. I’m sure the mothers were excited about it because they were titillated by the exciting prospect of falling in love with a vampire. Ladies – these vampires are no Lestat.
Verdict: Skip it. Want to know what happens? Go talk to a tween.
Next up: “Harry Potter”
Harry Potter, Harry Potter – how much I love thee – let me count the ways…
Again – does it really need one? Harry Potter is the “boy who lived” – the boy who survived the attack from the wizarding world’s deadliest, most evil foe, Lord Voldemort. (Also quite witty, if you follow his Twitter.) He grows up, not knowing how famous he is, until he arrives at Hogwarts. There he is faced with his fame and infamy, and takes it all in stride like a humble, non-assuming boy that he is. He becomes fast friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and together they spend six years at Hogwarts, battling odd occurrences until it’s clear Lord Voldemort is back and wants revenge. They spend their seventh year away from Hogwarts, on their own but in search of the way to defeat Voldemort once and for all.
Best. Effing. Book. Ever.
Oh. Is that not sufficient? OK. J.K. Rowling took a simple premise – good must overcome evil – and created an epic saga. She created a magical world out of thin air that could not possibly exist, and yet was so real and so relatable that everyone thought it could. (I still think there was some mistake with my post office that I did not get my letter to Hogwarts. I blame the screens on my windows – how could an owl fly through them!?) She was creative with the names without ever seeming to try hard about creating unique names. (That’s another thing that Suzanne Collins disappointed me with. The names were too unique – they screamed, “I’m trying to create a new world here!” Peeta; Tigris; Katniss; Finnick; and then there were the obvious ironies like the bloodthirsty President Snow, or the lovely Primrose.)
She built up the series. Granted, she had seven books to work with and therefore could take her time in planting nuggets of information that you don’t realize are valuable until later on. But her skillful character development, her use of language (British people really write elegantly – my favorite books are by British authors), and her ability to describe and inform were excellent in creating a world for all of us to live in. She made wizards and witches real, because even though they used wands, they looked just like us. Acted just like us. They grew up with us. I think with the way she wrote her books, even if she could only do a trilogy she could create a story just as wonderful to escape into as Harry Potter was.
She’s great at showing rather than telling. We see the memories that Harry delves into. We see him suffer the loss of a friend, a relative, an ally. We see him grow, become moody, become vengeful, fall in love, and then rise to the occasion to become the hero we want him to be. It’s not like he’s forced to be a hero (like how Katniss is forced to become one), but that people around him push him along the path, but ultimately he decides for himself what he has to do. Rowling describes the world so vividly that one cannot help but visualize it. It’s also what helped make the films so much better than “Twilight,” because the producers had so much more to work with.
This was the one series where I wanted a tragic ending. I wanted Harry to die. That’s not to say I didn’t like the ending of the book, but it was such an epic series that I wanted the main character to die just so I could have closure. Just so I could say, “This series is done and no man shall ever pick up a pen to write a sequel.” Just so I could stop wondering, “Well, what happened to them afterwards? What about Cho Chang!?” Just so I could stop visiting the world, because honestly I’m voracious for every Potter-thing that comes my way. There is a happy ending, but it comes at a price. Plenty of important, beloved characters die. The stakes are high, and no one is safe. On the other hand, in “The Hunger Games,” only one character of importance (to me) died, and in “Twilight” no one I cared for died. The stakes weren’t high – I knew the main characters would come out alive. In Harry Potter, I didn’t. And I think that’s what’s terrifying and powerful at the same time. The pen is mightier than the sword.
Rowling’s message about humanity and good and evil is so simple; it’s not as deep or perhaps sociologically profound as The Hunger Games’ message, but it works better. Rowling really explored her message and made it worthwhile. As long as the books move you, then I think they are effective. It’s hard to describe what makes this book saga so powerful, so magical, other than the fact that it is. It’s an adventure, a fantasy, a reality, a drama, a comedy all rolled into one.
My favorite books in order are “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (of which is my top favorite movie), “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (of which is my second most favorite movie), “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and finally “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (too much exposition in that last one).
Verdict: Read it. If you haven’t, you are sorely missing out in childhood. And I don’t care if you’re already fifty.
Hunger Games Trailer:
Twilight Breaking Dawn Trailer: