I didn't even mean to read this book. Not now, anyway. I picked it up because I was watching author tube videos about point of view, to try to figure out if I wanted to write my own book in first or third person. I learned that the Hunger Games is written in first person present tense — how unusual. I couldn't remember another book like that, and I was curious what it felt like, what the rhythm was. Would it be right for mine? So I began.
The writing isn't the kind I usually gush over. There aren't long paragraphs of description, or metaphors every other sentence. It's brief, rough, almost a little choppy. But it works, because everything I read was Katniss and her thoughts. Through her mind, through her eyes, in her past and in her present. Right there in every moment. There aren't gaps in time, either, because it wouldn't make sense for us not to know what she does every single day. But I also lost track of time; the flow of nights and days, especially while she was in the arena, felt almost as endless and discombobulating as they might have to her.
Needless to say, first person present tense was definitely the right way to go for this book. I am trying to imagine it in past tense, but it doesn't work — even though we know she must survive, we don't know know. If it were written in past tense, there would be a sense of safety to it that would take away from the immediate danger of the Hunger Games. If she spoke in past tense, part of our minds might already be out of the Hunger Games, knowing she must have won. And, it only makes sense to tell such a harrowing adventure in present tense. I cannot imagine her wanting to tell it in such detail over again.
From the moment Katniss volunteers until she returns back to the Seam, she loses parts of herself, forgets who she is, struggles to understand her identity. In her words, “Who I am and who I am not.” Everything she was put through tested her at the most fundamental level, but there were always layers of meaning. She could not think only of her survival, but also of her family back home, of the Gamemakers, of the Capitol, of the audience, of the entertainment factor.
(It only struck me nearing the end of the book that the Hunger Games is actually reality T.V. It seemed so far away and too evil to fit into a category we already have, but it does. That's exactly what it is. I am sure there are Gamemakers in real reality T.V., too, though hopefully far less sadistic.)
But as Katniss is struggling with her identity, we have gotten to know her intimately. We know what the Capitol doesn't. I feel like she trusts me, to be sharing her innermost thoughts and most private moments. Yet at the same time, I myself disappear into her consciousness. We blend together into one, one character who is completely in the present moment, and completely in danger. The cadence of first person present and Katniss's voice seeped into my brain.
For the two nights I read it before bed, my dreams were just a continuation or slightly distorted replay of what I had just experienced in the book. Almost like the replays that the Capitol forces them to watch. I have been on edge, a first-person present narrative running through my head. Last night, I was at the Cornucopia, gold and gleaming in the arid landscape. I was with Peta. Besides us, only Cato was left. I was retracing my steps to the feast, but this time there was a choice to be made about what I was going to pick up. A loaf of bread, some feet from the golden horn, lay there on the cracked ground. This loaf of bread was crucial. What did I have to do to save Peeta?
Spoilers ahead as I mull over the ending
Speaking of Peeta, I didn't realize how much of a romance this would be. Or... a feign of one. I felt as played as the audience, as saddened as Peeta, when Katniss admitted that a lot of her motivation for acting so romantically was for the Games, for their survival. But even then, she wanted to ensure his survival. That is real. The boy with the bread. I know she cares about him deeply. Peeta, Peeta. He is so sweet, remaining so seemingly genuine even in his darkest moments. I worry for him, now.
My kindle showed me I was about 80% of the way through the book. I expected many more pages of them coming home, of Katniss reuniting with her family, of her seeing Gale, of her and Peeta alone. Of their houses in the circle, of continued paranoia about the Capitol and their berry rebellion.
But, no. I clicked page next and what do you know, the book is over. The next 20% is a preview of Catching Fire.
I wasn't prepared for that, but it makes sense. Dragging out the homecoming wasn't necessary, and the end made for much more of an impact and left enough up in the air ending where it did.