Monday, January 25, 2010

Book review: YA dystopian fiction

Much has been written about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Inspired by reality show competitions, war coverage and the Greek myth of the Minotaur of Crete who devours sacrifices of Athenian youth. As Collins explained, "Crete was sending a very clear message: 'Mess with us and we'll do something worse than kill you. We'll kill your children.'" 

The book deserves the accolades, but in spite of my admiration and reading pleasure I grew frustrated by a forced romantic triangle and the stretching out of a story that could be well told in one, maybe two, books but was stretched into a trilogy. I especially regretted that the initially strong and interesting protagonist lost her direction and inner self. Increasingly the focus zoned in on which boy she'd choose. Granted there were significant ramifications to her choice, but couldn't that have been attached to some other decision of hers? For example, what political allegiance she claimed.

Two recent books that explore similar moral and human dilemmas in richer and more satisfying ways while also sustaining well structured narratives are UNWIND by Neal Shusterman and THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson. Both of these novels have the thrill of action and mystery along with strong characters and story lines.

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