The second book of the Hunger Games trilogy is, much like the first, a quick read. It doesn’t have quite the page turning suspense of the first book, but it does dig deeper into the world that Suzanne Collins has created.

I had a few thoughts as I read… I try not to give away any specific spoilers, but if you haven’t read this, you might want to stop here.

– Collins set herself quite a difficult and dangerous task in writing a second book that follows the structure of the first book so closely, but she manages to do a decent job of pulling it off. This time she spends less time focusing on the arena and more time on the events in the world. It results in less suspense, as I mentioned earlier (although a much darker tone), but deeper characters.

– The first-person, present tense still bothered me, even moreso than in the first book. Every time I picked the book up after a break, it took two or three pages to settle comfortably into the voice. And in the case of this book, it led to the single biggest problem of the story… which I’ll get to in the last bullet.

– The first book was written in such a way that it could have easily been, with a few minor changes to the end, a standalone story. I found it interesting that this book is not a complete story and depends entirely on another book following it–so much so that this book felt like world-building and scene-setting for the real story which is to come in the final installment. I’m guessing that this was because Collins wrote the first book unsure if there would be a sequel whereas she wrote this one knowing that there would be another. But the result is a book that moves much more slowly than the first and is far less satisfying. I hope the third book has a payoff to make this strategy worth it.

– If I were asked to critique this story, there is one (to my mind) huge central problem that I would address to the exclusion of most others. Because this story is told in first person present, and because Katniss, the narrator, is kept in the dark for the entire book about what is really happening, the reader is also kept in the dark. Then, on the last three pages, there is a huge dump of information to the reader, via Katniss being told by the other characters, to explain what has really been going on for the whole story. I think it’s a huge mistake to keep the reader so much in the dark and certainly less than satisfying to be force-fed an explanation in the last few pages.

All in all, not as fun a read as the first book, but its ultimate success depends on how well the third book can pull off the story.

Next up: The Little Purple Book of Peculiar Stories by Craig Shaw Gardener.

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