The Hunger Games – A Novel Poorly Written

I can’t take it anymore. If one more person tells me how amazing The Hunger Games is I’m liable to blow my lid and attack them. What is it about poor writing that amazes you people?

I’m going to pick on an article I read: Why The Hunger Games Is The Future of Writing – and I’ll apologize to the author of this article in advance:

I’m sorry I’m using you as my example, but I desperately disagree with what you wrote. I disagree, and I pray to every supernatural deity out there that this does not come to be reality.

I’ll say this up-front because it may turn many of you away from the rest of this post: I did not finish the first book. I was completely unable to read it. But I did try. If that’s not enough, maybe one day I’ll force my way through the rest of the book – torture that it may be, because I know, with many of you, not finishing it strips me of my credibility or right to an opinion.

To those of you who think this: Bugger off.

To the rest of you: Let’s get started.

In the opening lines of the article, our friendly writer says this of the book:

It’s expected to surpass Twilight.

Okay, well, yeah. In terms of writing, that wouldn’t be hard to do. But then:

Maybe even be the next Harry Potter.

What? No. No way. In terms of fandom strength and popularity, I suppose so. But this series cannot stand against the Harry Potter series based on the merit of its writing alone. It’s just not possible.

Harry Potter is very well written. It boasts an elaborately complex plot that weaves elements together from the first book all the way through to the seventh book. The characters have so much depth and personality that they might as well just take a breath and step off the pages, they’re practically alive as it is.

But a comparison between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter is not what I’ve come here to make.

Why is The Hunger Games so popular? So fascinating? So damn special?

Because apparently society is getting dumber. We’re all idiots. Adults in their 50’s are apparently stampeding through malls wearing tube tops and letting their jeans sag down around their calves while their children cry in embarrassment and hide behind the Dippin’ Dots booth, praying they don’t run into anyone they know.

Because apparently even adults are at a 6th grade reading level. Really? I was reading at college-level in 6th grade, or so the tests and teachers told me. And I don’t point this out to be arrogant, but I’m genuinely amazed if the majority of our population (the ones that actually take the time to read books in the first place) are not at least reading at a high school level.

So why is Suzanne Collins so successful with The Hunger Games?

She writes short novels, in large fonts, with quick chapters. If you’re going to get people to read your content (whether it’s fiction or nonfiction), you should consider doing the same.

No, please. Please don’t do that. She writes “short novels, in large fonts, with quick chapters” because she’s writing Young Adult fiction – please don’t recommend this to people as a general tactic to become the next best seller UNLESS they’re writing YA fiction.

I don’t want to read nonfiction that uses short, stilted sentences with jumbo fonts when I’m trying to learn something. I want information, I want lots of details and specifics, I want all of this and that’s why I came to you, Mr. Nonfiction. For that matter, I don’t want to read fiction that has such trimmed, empty prose either. There’s a difference between creating tension and suspense with cutting words because you can’t find words to convey imagery or emotion.

Collins writes short sentences that pack a punch. They are disturbingly terse, like a Hemingway novel. Yet, they build suspense and momentum and work perfectly for a culture with an attention deficit.

To give you an idea of how she does this, here’s an excerpt from The Hunger Games(via Slate Magazine):

We’re on a flat, open stretch of ground. A plain of hard-packed dirt. Behind the tributes across from me, I can see nothing, indicating either a steep downward slope or even a cliff. To my right lies a lake. To my left and back, sparse piney woods. This is where Haymitch would want me to go. Immediately.

Thanks to the constant noise of TV and the Internet, this is the future of writing. Yes, there may still be a place for long-form, but the burden of proof has shifted. Now, shorter is better, because it means the reader will actually stay engaged.

Ugh. Where to start…

First of all, does no one else see all the fragments in that excerpt? “A plain of hard-packed dirt.” Yeah, so? What about it? There’s no freaking verb there!

Again: “To my left and back, sparse piney woods.” What?? What are you trying to say? To my left and back, there ARE sparse piney woods? To my left and back, sparse piney woods were painted on a backdrop to give the illusion of setting? To my left and back, BAM! sparse piney woods sprang up out of nowhere and slapped me in the face before I could finish that sentence?!

That’s not a SENTENCE. Both of those are only half of a sentence. That’s like going to the ice-cream stand and asking for a banana split and only getting a cup with bananas and chocolate fudge but no frickin’ ice cream. It’s incomplete and it leaves you frustrated and angry, wanting to know why the hell you paid for a full split and only got the bananas!

Sure, if you’re lactose intolerant then this doesn’t upset you. And there’s a hefty part of the population that has…literature…lactose…intol—Fine! I’m losing the analogy, but you get my point!

There are people who love this partial writing. Just look at the success Cormac McCarthy had with The Road – He dropped half his ice cream in the dirt on the way to the publisher. He handed them the cone and they grinned like idiots and said, “This is the best ice cream ever!”



I gotta stop with the ice cream references.

Second? I’ve grown up my entire life with the TV in the background, a gadget in my hand, a game console in every room, the internet, cell phones – SHINY THINGS!

But I still have an attention span that will allow me to sit for HOURS upon HOURS while I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from start to finish without eating dinner or going to sleep or really doing anything aside from the necessary break to pee.

He says: “Now, shorter is better, because it means the reader will actually stay engaged.”

The whole reason I didn’t finish The Hunger Games was because I never felt engaged so it wasn’t a matter of losing me. There was nothing there to make me care from the start. As writing becomes shorter, more terse, more bare…I care even less.

Then there’s this:

The Hunger Games is not a children’s book (or movie). It’s full of bloodshed and adult themes. Like teenage kids battling it to the death as a form of entertainment for a futuristic dystopia, in which the government controls the population through forced sacrifice. Yep. Intense.

And I’m sorry, but The Hunger Games is a book for kids. Unless my sources are entirely inaccurate, The Hunger Games is classified as a YA novel. “YA” meaning Young Adult, specifically for children between the ages of 12 and 18. This book  may have darker themes and be a bit on the graphic side but it is still a book for teenagers, also known as “Not Yet Adults” and thus: “Kids.”This is the main reason it’s written in such a short, snappy fashion. And yet, I am so against urging writers to perpetuate this style of writing.

Collins has essentially “dumbed down” her story to a point where it is barren of character depth and provides no emotional investment. You get the bones of the story, but you’re missing out on so much more that could have been there.

This article suggests that society has devolved in terms of a collective intelligence and that we’re too easily distracted by anything that flashes bright colors or a little boob or spurts fake blood. So then this is my question:

Why are we constantly changing everything to accommodate society rather than working to improve it?

“Oh, there are more obese people in America than ever before? Change the sizing scales so a size 8 is now a size 4 and a 4 is a size 1. Yay! Problem solved.”

NO. Larger women don’t end up feeling better about themselves because they’re suddenly wearing a size 4 – they just feel worse because now they’re simply competing with the size 1 and starving themselves until they can graduate from the 4 into the 1. The solution isn’t to change things to accommodate society, the solution is to FIX society.

Teach women to be healthy and then teach them that being healthy means loving their bodies as they are: sizes notwithstanding. Educate children on food choices and nutrition. Put physical Ed back into the schools.

If our attention spans are so freaking bad that we can’t make it through a kids’ book without it being stripped of everything that gives the story its depth, then let’s work on educating children and teaching them to focus. Take your kids outside to play, for crying out loud. Get them off the computer. GET YOURSELVES OFF THE COMPUTER AND GO WITH THEM.

Read to your children while they’re young so they learn what it is to invest themselves in a story, to get caught up in the plot, to not be so impatient that they want to skip “the boring parts” so they can get to the blood and guts and explosions.

The Hunger Games cannot be the future of writing. If all books take on this style of producing empty prose with nothing but mindless action and terse descriptions…then, well…let’s just end this sentence visually:




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Comments (23)

DeannaJune 19th, 2012 at 2:39 AM

While I agree that “Hunger Games” is a poorly written novel, I feel that comparing its popularity to that of “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” is quite irrelevant. I’m surprised you neglected to focus on the author’s comparison of Suzanne Collins’s writing to that of Ernest Hemingway’s. It’s downright ignorant and insulting to say that Collins elementary style of writing and feeble plot are at all on par with Hemingway’s subtle and raw novels. Collins writes to appeal to the violent and rebellious nature of younger readers, Hemingway wrote to to capture the disillusionment felt by those suffering and afflicted by the violence of the real world. “A Farewell To Arms” is a good example of this.

MaeJuly 5th, 2012 at 12:56 AM

Its not a bad story line, i find it very intriguing. However, the writing of the novel (fragment sentences, out of place punctuations,confusing past and present tense language such as “I say “, and off – grammar) is what annoys me. How do u publish a novel with those mistakes? Im a 14 year old whom wrote since the age of 5; still currently ameteur, but I myself dont write such english wording in that manner. Suzanne has an amazing mind skill to twist a tv show around adding her imaginery towards it, but needs to take a couple writing classes.

MaeJuly 5th, 2012 at 12:59 AM

*imagination, sorry type to fast

TauAugust 21st, 2012 at 10:30 PM

It is a poorly executed good idea. Not only is her writing poor she makes up things that just don’t make sense. Katniss puts on her boot and then her pants (not very quiet or stealthy when you don’t want to wake anyone up); eats cheese wrapped in basil leaf (which would be the size of a marble) and wears magical fire that doesn’t burn that was invented by a stylist. Too much of it is nonsensical to sustain the story ideas, which are not bad at all.

shannonAugust 23rd, 2012 at 2:51 AM

I have to agree. I was sorely dissapointed. I finally gave in to seeing the movie after months of ignoring the hype. I figured if it was anything like that Twighlight crap my friends begged me to go to I was going to vomit a little in my mouth. The surprise was that though it was silly on many levels …like the techno/17th century burgiose of the Capitol thing they had going on it was also a pretty darn entertaining flick. So I downloaded the books to continue the story. Agggghhhhh! This is the first time in my 32 years that a film has managed to surpass the book it was protraying. Isn’t that completely backwards? The writting is totally unnaceptable. I dint understand how the author made it through college level writing courses if she did intact attend college. Comparing this to children’s liturature is is wrong. There are better writers for Highlights magazine than this utter crap. When I was growing up I read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen…I was there in my mind as the plane went down! As the main characture struggled for survival. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins in 5th grade…the commarant birds had more depth of characture than Katness the main characture of these novels if you dare call them that. I hate to say it…but the Twighlight novels were better constructed and I HATE that irridecent teenybopper crap. Absolutely think it is the shallowest most vapid teenage angst saturated peice of total poo available in print. I liked the movie. Those movie people could only go up. The book is an offense to any intellegent person who is capable of reading any level beyond Dick and Jane Kindergarden primers.

Heather E.August 23rd, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Shannon, I totally agree with you. This style of writing is unacceptable. But the general public continues to eat it up. I wish people would take more pride in what they read and in what they write, even.

I wish we could leave the “spectacle” behind and enjoy a good story for being a good story, not because “OMG, BLOOD! EXPLOSIONS! WOO!”

LaurenNovember 21st, 2012 at 4:39 PM

I’ve just finished reading the second novel and it was a struggle to get through. It does not make sense at all, she’s here and then she’s there! Half the time I have no idea what’s going on. No-one can compare this book to the wonderful Harry Potter, a perfectly written book that is interesting but also very easy to understand. I started reading Harry Potter when I was 10, I’m now 20 and can still finish the books without putting them down in one day. The story doesn’t get boring no matter how many times you read it. Where as with the Hunger Games, I’m finding it hard to even want to read the third novel.

Heather E.November 21st, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Lauren, I don’t understand how anyone can compare it to Harry Potter. Short of it being ridiculously popular, I don’t see any other connections or similarities whatsoever. If you want to get kids reading, then give them Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, anything by Tamora Pierce for girls – I rather liked Eragon, though many argue it’s formulaic and cliche. They’re all soooo much better!

D TaylorJanuary 19th, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Don’t you understand the idea behind first-person present-tense writing which is intended to take you right into the eyes of the lead character, who narrates as though you’re right there beside them experiencing everything they see along with THEM?

It’s intentional to weave a dialogue type of writing into the prose to give the tone of a character telling you the story. It’s similar to screen-writing in the sense that it allows the reader to experience a piece of writing which comes across as much more visual. The structure of The Hunger Games is also similar to how plays and film is written for that dramatic fast-paced, cliff-hanger effect that some people find much easier to read – probably more visually inclined people.

“We’re on a flat, open stretch of ground. A plain of hard-packed dirt. Behind the tributes across from me, I can see nothing, indicating either a steep downward slope or even a cliff. To my right lies a lake. To my left and back, sparse piney woods. This is where Haymitch would want me to go. Immediately.”


It requires much more work from the author to make sure the writing is comprehensive enough that we see and know everything we need to but at the same time get a sense that a person is telling us what they’re seeing, not an author over-articulating what they observed characters doing.

I think it’s only a good thing that this type of writing and other types of writing exists for differet types of readers. It’s not about being dumb. And Suzanne Collins is a very talented and knowledgeable woman who’s crafted a very elaborate plot with The Hunger Games. There’s a lot that happens in the novels yet she’s managed to do it in a way that’s clear, accurate, detailed and most importantly entertaining which is what stories should be.

We should be grateful that authors like Suzanne Collins exist today if they’re helping to make sure that large numbers of younger people are still reading and not relying on TV alone for their entertainment.

Heather E.May 19th, 2013 at 11:25 PM

I agree that it’s good there is a variety of writing types out there for everyone. This one simply is not for me. I hate it. It does NOT succeed in pulling me into the eyes of the character. It does not feel as though they’re speaking to me. It’s a distraction and draws more attention to the flaws in the writing itself. That’s all it does for me. Nothing about it makes me feel as though the author worked any harder on this than an author writing in third person. All writing should be comprehensive and not over-articulated. Just because it’s in third person doesn’t mean it has any right to be wordy, overly-detailed, and boring.

This isn’t to say that others aren’t free to love Collins’ style. My opinion isn’t the definitive law on what makes good writing. That being said, I have every right to go on hating the present tense style. As far as The Hunger Games is concerned, I’ll just stick to the movies.


meAugust 11th, 2013 at 12:08 AM

I think the twilights were better written than the hunger games. I couldn’t even get past page ten. This does Not give you the illusion of living it from the first person unless that person is incapable of creative or even much thought. It was written in a format for grade school children but the content isn’t. I have an easier time reading instruction manuals. I would be embarrassed to put my name on these if I were the author. Especially if I was capable of better writing but let someone convince me to pander to the masses like this. Shame

LawrenceAugust 18th, 2013 at 10:55 AM

I so agree with you. I personally have read the whole trilogy and watched the movie. Before reading the books, basing only on the plot summary and the hearsay, I thought that THG was an average YA fiction which had obtained immense popularity because of its subject, despite it being everything but original (it’s a direct rip-off of other sources, primarily Battle Royale but also other novels). After reading it I was amazed by how such a mediocre writer can become one of the most successful novelists of the decade.
For example, the first-person technique should be used when you want to shed a light on the character’s inner world and to the way he sees and thinks about the outer world. That’s fine. Yet Katniss is a bidimensional character that acts like a robot, one of the flatest characters I’ve ever encountered. That happens also because of the poor style you talk about in your article.
Let alone the huge plot holes and other small and big defects of the story, which doesn’t necessarily have to do with the writing style itself.
This, for the first book; the second and third are just plain crap probably written in a two-days period, like the movie.

Moreover, am I the only one who believes the article you criticize is sort of ‘racist’? I mean, it’s like “people are getting more stupid, so let’s just give them something more stupid to read because they aren’t clever enough to read something else”. I’d say that reading is not a necessary task. What makes reading ideally different from passively watching TV is that it requires attention and reflection and that it can help the reader to focus on his insight and to build his world and his personality while looking how others have expressed theirs. It should give something to the reader, it should help the reader to grow both mentally and culturally. Instead, if the only purpose of literature is entertaining there’s no difference between this and any given reality TV-show and reading becomes no more an “extra”.
I could say much more but my comment is already very confused. English is not my first language. I hope you understand what I’ve written.

ceinwynNovember 25th, 2013 at 5:23 AM

An easy read for the dumbed down (excluding the intended YA demo it’s meant for, though I wish YA literature was more challenging with prose that inspires by demonstrating the writer’s literary genius). The only redeeming quality of these ‘novels’ is the underlying theme, though it’s unclear to me if the writer is even aware of it, or if so, it’s importance.

MarlenaDecember 21st, 2013 at 12:53 AM

This article read my mind.

I just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy for the third time. I must say I really do love the series. Why? It’s because of the plot. I love the plot, and I love the characters. (Even though Katniss becomes obnoxiously like Bella IN THE WAY THAT she acts cold to others and it not particularly pretty yet she has boys crawling over her) (And also Peeta and Finnick are unreasonably perfect men- Seriously, where are their flaws?) I love when characters have flaws, because it makes them real. That’s why many of the characters didn’t seem real to me.

Anywho I’m very shocked with myself that I didn’t notice how poorly they were written before. The 3rd one becomes laughable.

The actual books could become twice as long with proper descriptions, backstories, etc. Transitions are sloppy and blocky. Writing switches from the style of “I walk up the hill in the sun” to “As I trudge down the steep hill, the sun swelters my face.” It will go from a very bare sentence lacking eloquence to a sentence with forced eloquence…if that makes sense.

In the end, I feel like the story has so much potential and could be so much better with some better writing.

Also…@Heather E I ♥ your avatar! Tifa :)

ACMarch 18th, 2014 at 11:05 PM

The book point was to expose capitalism and consumerism the best way the author knows how. I’m sorry people, but society is stupid. We have enough anti-cap books that critically evaluate the flaws in our society, how we treat the poor horribly, and how we blow our issues off with mindless TV. THOSE BOOKS GET NO WHERE, AND THATS THE TRUTH.

If you dumb it down, and throw in lots of blood and gore, and a petty love triangle, you have a masterpiece. ThAt is the reality of most people, folks.

KyleBMarch 30th, 2014 at 8:19 PM

You sound like an intelligent person and you have good points about how society is messed up and full of idiots, but I don’t think your points about the book are strong enough that you should hate the book. The reason some sentences don’t seem like full sentences is because it’s written in the style of a person talking. It’s not supposed to be formal or professional sounding. It’s supposed to sound more realistic, and it did. You don’t have to like it or get it, but that doesn’t make it bad writing. Twilight is poorly written because the author misuses words and there are multiple plot-holes. Plus, her characters are bad role models.
Also, you talk about how you not finishing the book makes people think you lack “credibility or the right to opinion.” You make people who defend the Hunger Games sound bad. They have the right to their opinions too, keep in mind. Plus, most Hunger Games fans are intelligent, unlike Twilight fans, so they DO respect others opinions, unlike Twilight fans.
Even though I like the Hunger Games, I admit the author got lazy towards the end of the series.
@Marlena: You mention that Katniss was like Bella in the way that she had boys crawling over her. It’s different, I think, because Katniss had a close relationship with both Peeta and Gale. In Twilight, boys only liked Bella cause they thought she was hot and she only liked Edward and Jacob because she thought they were hot. It’s really not the same thing. You also mention that neither girl is particularly pretty, but I think that’s good, because beauty isn’t a reason to love someone. That’s basically the theme in Twilight, that you should love someone because they’re pretty. Katniss- who wasn’t even described as not pretty, as Bella was- had love interests based on emotional connections, not physical attraction. Bella and Edward were lousy people, but they loved each other based on looks.
Anyway…. everyone is entitled to an opinion and this is mine.

Heather E.March 30th, 2014 at 8:55 PM

I would just like to first thank you for commenting, as I appreciate nice discussion. But I’d like to reply and say this: The reason I considered the book poorly written had less to do with fragment sentences (even though I still consider that poor style, in my own opinion – I do know plenty of successful authors get by with breaking rules and still produce great stuff) and more to do with the complete lack of depth to the story.

The premise is great. The plot is interesting. The characters are not – in terms of the book, anyway. I do stand by my opinion that Collins writes excellent material for screen. But her book did not have enough character development or introspection for me to like anyone. I didn’t relate to Katniss in anyway because there was nothing there to relate to. It was simply her reciting a list of actions performed at any minute. I didn’t feel there was any emotional depth or reaction to the events that occurred.

I will say this could have changed if I’d been able to get into the book more and read further. Sometimes I still think I need to try again, for what would be the third or forth time. But I just keep failing to make it very far into the book because it doesn’t resound with me. There’s nothing to capture my interest in these people.

Now saying it’s poorly written may seem, to some, as an extreme opinion, and I admit that I might be a bit harsh with the statement. However, for me, personally, it’s true. I am heavily bothered by the lack of detail in the writing, by the fragmented sentences and lack of focus that gives the narrative. A lot of people can overlook this and move on with the story, and I would have been one of them if there had been something character-side to invest in. The movies worked in this aspect because they reveal everything through the actors’ expressions and mannerisms and behaviors that the book didn’t reveal because of the chosen style. I consider it poorly written not because of the story structure but rather the fact that it was poorly fleshed out. Like I said in the post, it’s the bare-bones of the story and you miss out on all the rich detail and emotion that COULD have been included.

Also, I’m not saying people who defend the Hunger Games are bad. Those like you, who have valid points and discuss it calmly and rationally, are excellent people, and I have no problem debating personal preferences for fiction in that manner. What I was referring to are the people who immediately say my opinion on a piece is totally invalid because I didn’t finish it – telling me I’m not allowed to dislike a book if I only read part of it.

I don’t deny anyone the right to love these books. Any book that gets people reading is a good thing, but my personal opinion is that Collins missed an opportunity to take her novel to the next level. Again, everyone’s entitled to disagree. We don’t all have to enjoy or like the same things. As a reader, I simply can’t make it through books in present tense with fragment sentences and weak character depth/development.

***NOTE: I’d also just like to emphasize that when I was referring to society being dumber, that’s all referring back to the article I was responding to. If you didn’t read the full post that I linked at the beginning, please do – the author there is the one claiming society needs simple things these days, that complex thought is just too much for us. I guess I have a higher opinion of the individual – there are plenty of intelligent people in society. We really don’t have to dumb everything down.

KarenJanuary 25th, 2015 at 11:02 AM

The fact that I googled the writing style of The Hunger Games pretty much says it all. I decided to read the books after seeing the movies and I was surprised at the writing style. Mainly by the lack of vocabulary. Whether it was in 1st person or 3rd person wasn’t the issue, but the vocabulary is at a grade school level. Was it intentional seeing that Katniss herself wouldn’t have a good vocabulary. I don’t know. Having seen the movies I am able to picture much more than I would have if I read the books first. And, she is an author for children’s books.

JaneFebruary 28th, 2015 at 2:41 AM

I thought the writing style was perfectly suited to the character of Katniss. She was an observant but practical and unsentimental character. Florid descriptions of her surroundings would not have suited her personality. Every description served a purpose, rather than being there to demonstrate the personality of a poetic, dreamy narrator.

I think to dislike the writing style is to dislike the personality of Katniss. Which is fine. I don’t think the purpose of her is to be liked or disliked so much as it is to take the reader through the experience of the sort of character who would survive the Hunger Games. The sort of character who produced florid descriptions of hills that she clambered up, forehead beaded with sweat, would probably have been killed within the first couple of minutes of the Games.

MiraApril 19th, 2015 at 1:10 PM

I definitely agree with you! The writing in The Hunger Games is absolutely terrible. Not only is the writing in The Hunger Games terrible, but The Hunger Games story is unoriginal as well. The Hunger Games completely ripped off of Battle Royale. The Hunger Games is essentially a dumbed down, less gory version of Battle Royale. The Hunger Games is extremely overrated.

jamesJuly 2nd, 2015 at 3:57 PM

Its the writers job to put forward a story the reader will want to finish. If you do not want to finish the story the writer has lost the battle.

idkNovember 17th, 2015 at 12:38 PM

Omg i totally agree. I forced myself to read all three books because i was interested in the plot but oh God… the first book was okayish but 2 and 3, i fast read through chapters, having to frequently stop and re-read because it didn’t make any sense. It was a nightmare and seriously – how could any good author give such a small death scene to one of the best characters. It was like one second Finnick was alive and then the next he wasn’t.

Rosemary BNovember 28th, 2015 at 5:33 PM

Interesting to find this, as I am watching on ABC Family channel, this hideous movie The Hunger Games.
I tried to read the book several years ago… worst writing ever, stupid plot
Suzanne Collins is a crap writer.

(Stuart Little is a far better story)

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