Thursday, June 6, 2013

Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and the Problem of Too Much Hype

This post was written months ago and was never finished nor published.  In reading over it tonight, I have decided that it is good enough to publish in the form in which I left it.  My thoughts are a bit more scattered than what I normally publish, but I think the content is still worthwhile.

After I finished reading the latest book in the Tapestry series, I began to think about the different modern series that I have read and what I think of them.

I read the first four Harry Potter books at about the time that the fourth book was published and volumes five through seven during the following several years as each of those titles were published.  I dearly loved the first four Harry Potter books, but I was somewhat soured on the series due to some dissatisfaction with the final three books.

Part of the problem was the extreme hype surrounding the series.  I hated trying to enjoy something while news reporters who likely had no interest in the series prattled on about various plot details.  It was so annoying.

I recall joining a Yahoo! Group and reading all of the speculation surrounding one of the characters.  I was then greatly annoyed by a Rowling interview in which she effectively shot down the speculation by making a statement about not understanding how people could be drawing certain conclusions.  That effectively ruined it for me.  Sometimes authors need to keep their mouths shut.

The funny thing is... Rowling's comments from that interview were purposefully misleading.  Again, authors need to keep their mouths shut and let their books do the talking.  She ruined it for me.

Furthermore, Rowling's books became wordier and wordier with each new book, and it became apparent that little editing had been done for the last three books.  The fifth book was particularly awful in that at least one-third of the text could have been removed, thus making the book far less boring.  The epilogue at the end of the seventh book was stupid and should not have been included.  It would have been far better to have had more falling action than to have included that nonsense. 

Someday I might read the Harry Potter series again, but it is going to be a long time before I consider doing so.  I have too many bad memories of not enjoying parts of the last three books.  If the books had been carefully edited, that would never have been a problem.  It's a shame, really.

A few years ago, I read the Percy Jackson series.  I remember that I was fully satisfied with the ending of that series, which is better than how Rowling ended her series.  Yes, I will keep going back to that. How a series ends is just as important as the journey.  The series does not have to end happily, but the ending has to be satisfying.  Rowling's series did not end in a satisfying fashion.

I read the Nicholas Flamel series.  I dearly loved reading those books, although the ending was not quite as good as it should have been.  The biggest threats to the twins' survival were killed off way too quickly and easily.  And then the book abruptly ended.  I was left somewhat dissatisfied, but I was not nearly as annoyed as when I finished Harry Potter.

I have read the Hunger Games trilogy.  This is another series that suffered from the hype.  The first book is wonderful.  The second book is nearly as good as the first book.  The third and final book is quite confusing at times, and the lack of proper editing really shows, just like with Harry Potter.  When authors create something that gets hyped, editing is sloppy for the later books, thus creating an inferior final product.

Near the end of the third Hunger Games book, a major character is killed.  The author, for some reason, thought it would be best to mention the character only by a vague passage referring back to an event from an earlier book.  It took me quite a few pages to figure out who had died, and then I was surprised and confused.  I felt like I had somehow missed reading a page or two of text.  I went back and read through the event another one or two times and still was confused.  I could tell by reading the reviews that I was not the only one who didn't get it.  Editing, people... sure, the author is a big-shot after a series gets mega-popular, but the books need editing.

When I finished the Hunger Games trilogy, I was left with a similar letdown feeling to what I felt when I finished Harry Potter.  It should not have to be like this.

Fablehaven is a truly magical and special series which should appeal to the same audience as Harry Potter.  The series has a pretty good following, although not anywhere near the level of Harry Potter.  Even so, the series did take a step down with the fourth and fifth books.  The main problem is that both books have endless fighting and action that never seems to end and are very repetitive.  I am reminded of J.K. Rowling's Ministry of Magic fight scene from her fifth Harry Potter book.  Oh, the horror...

Despite the endless fighting, the Fablehaven series has a very satisfying ending, which of course is more than I can say for Harry Potter.

This brings me back to the Tapestry series, which is what got me to thinking about the rest of these books.  The Tapestry series has such a low number of reviews on Amazon that it is apparent that most people have never heard of it.  Tapestry would appeal to the very same people who enjoyed Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Fablehaven.

The Tapestry series is not yet finished, so I have no idea whether the series will fall flat as others have done.  What I do know is that each book has been better than the last.  The first book is the weakest of the four books, and the series has gotten better and better with each book.    


A Candle to Read By said...

We made the decision when our kids were younger to avoid the Harry Potter Series, and later on, I requested my youngest not to read the Hunger Games series until she was a bit older. We were quiet about it, and didn't advertise our choices. There are so many wonderful things out there for young people to read that don't involve sorcery or violence. We received much grief from family members who disagreed with our stance (we would rather they not have known for this very reason).

Jennifer White said...

Family members just need to stay out of it. Parents do have the right to make those kinds of decisions, and family members need to respect those decisions.

I was quite sheltered as a child, reading my Nancy Drew books and other similar books. If I had read something like Harry Potter at a young age, I would have been scared to death during some passages, especially the ones with Voldemort. It seriously would have traumatized me. It seems that many children are quite desensitized nowadays to such things. There is something to be said about staying innocent, at least until one is no longer a child.

I don't have children and do not intend to have children, so I have no idea what I would do as a parent.

A Candle to Read By said...

I appreciate your comments very much. I came from the other side where my parents let me read or watch just about anything--granted this was a different era (I am 51), but there are many things, particularly in the horror genre, I wish I had never read. I know there is a danger in over sheltering, but as you said, there is something to be said for letting them be children as long as they can. Wishing you a happy new year.