You're never supposed to say that a movie adaptation is better than the original book, but in the case of The Hunger Games, that is exactly what I think. Here's why.
Some authors are terrific storytellers. You read and enjoy their work because they create imaginative new worlds, and they are adept at character development and narrative pacing. Other authors are gifted writers. You read and enjoy their work because of their mastery of diction and syntax—choosing the perfect words and putting them in exactly the right order. Both storytelling and writing can be a cause for an author's success, and in rare instances, you find an author who can do both.
Suzanne Collins, it seems to me, is a fabulous storyteller but an average writer.
I assume that the present tense, sentence-fragmented, stream of consciousness prose Collins employs is an intentional device to emphasize the first person perspective of the narrative, to make us experience Katniss Everdeen's plight more deeply and personally. But mostly it made me feel as if I was actually listening to a teenager talk to me for four hours. It was a constant (if minor) annoyance as I tore through the series, enough to occasionally shake me from my otherwise total absorption in the events of the story.
And what a story! I found it riveting. I read the first book in a day last weekend and then had the good sense not to touch the second book until I had finished my work week. Yesterday I read the second and third books, staying up until 2:00 a.m. to get to the end. I took a break in the middle of Mockingjay to go see The Hunger Games movie with my wife, and then immediately picked it up when we got home.
And that brings me to why I think the movie was better than the book. Putting this fantastic story in the hands of skilled filmmakers with what I imagine was essentially an unlimited production budget was a combination that almost couldn't fail. It replaced the medium, turning the mechanics of communication over to people who are truly at the top of their game.
Suzanne Collins sure knows how to tell a story, and she deserves the praise she's received for this trilogy. If you haven't read the trilogy, you should. And once you have read the first book, go see the movie: it's even better.
Not everyone has to be John Steinbeck.