RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE
I quickly bought The Hunger Games the day after I saw the film and finished reading it the following day (today, I guess). I'm not sure why, but I felt a little more attached to the characters after reading the book, just as I felt more attached to them after writing my movie review. I actually cried a few times, which the movie never managed. On the flip side, once I finished the book, I found myself less and less satisfied with it. Then I remembered a random comment that one of my friends made at the screening and it dawned on me why the book had left a bitter taste: Katniss is extremely cynical. At the time my friend made the comment, I thought, "Well, I'm pretty cynical, I'll probably love her." And I did. One of my favorite lines was when Peeta had just declared his love for Katniss on national television and she thought he was just working the crowd for his own benefit:
"...every screen is now dominated by a shot of Peeta and me, separated by a few feet that in the viewers' heads can never be breached. Poor tragic us."
LOL! I mean how awesome is that? The sarcasm drips right off the page. Problem: the entire book is in Katniss's POV and she refuses to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. The author gives us a taste of reality by allowing Katniss to think the truth for a tiny moment before she brushes it off, but the end result is somewhat frustrating, and not because I'm a shipper.
ALL HAIL THE GRAMMAR NAZI
I personally blame the author's artistic choice in using the first person present tense. She's a skilled writer and the plot is excellent, but the first person is notoriously difficult to pull off. Case and point: Twilight. And probably over half the fanfiction I've ever read. In The Hunger Games's case, it was used as successfully as one can expect, but the first person POV forces the main character to either know everything or be told everything that the reader needs to know. This includes observations about all of the other characters. If Kat doesn't suspect or observe something - like Peeta and Gale's attraction for her - it can be difficult to let the audience in on the secret. In some of these cases, the hints were rather clumsy.
"This conversation feels all wrong ...where did this stuff about having kids come from? There's never been anything romantic between Gale and me."
*facepalm* At this point, the reader had already been told that Gale wanted to run away with her and had gotten all defensive when she addressed his proposal with common sense. If the readers can't read between the lines, they will have a delightful surprise waiting for them when the characters actually confront each other about their feelings. We don't need the heroine articulating her obliviousness.
To make matters worse, Collins chose to write in present tense. Switching between past tense and past perfect (e.g. It had been a bad day, but I was fine now.) is pretty simple and flows naturally because both of them are made for telling stories. Even though The Hunger Games was carefully edited to ensure that that author was in the correct tense whenever Katniss was narrating, I found myself frequently reading the narrative in past tense for a sentence or two after Katniss had finished a story before a present tense word would jar me back into Kat's stream of consciousness.
IN THEATERS NEAR YOU
Setting my Grammar Nazi issues aside, the plot was excellent, but apparently I preferred the movie's execution of it. I desperately hope this isn't because I saw it first, because I intentionally waited to read the book so I wouldn't be prejudice against the film. I can hardly pick out a scene that the movie didn't cover. The Avox girl that Katniss ran into wasn't included, but I can imagine that that was intentional since that storyline didn't go anywhere in the first book. The beasts at the end weren't reanimated corpses of the dead tributes - which is far more disturbing than just beasts IMO - but it doesn't change the plot. There was far less kissing in the film, but I preferred that, too. The extra kissing didn't seem to do Kat any good in the book. I preferred the movie dialogue during Kat's interview. The best part to me was when Ceasar told Katniss that his heart stopped when she came on stage and she nervously said, "So did mine." hehe. And I loved the little notes that Haymitch sent with each supply parachute, which the book didn't have. I even preferred the dialogue at the end of the Games when Katniss tells Peeta out loud that they can thwart the Gamemakers. It was a bigger slap in the face to the Capitol to articulate their rebellion in front of the entire nation, and it made the PTB's outrage and Kat's fear more potent. I loved how creepy Seneca's final scene was. Even the ending is more hopeful. Instead of Katniss offending Peeta by telling him that it was all for show, their simple exchange reveals that she's not in love yet, but he is.
In short, I plan to read the next two books as soon as they come in the mail, but I can't wait until the sequels come out, and I'm already anticipating going back to see The Hunger Games again.