The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Well, you’ve already got an impression of how I feel about the first book. Since then, I’ve read the other two books and seen the movie, and I feel like we have to get a couple of things out of the way if we’re going to talk about this together:
- Peeta Mellark gives me swoony butterflies
- Since I assume that 99% of you have read these books, I’m not going to really bother so much with the plot description and you can expect mild to heavy spoiler pods throughout. Proceed will caution.
Let’s start with The Hunger Games itself. It was an amazing read. The writing felt very tight and crisp and there were a few moments, such as when Peeta makes his Big Declaration in the interview and when Katniss steps on the platform to be raised into the arena, that I will never forget. There were wonderful little touches of humor, like Peeta’s bread jokes, and even the stretches where basically nothing happens (you seriously cannot convince me that Katniss nearly dying of dehydration in the arena over many, many pages were necessary) were still tense and exciting.
Katniss herself reminded me a lot of my two other favorite K-named kick-ass YA heroines: Katsa from Graceling and Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. All three of these girls are tough, they’re smart, and above all, they’re survivors. I want them to start a K-Name Action Girl Club and drive around in a van solving mysteries and fighting crime.
Peeta’s Everlasting Love for Katniss came across as a bit schlocky, sure. But since I feel that way myself about Peeta, I’m not going to judge him. I know what it’s like to be held in the thrall of a charismatic fictional character.
Eh, we can talk about Gale later. Let’s talk about Catching Fire.
Here’s where I felt like we started to get in trouble. It became evident to me that Suzanne Collins had a great (if not necessarily original) premise, she wrote it brilliantly, and then … tried to do the same thing for Catching Fire. When we get to the Big Twist in the middle of the second book, that (AND THIS IS A BIG SPOILER) Katniss is going back to the arena, I actually groaned and rolled my eyes. Seriously? That smacks of Plot Device.
That said, since Collins is so good at writing Hunger Games, the second book was still pretty exciting. The clock arena was fascinating. There was more Peeta. We got to know some of the victors from previous Hunger Games, and that ended up being really satisfying.
And then came Mockingjay. Oh dear.
It was a clusterfuck, to say the least. It was bloated out with too many characters. Katniss basically threw a series of fits until the end, I got REALLY tired of the “Katniss thinks she fucked up but ACTUALLY, she really impressed everybody,” and the big speeches were totally hokey and occurred about once a chapter. Collins started to get pretty heavy-handed with the Goosebumps-style cliffhanger chapter endings, and I started rolling my eyes at each one.
Collin’s writing, in addition to getting sloppy, gets to be tiresome and obvious. Someday, in the future, seventh graders of The Republic of New Breadia will have a field day dissecting Collin’s obvious symbolic names. Katniss is a hardy tuber, Primrose is decorative and useless (you will not convince me otherwise), Gale is enigmatic like the wind, Rue is symbolic of regret, Peeta is warm and delicious and will envelop you like pita bread, President Snow is chilling, and by the time we get to Coin, I’m just like, I GET IT. YOU CAN STOP NOW. There are exhaustive passages that reiterate that Katniss is the Girl on Fire, from the Coal District, which causes a Spark of Hope, which cases a Wave of Fire, which is symbolic of hope, and also she has wings like a bird, and must fly but cannot risk being shot down and seriously, can we fast-forward to more Peeta?
Okay, that was a lot of bitching. I still liked a few things about Mockingjay, and The Hunger Games as a series, and I will put them in a convenient bullet list for you.
- The relationship between observers and the observed, and the manipluation of media, is obviously a theme through the whole series, but I liked seeing how it worked (and spectacularly failed) on the rebel side.
- There was no Good Side and Bad Side. The Capitol has some really good people, and the rebels have some really bad people. That’s what life is like!
- Big Ol’ Spoiler: Katniss ends up with Peeta. Gale guessed that Katniss would end up with “whoever she can’t survive without,” and I think her choice was in no small part motivated by a survival instinct. I think that Collins sort of shortchanges Gale’s character in the end, to give us an easy reason to dismiss him, but he was never a real contender in my mind.
- Katniss spends most of the books trying to save the world and doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on boy trouble.
- People are profoundly affected by trauma and are never the same afterwards, particularly the Hunger Games victors. You don’t just get over that shit.
So that’s it. TL;DR: The Hunger Games is a fantastic book. The series starts a steep decline in quality after that, but who are we kidding, you’re going to read them all anyways and probably in record time.