Thursday, October 07, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (No Spoilers)

Imagine living in a district, confined inside an electric fence, where going beyond its boundaries is punishable by death. Imagine a place where food is scarce and the leading cause of death is starvation. Imagine being unable to say anything negative about the government or its leaders for fear of retribution. Imagine working long and difficult hours, often back breaking labor, collecting resources that are sent to the Capitol, never to be profited from by those who risk their lives for it. Life is dire in many of the districts. Just about everyone is poor, scared, and fighting to survive. It isn't so different in parts of our own reality, unfortunately. Governments leeching off the hard work and earnings of its people and treating its civilians poorly.

In Suzanne Collin's world, there are 12 districts that support the Capitol, a place of decadence and high living. There once had been 13 districts, however, a revolution resulted in its annihilation. To remind the districts of their failure and to exert power over them, the government designed an annual event in the name of entertainment called the Hunger Games. Two children between the ages of 12 and 18, one boy and one girl, are selected from each of the districts every year to compete to the death, all televised. There can only be one victor in the end.

In District 12, Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her young sister's place when Prim's name is called. She cannot bear the thought of her innocent and defenseless sister being put into such a terrible position. The baker's son, Peeta, is the other name drawn. Katniss and Peeta are not close, but they will have to become so if they are to survive the games. It won't be easy. Their mentor, Haymitch, is a drunk, and some of the other tributes (contestants) are much better equipped for the big event. Katniss, however, wins the hearts of many in the districts, becoming a symbol for a possible revolution. It was never her intention--she only wanted to survive--and it would soon become a weight that would threaten to topple her over. But it isn't just her life at stake . . .

The first book in the trilogy, The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press, 2008), took me back to my own young adult years, when I read similar books and watched similar movies--survival stories, some dystopian, others present time. The concept isn't all that new, and so a lot weighs on the story itself and its characters. I was instantly drawn into Collins' world. While I enjoyed The Hunger Games, it was really with Catching Fire (Scholastic Press, 2009) that I fell in love with the trilogy and felt it was a truly original series. Although perhaps love is a bit too strong of a word. I am not as enamored by the trilogy as so many others are--there is no Team Peeta or Team Gale (Katniss' possible love interests) for me. I enjoyed it quite a bit, yes. I thought it was entertaining and definitely suspenseful. I adored Cinna and Prim. There were moments when I laughed out loud, talked to the characters in the book, and even cried. I found it impossible not to be pulled into the books.

I liked Katniss well enough and wanted the best for her, but she did sometimes grate on my nerves. She really was in over her head through the entire trilogy, used as a pawn in what seemed like a never-ending game. Katniss struggled with her identity, trying to be whoever she needed to be at any given time in order to survive. Protecting her loved ones was her top priority. Her best friend Gale and game partner Peeta were much more in tune with who they were and so had a confidence and wisdom that Katniss sometimes lacked. Gale was more of a warrior, his passion and strength on the surface. Peeta's strength was more subtle and so he came off as being gentler. He was smart and insightful. Both fit into Katniss' life, filling needs she had. It's no wonder she struggled with the idea of who to love. I believe she loved both, just in different ways.

I really appreciated how the characters grew from book to book, scarred by the events in their lives. Mockingjay (Scholastic Press, 2010) brings that into full light. The characters in the first book are very different from those in the final book of the trilogy. Not because of any inconsistency, but because of the life they've had to lead. I actually was quite content with Mockingjay and how the trilogy came to an end. I did not always like the choices the characters made but I could understand the why behind them.

The trilogy carries some very heavy themes. These are not light-hearted books. The hunger for power, oppression of those with less than and the cruelty of man can be found throughout. Suzanne Collins' world is very dark, definitely not one I would want to live in. And yet, I wouldn't mind spending time with several of the characters. There were many more good people than there were bad ones. And that is always a sign of hope for the future.

For more information about Suzanne Collins and her books, visit the
author's website.

Catching Fire and Mockingjay read for the Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) Challenge

Source: I bought the box set on sale as soon as it was released. It was a deal I just couldn't resist.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Good review. I have book 2 ready to read.

    The themes are really dark arent they? I must admit I was suprised when reading HUnger Games at the violence.

    Oh well I better get cracking and read book 2 now!

  2. I hardly noticed this series until the last book came out, and suddenly it's all over the blogs. I can see I'm going to have to read the books for myself.

  3. Yay! I'm glad you read the series. To me it was one of those pop culture things that you had to investigate. I really enjoyed the first two books, but this last one was a huge disappointment for me. It sure seemed like the author rushed to write it, and I think Katniss lost alot of her appeal.

  4. I was riveted to the first book, but have yet to make time to read the remaining two. My daughter read all three over a single weekend!

    I have students who absolutely LOVED the first books, but couldn't stand the ending of the final book. I just think it is great that the kids are reading something other than vampires :)

  5. Oh, now, you've got me interested enough to download the first book! Darn you and your excellent and enticing writing! LOL

  6. My husband really liked this series, but I'm having trouble motivating myself to read it since it sounds a lot like Battle Royale, which I didn't enjoy.

  7. My husband and I listened to this series on audio, and my kids read the books. While we liked the first two books, we stalled somewhere in the middle of the third, and actually have not finished it yet. I am not really itching to finish it either because it seems a lot more stilted than the the first two. This was a great review!

  8. Still trying to talk my 15yo into these; I'd read them but for some reason if I like them that means she won't!

  9. I'm with you - the second book was stronger for me. And the characters did grow and change over the series, even if readers didn't always like how they changed.

    Your read on Katniss sounds spot-on to me.

    Glad you finally read these, Wendy :).

  10. Thanks for not hating Mockingjay! I've gotten tired of reading all the discontented reviews; I was quite content. As you said, even if I didn't like the choices made, I understood why they were made.

    I'm happy you enjoyed the series. I think it's a good one, with a lot of interesting and important stuff to think about on top of the gripping story.

  11. Heard a lot about this series lately!

  12. I so must get my butt iin gear to read the last two!!

  13. I just finished the trilogy too! I'm glad that I chose to read them at one time instead of having the long waits between books. I loved Katniss.

  14. I loved the entire series and I also like the ending.

    I did not always like the choices the characters made but I could understand the why behind them. I share the same thoughts. I was hoping for a non-"textbook" ending and the author delivered!

  15. I liked the trilogy on the whole, but still wasn't very happy with the end of Mockingjay.

  16. Caspette - I hope you will enjoy them! I had to stop after reading The Hunger Games, but didn't take too long before jumping into the other two.

    Katie - I wasn't sure I wanted to read them for the longest time as the premise didn't interest me all that much. Then I saw them on sale as a box set and figured, "Oh, why not?" Not exactly my usual way of deciding to read books, but it worked and I'm glad I did cave in and read them.

    Sandy - So true. Got to see what all the fuss is about. I've noticed a lot of people were disappointed with Mockingjay. It's too bad really. I liked it myself though and felt it was a fitting end. I worried that it would be too cliche and she avoided that all together. And for me, if anything, I liked Katniss more after reading Mockingjay. Who she was came together more for me. I didn't always like the choices she made (there is one that still has me scratching my head) but overall, they seemed to fit with her character. I thought anyway.

    Molly - They go so fast once you start reading, that's for sure.

    I am glad kids are enjoying them so much. It's a good series.

    Linda - Haha! I do hope you enjoy it, Linda.

  17. Kathy - It's worth a try, I think, but I understand. My husband's read the first book in the trilogy so far and liked it quite a bit. He's dragging his feet about the rest of the trilogy. I'm afraid he's worried it will be all downhill from here.

    Zibilee - It'd be an interesting set of books to listen to in audio, I imagine. With the right narrator, it could be quite intense. The third book definitely had a different flavor to it than the first two books and I think that's part of why I liked it so much. It wasn't the same old same old.

    Lisa - Oh no! LOL Hopefully your 15 year old will come around. Maybe a friend or someone other than mom will read them do the convincing for you.

    Florinda - I'm glad I read them too. Now I won't be so lost when people talk about Team Peeta and Team Gale.

    I really do think the second book was the best of the three. Kind of like with the original Star Wars trilogy--the second movie, Empire Strikes Back, was the best too.

    Erin - If you go by the comments here, you an I are definitely in the minority regarding our view of Mockingjay. It was bound to happen. Wrapping up a trilogy or series can't be easy. Not everyone will be happy.

    I agree with you about the book being more than just a gripping story. It would make a great discussion series for a book club, I think. Young and old alike.

  18. Tribute Books Mama - Now that the third and final book is out in the trilogy, it does seem to be the talk of the town, doesn't it?

    Staci - Oh do! Then you can weigh in with your final thoughts. I'd love to know what you think.

    Christine - Me too, Christine. I think The Hunger Games stood well on its own but I don't think I would have manged an entire year wait between Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

    Alice - I'm so glad, Alice! Another person not disappointed in the ending! Erin and I don't feel so alone now. LOL

    Alyce - It was a good story overall and I enjoyed getting to know the characters.


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