Monday, February 25, 2013

The Hunger Games series

I read the first book in this series in preparation for the movie coming out.  I recently found myself with a break in things to read so I decided it was high time I actually started reading Catching Fire.  I finished it within a week, then went through Mockingjay in three days.  I had read the first book in a similar fashion, which is pretty rare for me.  I think it's all in the way Suzanne Collins ends her chapters - she drops a bomb on you and therefore makes it an act of will to not turn the page and keep reading.  It's fantastic in that respect.

I'm going to try my best to break this down by book in case anyone hasn't read past a certain point.  I will try to keep that section spoiler free for that particular book.

The Hunger Games

Technically, I already talked about the book and movie in depth with Bethany on Strangers from the Internet.  That link is probably the best place to go if you want to know what I thought (with lots of spoilers), since it's been a while.  Though I do remember being impressed with both those chapter ending cliff hangers and the way this dysoptian world was constructed.  Perhaps most important of all is the fact that despite having a first person narrator in a young adult novel its not wishy-washy or childish in any way.  The fact that Katniss has such a hard time expressing her emotions and not knowing the proper thing to say at the right time makes her a very sympathetic character.  I've been there enough times to appreciate her troubles. I could see how some people could have some trouble with it, but I think that degree of distance she has also makes this a little closer to a third person perspective, except that of course we are limited to only what Katniss knows.

Catching Fire

I did my best to avoid spoilers going in to this, even with all the news about the movie that's been coming out, and I'm glad I did. While I knew President Snow's anger about both Peeta and Katniss winning the games would certainly come into play, and the fact that the movie contains the 11th district rebellion clued me in that we'd probably see that in some capacity here, I had no idea about the main plot, and was just as floored as Katniss was when I heard the news.  The story could have easily re-tread the plot of  the first film, but instead felt new and interesting enough that it worked really well.  I enjoyed seeing Katniss deal with her new fame and to slowly learn more about what was going on outside of District 12's borders.  And obviously it kept me hooked enough that there was not going to be a large gap between the two books as last time.

Mockingjay

I had no clue how Catching Fire was going to end.  Surely Katniss wouldn't be the only survivor, because they had to keep the love triangle going.  But there was no way they could win as a couple again.  So the idea of the group breaking out took me by surprise, though I'll admit I should have seen it coming.  The same can be said for the condition of District 13.  I was expecting something in a little better shape than it was, but I really liked what we got.  You could easily create a whole other series from the perspective of a citizen living in District 13 their whole lives and how that affected them.

I also loved the angle this novel took, of representing propaganda and war and politics in a fairly unique way.  I think you could discuss these novels in a class just as easily as you discuss 1984, there's just so much here in the concepts and story devices.  And like any true final novel in the series, the stakes are high and the casualties many so you better not hold on too tight to anyone.  The epilogue also provided a nice sweet ending to Katniss's story.

Spoilers for the end of Mockingjay

Because how can I write a post and not discuss this?  I'll say that I didn't trust Coin for one minute, from the moment she was introduced with her perfectly straight haircut.  The conditions of 13 were just too miserable and her methods too ruthless for her to be trustworthy or likable in any way.  The moment we saw the condition of the prep team, it said enough.  While I can understand to a degree rationing things within the district, the lack of music, dance, or any kind of color or fun was just ridiculous.  I loved the idea Collins presented of trading one dystopia for another, and I loved the way Katniss found the out at the end.  I had a slight worry that Snow might somehow be allowed to live through it all, but I was glad to see that in the end they were both destroyed.  I don't know if the new government will definitely be better, but it seems to have a better chance without either of those two at the helm.

There was one thing that did not sit well with me though, and unless I missed it, was never really answered either.  When Coin brought all the victors in to vote on whether or not to have a final hunger games, I couldn't believe it.  But I was particularly shocked that Katniss voted yes.  After all the nightmares she's been through herself, being friends with someone like Madge who was the child of someone in power (not as high ranking, but still) and seeing how broken her other victors were, to choose to submit more children to that was shocking and unnecessary.  I understand that you would want to punish the former officials, but that doesn't mean you have to kill and torture their children in the process.  So did I miss it, and did the death of Coin mean the hunger games didn't actually happen?  Or does Collins purposely leave that open ended for us?  I know in the epilogue Katniss says "There were no more hunger games" but that could refer only to the time when she started her life with Peeta.

And who she was going to end up with was pretty obvious, right?  Honestly I figured it was either going to be Peeta or no one at all.  Gale proved himself to be too much of a jerk too quickly.  I also thoroughly expected Peeta to try to kill her when they finally met up again, so that was one cliffhanger that didn't really surprise me.  But I thought his rehabilitation was handled well.


I feel pretty confident that Bethany and I will continue to cover the future films as they are released, so expect more in depth analysis then. But for now I wanted to get out these thoughts and definitely recommend the series for anyone who might be curious.  And of course, we can discuss in the comments!  Expect lots of spoilers there too I'm sure.

3 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    I confess that I wasn't very impressed with the series as a satire. I like the first two books, but the second is as rushed as everyone says it is.

    As for the romantic angle . . . I guessed she was going to pick Peeta after Gale got hardly any "screen time" in Catching Fire. It would have been too unbalanced to have her pick Gale when all her growth and significant moments since the start of the first book had been with Peeta.

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    1. I suppose the beauty of borrowing a book is that I don't feel cheated by it being "rushed" in any way. The story flowed at a good pace for me and I enjoyed it. But I guess it's pretty clear that I basically fell in love with this series.

      You're right that the lack of attention to Gale does make it a little obvious, though you can tell she was playing catch up in Mockingjay. It was just too little too late. I've also heard that the love triangle was basically forced on her by her editors, which could explain why she didn't put too much effort into it.

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    2. +JMJ+

      I hadn't known that the love triangle was the publishers' idea, but that totally makes sense now. Even before you told me, I felt that Collins's heart wasn't in that gimmick.

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