I've been seeing reviews of this series everywhere - on blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, you name it. It's not the sort of book I'd pick up on my own - even with all the great things being said about it. I almost never read YA books, and I almost never read fantasy. Luckily for me, my brother bought a copy of The Hunger Games for my sister and I, and made us promise to read it before our scheduled visit to his house in Fort Collins, CO for spring break.
I picked it up one night thinking it would help me fall asleep. I thought it would be simplistic and shallow and maybe even boring. Boy was I wrong. About two hours later I forced myself to turn off the light. I then spent another 30 minutes thinking about the story before I could fall asleep. The next day, despite the enormous amount of work I had to finish for law school, I read for several hours in the morning, then set up to do school work, while secretly reading my book under the desk. Eventually I gave up all pretense of trying to study and just allowed myself to be swallowed up.
There will be some spoilers in this post. I'm sorry, but to talk about these books as a trilogy requires revealing some things that happened in the first two books. I won't give everything away, nor will I give away the ending of the series.
The Hunger Games
By: Suzanne Collins
This is the story of a girl, Katniss, and how she does everything she can to protect and provide for her family. She does this in a world run by The Capital, which exercises its control in the most cruel and inhumane ways possible. No one has enough to eat in District 12; not even the richest members of the community have everything they want. Katniss hunts in the woods to bring home game for her family to eat and some to trade for necessities like candles and shoelaces. Every year, The Capital throws "The Hunger Games," in which a boy and a girl from each of the 12 districts (all between the ages of 12 and 18) are thrown into an arena where they all have to fight to the death. The last of the "players" to remain alive is the winner. The "winner" then spends the rest of his/her life training and mentoring other players.
It's no surprise to find that Katniss is the girl sent from her district, along with a boy, Peeta. She's known Peeta her whole life, but not as well as she thinks, and not as well as he knows her. Once The Hunger Games start in the first book, there is no putting it down. It is nearly impossible to function in any capacity other than as a person "hungrily" devouring this novel.
That doesn't always mean it's a great novel, but in this case it was. I don't know if it was just really good timing, but I am in love with this series. I have been working so hard, and using my brain beyond its capacity for so long that I really needed something to grab me and force me escape. There are grand themes in these books, but nothing that requires too much thought. Government overpowering its people and trying to control their every movement = bad.
By Suzanne Collins
As a second book in a trilogy this works very well. It continues the theme (oppression = bad), and the relationship between Peeta and Katniss develops significantly. However, Katniss has another close male friend - one she used to hunt with every day before she was sent into the arena, and she is confused by her feelings. Is her relationship with Gale only friendship, or is it more? And of course there's another round in the arena - and this time Katniss teams up with some people she doesn't entirely trust. But maybe she should have more faith in people and her mentor...
The one bad thing here is that this book ends on the worst cliffhanger ever. I'm so glad I read these books after all three were out. If I finished Catching Fire and then had to wait a year for the final installment, I might have gone mental. Luckily, my brother had all three books at his house, and I could just dive right in to the final book, Mockingjay.
By: Suzanne Collins
The third and final book in the series neatly wraps everything up. But not until the very last second. Even in the last chapter, I wasn't sure how things would turn out. Keeping the reader guessing until the very end is something this author does very, VERY well. I like happy endings as much as the next person, but sometimes I don't like a neat and tidy ending. Life is messy and unfair, and books should reflect some of that. But these characters had enough mess in their lives. They deserved a happy ending more than other fictional characters. And the author made the ending seem plausible and real. It certainly wasn't happy for a lot of characters - even some beloved ones. But for those who survive, they are able to live and be grateful for that life - which is the happiest ending of all.
Also, in this book, the author brought some of the minor characters to the forefront and in doing so brought them to life. I especially liked Greasy Sae's more prominent role, and though I'm not a cat lover, I enjoyed the Buttercup scenes as well. This is a young adult series, but it has something to offer a reader of any age. It's got adventure for the boys, and romance for the girls, and a good moral lesson for the parents. It's a wonderful series to read aloud and it's even better to devour each book in a single sitting.
The Hunger Games is the only book in the series that can be read on its own. Books two and three are basically one continuous story. Book three picks up exactly where two left off, which in my opinion weakens the series a little bit. In my opinion (which isn't exactly authoritative since I don't read a lot of trilogies), a good trilogy has three full and separate stories. Tied together it tells a broader tale, but each book should be able to stand on its own. That doesn't happen here, but this is such a minor - nit-picky flaw, that it's almost not worth mentioning.
Run to your nearest book store and purchase these books immediately. Or go to the library and see if by some miracle they are in stock. Or borrow them from someone you know. But whatever you do, read them soon.
I did a lot of reading over spring break, and I'll have a lot of posts coming up in the next week or so. My school book club meets for the last time this year on Saturday night, and I'm both excited and saddened. There is also a book discussion in a couple of weeks at school as part of an awareness week, and we will be discussing 1984, which is convenient since I just read it over Christmas Break.