The Hunger Games trilogy

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The Hunger Games trilogy
by Suzanne Collins

I usually avoid reading those books "that everyone is reading." It's just in my nature to be a little bit contrary. If it's ever been featured on Oprah, the odds of me reading it go waaaay down. (Not that I don't love Oprah.) This crazy-but-me sentiment kept me from reading the Twilight series (which I will still probably never read because... vampires, not really my thing. among other reasons) and almost kept me from reading The Hunger Games trilogy.

Luckily, my best friend Debra insisted I read them so that she could have someone to discuss them with. Really, my contrary-to-society reading tendencies were far overshadowed by the fact that just on principle, I should love the books: they're futuristic more-or-less utopian (dystopian, more correctly), a genre that I love.

I started reading on a Friday evening... and kept reading until Saturday morning. I literally could not put these books down (and even though the story was over for me as a reader halfway through the third, I still had. to. finish.) I finished the first, The Hunger Games, at 2 am... and went straight into reading Catching Fire. When I finished at around 6 am, I was really ready to start the finale, Mockingjay, but I realized that I should probably get a bit of sleep so as to be at least moderately functional the next day. Three hours of sleep and five hours of reading later, I was done with the whole trilogy, less than 24 hours after I started.

{if you have never read the series}
You should read it. But be prepared to be a little disappointed when you're finished. The ending isn't uplifting; it's a story of, ultimately, war and war's toll on life, both for the society and for individuals. In the process, it's a tale of love, media, entertainment, and trust.

{if the very idea of children fighting to the death or reading about violent deaths bothers you}
Don't read this book. My mother, an elementary school librarian, hated the book for those reasons, and finished The Hunger Games only "to get those people out of danger." My sister, an elementary school teacher, couldn't palate the concept and has abandoned the book twice in mid-read. It's okay to not want to read this book for those reasons. I, personally, don't create vivid images in my mind reading, so the violent deaths don't bother me like they do those with more vivid imaginations.

{if you have read the books and/or are prepared for the below spoilers}
Keep reading. :)

My one-word review on finishing the series: dissatisfied. I was completely dissatisfied with the ending, as I know many other readers were. I don't feel like Collins copped out or was just looking for a quick ending. I think she did exactly what every good author should do: tell the story she set out to tell, the story she envisioned from the beginning. She herself has even said that the ending of the trilogy never changed even as she was writing the series. She has also said that the novels were inspired by modern media: "On one channel young people were competing for money. On the next channel, young people were fighting for their lives."

And, at its heart, The Hunger Games trilogy is about war. What other phenomenon can take these two people who were so vivid and who lived, breathed, and loved -- and turn them into only shells of their former beings, still alive but empty and hollow and broken beyond repair?

It was at the point that you realize that Peeta, the symbol of everything that is good in the world, of unconditional love, is broken beyond repair that the book was over for me. The moment they rescued him, when he first sees Katniss and tries to kill her -- game over. Peeta was the goodness that kept me reading though this terrible and cruel world. Once his goodness and love were gone, corrupted by the Capitol, I cut myself off from the book. I finished, but just do be done. The frenzied-excited what will happen next feeling was gone because I knew that once broken, he could never be fully restored.

As a the final in a series about war, Mockingjay has an entirely different feeling than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. In the first two books, Katniss is lucid and motivated by love. Love for Prim and her mother. Love for Gale. Maybe even love for Peeta. She is thinking clearly about surviving, about doing what is best for Prim.

By the time she has survived the events that turn her in to the mockingjay of the rebellion, Katniss is confused and psychotic. She becomes incoherent, drugged for the duration, and all of her actions in Mockingjay seem to motivated by fear and survival, with only the smallest shred of the love that was so motivating throughout The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

Ultimately, yes, Katniss ends up with Peeta, like we all wanted. (I, for one, cannot blame her for not being able to look Gale in the face after Prim's death.) But even then, she chooses him sheerly out of survival. Convenience, almost. Their children come about because Peeta wants them, not because Katniss has found love enough for children.

I would have been satisfied (not overly happy but satisfied) if the series had ended with even a twinge of hope, of a feeling that everything that Katniss and Peeta and all the people of Panem have been through has been worth it even just a tiny bit. Instead, I still feel despondency in Katniss' musings as she watches her children. Yes, her son and daughter are safe from the Games, but she still wonders how to teach her children about past inhumanities. In her thoughts, I read no hope, no feeling of a better future. So, I finish the series unsatisfied.

Even unsatisfied, any reader who has just finished a good book should be motivated to do something, anything, differently than before. The three books of The Hunger Games trilogy are indeed good (yet unsatisfying) books, so what did I do? I hugged my husband and my son and told them I love them. I hug them a little tighter now, snuggle a little closer, grateful to have them, to have the ability to love, and to live in a world where love is possible. And now, to quench the unsatisfaction that is still gnawing at me, almost a week later, I'm off to watch a more satisfying love story: Anne of Green Gables (only the first two, though... the third one is terribly unsatisfying ;)

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10 comments:

Debra said...

We have talked about this so much that to tell you more than I agree with you would be redundant. Great review, but now it will taint my review, that one day in the future that I get around to writing one. Sometime.

Brandy@YDK said...

I LOVED these books. I didn't inhale them quite as quickly as you but I couldn't wait to read the next chapter. I agree and disagree. I don't think I was unsatisfied with the ending as you and I felt hope because I thought of her children growing up without those burdens of taking care of your family because it might be the last bit of food you get for who knows how long. And having to take the rations to survive only to increase your chances to die. if that makes sense.

the cape on the corner said...

these books are in my reading list thanks to bloggers who are mad over it. i managed to restrain myself from reading the spoilers-usually i don't have as much self control. i wanted to comment to tell you about the lovely bones, and how my mother's bookclub refused to read them. finally they did , and of course they loved it.

Just Married with Coupons said...

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Ready Set Create said...

Thanks for the review! I've been thinking about reading these books. . . you've helped me decide! My husband and I like to read books together. . . Do you think this is something he might enjoy too? Thanks for stopping by my blog and happy Friday!
♥ Aleesha

AliLilly said...

I'm new to blogging and so then new to reading blogged book reviews! I LOVED this series but agree with you on SO MANY POINTS! Fantastic review! I think I can honestly tell you it's the first one I ever read all the way thru! I usually don't like reading reviews and for anything because I don't like having my opinion swayed before or after. Ya know? Anywho, GREAT review. You should read Twilight...it's amazing. Hollywood has RUINED those amazing books! Twilight is NOT Rob Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and MOST DEFINITELY NOT Kristen "most horrible actress ever" Stewart! Try them out....who knows, you may like em! :)

Marie said...

Hi there,

New friend here from 'New Friend Fridays.' I heard about Mockingjay before...I see it everywhere. I might have to give these books a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

Great place you have here. Glad to have come by it.

Marie
The Things We Find Inside

Erin Wallace said...

I am here for the Friday blog hops and am following you via google reader. I hope to see you at Dropped Stitches.

xo Erin

droppedstitches72.blogspot.com

Jenn said...

I usually avoid the uber-hyped stuff too. I finally gave in, though, and started Harry Potter {seriously, like: I'm on chapter 5 of book 1 right now}. And I did read Twilight. Other than the kid wizard, I'm more on a non-fiction/biography kick lately but now I may have to add this series to the queue...

Tera said...

I've read the first two books. I was entertained. Should I take the time to read the third?

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