The Hunger Games Trilogy
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published by: Scholastic, Inc
Reviewed by Mo Bear
Here’s the preamble:
I got caught up in the whirlwind and jumped on the Jennifer Lawrence bandwagon. I won’t bore you (nor embarrass myself) with the details, but suffice it to say an IMDb search led me to The Hunger Games movie, which then led me to the written trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
I approached The Hunger Games with skepticism. ALOT of skepticism. I’m not really one to get into the whole young-adult-love-triangle-trilogy-novel-series/movie-spinoffs, but I was intrigued to watch more of Miss Lawrence. And I heard other people converse about The Hunger Games (mostly while I rolled my eyes) at work, at school, amongst friends, etc.—both the written story and the movie—and people loved it. But these were also people who loved the Twilights and the Shades of Greys (neither of which I’ll touch with a 20-foot pole). So I just chalked it up to another fluff trilogy that book-clubs live vicariously through.
One Saturday evening, when I was too tired to do much of anything but stare at a TV screen, I decided to visit my local Redbox (no, I don’t have Netflix, nor non-network television; don’t judge me), and decided to give The Hunger Games a shot. I enjoyed the movie so much (and was so eager to see what happened next) that as soon as I was able to touch a computer with internet access, I bought the written, hard-cover, boxed-set trilogy online and it felt like Christmas morning when it arrived in the mail a few days later.
Now here’s where the real fun begins: I’m a full-time grad student in a doctorate program in biomedical sciences. Reading for pleasure during the semester is not really on the list of what I do. Not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have the luxury of free time to invest into it as regularly as before. So I bought the books very early in the Spring semester, in anticipation that I would be able to crack them open in mid-May sometime when finals were over. But then they just kept sitting there. Staring at me. On the bookshelf. In the bookcase. And after being stared at for about a month, they got the better of me.
After gobbling up the first six chapters in one sitting, and antsy to read the rest, I knew I had a problem: when the hell am I going to find time to finish reading this book??? The resolution became that every evening, I would read The Hunger Games in between bites of dinner, and in between sips of my evening tea. And little by little, bite by bite, chapter by chapter, I slowly, but surely, made my way through The Hunger Games. In this way, I read through Catching Fire and Mockingjay, as well—savoring the entire trilogy over the course of several meals, over several weeks.
And now, for the review:
(*Note: if you have been living under the same rock of skepticism as I was previously, you should know there are some spoilers here; just an fyi.)
The first installment in the trilogy, The Hunger Games, introduces us to our protagonist (our “heroine”, if you will), Katniss Everdeen. Through an unfortunate series of events, Katniss winds up as one of the 24 contenders in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, which is a televised fight-to-the-death arena-battle that each of the 12 districts of Panem (formerly North America) must subscribe to for the Capitol’s entertainment. Catching Fire, the second book in the series, follows Katniss as she struggles with the psychological stressors resulting from having won the Hunger Games—a classic depression steeped in survivor’s guilt, anger, PTSD and a disturbing brand of celebrity that means her life will never be at peace. In the background, there is a revolution brewing against the Capitol, and Katniss is the unwilling mascot of hope to rouse the Districts in a rebellion against the oppressive government. Mockingjay, the final installment, takes us through the messy civil war and eventual government overthrow that drags Katniss through hell and back again, as she fights alongside fellow rebels for their freedoms and their futures.
The concept of dystopian future is not a new one. The concept of a dystopian future where children are fighting to the death is also not new. However, Suzanne Collins takes the genre and crafts an intriguing world—one that is not quite the same as ones we’ve seen before—and there are elements she incorporates that make the possibility of this future world believable. In a lot of ways this genre tends to be a warning of what’s to come if we’re not diligent as a society to prevent it from becoming this way. But this story shows us how we’re already there (if in a less severe form); yet, it’s not so much a critique of our government so much as it’s a critique of our culture and our society, in its present form, here in the U.S.
I find the premise of The Hunger Games very poignant in that not only do they happen, but that they are broadcasted. In this way, Collins pokes fun at the ongoing craze, obsession, and ridiculousness with so-called reality-TV, and what it has evolved into over the recent years. In the trilogy, The Games are broadcasted and there are recaps and highlights (akin to sports show highlights) shown at the end of each day—the whole thing is just so absurd, yet not that far removed from our current reality. And that’s just terrifying. In her own style, Collins does a great job of providing us with a story where there are lessons to be learned, thoughts to be provoked, and discussions to be had.
I enjoyed that the series went beyond what I was expecting the story to be and that there were monkey wrenches that were thrown at the characters and twists that I just didn’t see coming—which really enamors me to a story because I’m very good at figuring the series of events out in a story before they happen and that predictability bores me and turns me off to a writer. Collins did a great job of surprising me. There was even a point in Mockingjay where I was certain I had reached where the story was going to end, but then I realized there were still several pages left in the book, and then I was like “Oh! What’s going to happen next?!”—and I don’t know about you, but to me, a surprise like that is sexy. Very sexy.
I also greatly appreciate that though the content matter is on the heavy side (intense and complex from beginning to end), it is very easy to follow—written simply yet articulately and intelligently, with powerful and gripping diction through-and-through. She manages to weave elements of sci-fi, action adventure, psychological thriller, and a love triangle into a carefully crafted marriage of these facets to the point where she flirts with absurdity but doesn’t quite cross the line.
And I absolutely LOVE that there’s no Wonderful World of Disney happily-ever-after fairy-tale ending, because I abhor them (but that’s another rant for another article on another day). Instead, what we get is something much more realistic than that, but still hopeful and satisfying: a resolution. One that, I feel, is appropriate and fulfilling.