So, it’s come to this. I’m going to write a blog post about the entirety of The Hunger Games trilogy. Or as I’m going to cheerfully refer to it as 1984-lite.
This is going to be one of many comments I make that is going to sound more negative than I’m actually intending it. So in order to try to fend off those complaints, I’m going to first state that, in actuality, I enjoyed the series more than I expected to.
The trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, is a teen series that has a good number of moments that bring it above the rest of a very generic and mostly boring love triangle. The unfortunate part is that for all the good passages about rebellion and visions of a seemingly inevitable dystopian future… the spine of the book series (GET IT?! A BOOK PUN!) is still the love triangle. Oh noes, who will she choose?!?!
Also, I’m going to avoid spoilers where possible, but… if you haven’t read it, plan on reading it, or are in the middle of reading it… stop here. Turn back! There’s still ti- TOO LATE!
OK. I’m going to do my best to leave that kind of thought out of the rest of this review. But… I make no promises.
The series stars Katniss, 16-year old resident of District 12, as a girl who is fighting for her life in a gladiator-style tournament (TWENTY FOUR ENTER! ONLY ONE LEAVES!). You may ask yourself… why would someone do this?
Well, the government in power is basically a fascist state that forces two children from each of the twelve districts it controls to fight to the death, just to show the people under its thumb who has all The Power, and why it’s useless to fight back.
The first book is basically all about the fighting. Sure you have some plot elements describing the terrible conditions of District 12, various ways of showing just how terrible the government, and several references to what a mockingjay is (and just how it can be construed as an insult and act of rebellion), but… if I’m a 12 or 13 year old reading this, I just want to know when the violence comes in.
And boy does it. From the start, the battles in The Hunger Games are brutal. Frustratingly, though, Katniss is spared from any real acts of violence for most of the battles, being more of a thinker than a fighter. Frustrating because I feel that, as a character, she could benefit from getting her hands dirty in a more up-close-and-personal way than she does for most of the novel.
My favorite example of this is in the character of Rue, a 12 year old from District 11. Young Rue is what can best be described as The Death That Will Make You Outraged Later. And you think… “Oh boy, how will Katniss deal with having to kill someone the same age as her sister?”
Well… she doesn’t. Another competitor takes care of that for her, and we the audience, as well as Katniss, rage on.
By the end, of course, The Hunger Games comes down to just Katniss and her fake\real boyfriend from District 12 Peeta. A daring act of rebellion allows the pair to make it out of The Games alive, against the wishes of The Government and its snake-in-the-grass leader President Snow. Here ends book one. And here my troubles began.
The second book begins with small groups within various districts in various states of open rebellion. Katniss and Peeta begin their victory tour, which President Snow will help stem the tide of the uprising. Katniss then makes sure not to think for more than a moment, thereby accidentally making things worse.
And then… stay with me on this one… Katniss and Peeta and brought back into The Hunger Games by way of a Convenient Plot Point. In the training, they meet all the characters you could ever hope for. The Bitch, The Sexy Guy, The Nerdy Kid, and The Old Lady (i.e.: The Death That Will Make You Outraged Later of book 2).
The Head Gamemaker also gives her the single most obvious example of the fact that he is on her side when he shows her a Mockingjay on his watchface. At this point, despite the fact that she OBVIOUSLY knows the significance behind the symbol (for fuck’s sake, you only gave us the FULL GODDAMN HISTORY OF IT IN THE LAST BOOK!!!), she passes it off and looks all the dumber for it.
OK, fast forward… The second Hunger Games that Katniss and Peeta fight in is long, difficult, and bloody. Lots of violence, lots of innovative death, dismemberment, and destruction. Katniss continues to be as dense as dark matter, not realizing that just about every fucking person around her is on her side, even when they practically spell it out for her…
GAAAAAAAAAAAAH! OK, fit over. The Games end when Katniss is whisked away by the rebellion, but poor Peeta is left behind! What’ll happen to poor, innocent Peeta?
Well fortunately, the third book will tell us.
The third and final book, Mockingjay, is by far my favorite. Despite the fact that Collins goes full out serial killer, basically ROWLING over them with a steamroller (get it?! ANOTHER BOOK RELATED JOKE!), this book had the best plot twists of the trilogy and only one or two of them felt forced.
The first third of the book though? Plods on like molasses. Damn! Remember the first half of Order of the Phoenix and all of that angst? Yeah, this book gets angsty too.
Best part in the first third though? They find Peeta and manage to get him out of The Government’s clutches. And as soon as he sees Katniss, he gives her a big hug and everyone is happy. Well, replace “hug” with “larynx crushing choke” and “happy” with “horrified” and you’ve got a more accurate sentence. It was completely out of nowhere, and I loved it!
The second third of the book picks up significantly, though, and provides us with more of the over-the-top violence that we’ve come to love. Remember when that one character got rehabilitated and was turning his life around? Fuck him, he’s dead! Remember when that other character who was just two days from retirement? Yeah, he’s dead too.
I know you’re on pins and needles, wondering what other scene there was that just blew my socks off, right? Well, here we go. War’s over. The rebels have won (because, of course, they had to!), and Katniss is the one who gets to execute ex-President Snow. Oh joy of joys!
But harkening back to an earlier conversation where the pair have agreed not to lie to one another and realizing that Snow was being truthful when he told Katniss about New President Coin trying to kill her off… Katniss buries an arrow into Now-Dead-President Coin’s brain-pan and is taken away. Again, this moment was a complete, unpredictable shock and I was laughing for weeks after when I thought of it (in fact, I’ve got a huge grin on my face as we speak just remembering it).
So, Katniss is declared legally insane and she’s free to retire with the boy of her choice and become Queen of Crazy Town. And who does she pick? Oh, who gives a shit.
And so our series ends, with Katniss and Peeta living together with their two children, in a more peaceful and more vague world.
Now after all that… I sound like I hated the novels. Not true! From start to finish, I enjoyed myself when I was able to put my brain on autopilot and stop over-analyzing EVERYthing that happened. But my brain kept popping up and saying, “Hey dude… Brain here. That whole thing… doesn’t really make sense.” And I responded, “Shut up brain, there’s bound to be some awkward teenage groping somewhere in here.”
Spoiler alert… there isn’t! Which brings me to my next complaint. For a series that doesn’t shy away from overly descriptive passages on bee stings, stabbings, gushing wounds, arrows to various body parts, explosives, and severe emotional distress… the whole thing is as chaste as a hymnal. Seriously, these are teenagers… do they have horomones at all?
Bah! There I go again! I’m sorry, I just can’t help it. The series is great. It has an interesting plot, some memorable characters, and the social commentary is actually very subtle. I also enjoy the idea of the books because I hope it will lead teenagers into reading other dystopian books, like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World.
And if not? Well, at least the little bastards are reading! The Hunger Games is a great series as long as you don’t become a complete assbag like me and over-analyze the little details (and I’ll readily admit that I was more sensitive to overly-convenient plot points that I know I have forgiven in other novels I’ve read).
So read the series if you haven’t. Do it now before the movie comes out and you’re forced to put one of those ugly movie covers on your shelf. Hell, I’d do it just to avoid having Lenny Kravitz’s name on anything that I own.