on August 27, 2010
The Hunger Games (Trilogy) is one of the most "unputdownable" books to enter the teen market in a long time. The cliffhangers at the end of each volume are so intense, you can't help but continue on. Knowing this in advance, I decided against reading the series last summer despite the fact that everyone was talking about it. I waited the extra year, and I'm glad I did--even a week was torture when it came to getting my grubby mitts on a copy of Mockingjay.
For the record, this isn't a series for everyone. You will be drained emotionally by its end. The Hunger Games is one of the grimmest dystopian worlds I've encountered in literature. A lot of characters die, and their deaths aren't pleasant. This series may not be for you. Then again, those who know me well would say it's not for me, either. I'm one of the most squeamish people you'll meet, and The Hunger Games more closesly resembles the movie Battle Royale than I thought it would when I started reading. I really enjoyed the series, though. There are scenes so poignant, they'll stick with me. Between this and Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, I've found that even squeamish ole me can still enjoy a disturbing book if it's thought-provoking and well-written.
Now that I've warned you about the contents, let's move on to the meat of this review. It's hard to go in-depth without giving a lot away, so I decided to focus on the trilogy as a whole instead of singling out Mockingjay and reviewing it on its own (though I do have a paragraph dedicated to it further down). A brief synopsis for the uninitiated:
The trilogy takes place in the future. The USA has been destroyed; in its place is Panem, which consists of thirteen districts and a Capitol city. Before the series begins, the districts revolt against the Capitol and are defeated; the thirteenth is completely obliterated. As retribution for their crimes, each district is now required to send a boy and girl, called tributes, to participate in the annual Hunger Games. The games are centered around survival; there can only be one winner (Luckily, most of the deaths occur off-page, so it makes it easier for the squeamish to read). The characters are very rich and detailed; some of their deaths hit incredibly hard and are forever memorable. In the second book, Catching Fire, there is a lot of unease in the districts, and a lot of anger when the year's Hunger Games take a twisted turn and past winners are forced to battle it out for survival. The final book, Mockingjay, consists of a full out rebellion; the districts are at war with the Capitol and it's do or die in a showdown so explosive, readers never see it coming.
Mockingjay has already received flack for not going in the direction fans anticipated. Most were caught up in a romantic triangle and hoped the final book would have a heavy emphasis on this theme with war as a backdrop and a happily-ever-after on the horizon. At the same time, Suzanne Collins has been setting up the revolution since Day One; the grim nature of the first two books should lead readers to believe that the finale will continue in a similar vein. Yes, people will die and it won't always be fair. That's life. I think the direction of Mockingjay was natural, especially in war-like situations. Characters will not be the same as they were earlier in life; war changes you. I would have been disappointed if Collins sidestepped harsh realities in order to soften the story. The tale she weaves is extreme, but it's also genuine. To me, by sticking to her guns and not copping out for something friendlier, she has created a memorable, haunting series that will stick with you long after you've finished reading it.
I'd also like to bring attention to the amazing book jacket art put together by designer Elizabeth B. Parisi and artist Tim O'Brien. At first glance, they don't mean much, but once you've read the serious, you notice just how ingenious they truly are. Before I read the series, I looked at the preview of the Mockingjay jacket and thought, "Wow, that's bright compared to the first two." Now I know better. Each book features a mockingjay, which is a hybrid mix of mockingbird and jabberjay (a Capitol creation used for spying on enemies during the first rebellion). The first book features the bird as the pin the main character, Katsa's, friend gives to her. The book is black and grim, giving it a desolate air. Every character in the Games feels hopeless, as though he/she won't survive. The second book's mockingbird is trapped inside a clock-like environment, which is the setting of the Hunger Games in this volume. The book is red for fire (both for its title, Catching Fire, and the literal associations with the element in the book), for anger (the fact that previous survivors of the Hunger Games must participate once more), and for bloodshed. Both books feature these circular objects that link to one another representing the way the districts and Capitol are linked. The final book features a mockingjay with its wings spread out. The linked circles are in broken pieces around it. The book is a vivid sky blue, the color of peace and hope. These covers have become favorites of mine; I adore the symbolism.
All in all, I'm personally glad I've read this series and wouldn't change a thing. I'm glad I didn't sidestep it due to its violent nature and extreme situations. This trilogy is one I'll read again to delve into the intricate layers I know Collins has laid out for us. Collins is a master at capturing a society at war and showing the horrors that come when a corrupt government is in control.
on August 24, 2010
Because I was such a fan of Suzanne Collins' The Underland Chronicles (also known as the Gregor the Overlander series), I picked up The Hunger Games the first week it was out and I feel privileged in a way to not only have read this series as it unfolded, but to have witnessed its climb in popularity over the last 2 years. That popularity is richly deserved.
Collins is both a talented writer and a gifted storyteller, two things that do not always go hand in hand. In The Hunger Games trilogy, she has created characters that will stay with me and has given them a hard and difficult story that will haunt me. She also managed to keep the quality of the series high throughout which is not always the case with a book series.
At the conclusion of book three - Mockingjay - Collins hasn't wrapped everything up in a neat little bow and slapped a happy face sticker on the bow's ribbon ends nor, IMHO, should she have done so. Instead, Collins provides a conclusion that suits the story, that left room for my internal `if-onlys', `what-ifs', `I-wonders' and `but-what-abouts', but that I also found satisfying.
I consider The Hunger Games trilogy to be a great accomplishment for Collins and a true classic for both teen and adult readers of both sexes. I'm very pleased to give it a permanent place on my-favorite-books-of-all-time shelf where, coincidentally, it will sit right alongside The Underland Chronicles.
Very, very highly recommended.
Note: Prices will vary, but you may want to price the books out to see if you'll get a better deal buying them separately. As I write this, you will, so if you're not really committed to the box... :-)
Wow. I was barely able to put this book down for a second after the first few pages got me completely hooked. Suzanne Collins narrative here has an immediacy to it that, when combined with the very dramatic life-or-death plot, is incredibly compelling. It's entertaining, and incredibly disturbing all at once. If this was merely a good read, I would have given it 4 stars, but they say great art leaves you changed after you experience it... and this book definitely did that. Suzanne Collins has, with one amazing work, propelled herself onto my top shelf.
Parents, caveat emptor! The storyline is brutal. Even though the writing is geared for young adults, the main characters are teenagers, there's very little physical romance, and the actual violence would probably count as PG-13 nowadays... it's probably one of the most terrifying books I've read in a very long time! Right up there with George R.R. Martin, if not more so. Remember what we learned from Jaws: you don't actually need to SEE the shark in order for it to be terrifying. Sometimes not seeing the shark is even worse.
The story is basically about a teenager who is forced to compete in a 24-man-enter-1-man-leaves event. I don't want to spoil it by saying any more, but if you liked The Running Man, you'll definitely like this. And if you're young enough that you don't remember The Running Man, nor did you get the Thunderdome reference, then I'm just way too old. But take an old fogey's advice and read this book.
Amazon, when can I preorder book 2???
on August 24, 2010
This was a brilliant conclusion to the trilogy. I can only compare it to "Ender's Game" - and that is extremely high praise, indeed.
When I first closed the book last night, I felt shattered, empty, and drained.
And that was the point, I think. I'm glad I waited to review the book because I'm not sure what my review would have been.
For the first two books, I think most of us readers have all been laboring under the assumption that Katniss Everdeen would eventually choose one of the two terrific men in her life: Gale, her childhood companion or Peeta, the one who accompanied her to the Hunger Games twice. She'd pick one of them and live happily ever after with him, surrounded by friends and family. Somehow, along the way, Katniss would get rid of the awful President Snow and stop the evil Hunger Games. How one teenage girl would do all that, we weren't too sure, but we all had faith and hope that she would.
"Mockingjay" relentlessly strips aside those feelings of faith and hope - much as District 13 must have done to Katniss. Katniss realizes that she is just as much a pawn for District 13 as she ever was for the Colony and that evil can exist in places outside of the Colony.
And that's when the reader realizes that this will be a very different journey. And that maybe the first two books were a setup for a very different ride. That, at its heart, this wasn't a story about Katniss making her romantic decisions set against a backdrop of war.
This is a story of war. And what it means to be a volunteer and yet still be a pawn. We have an entirely volunteer military now that is spread entirely too thin for the tasks we ask of it. The burden we place upon it is great. And at the end of the day, when the personal war is over for each of them, each is left alone to pick up the pieces as best he/she can.
For some, like Peeta, it means hanging onto the back of a chair until the voices in his head stop and he's safe to be around again. Each copes in the best way he can. We ask - no, demand - incredible things of our men and women in arms, and then relegate them to the sidelines afterwards because we don't want to be reminded of the things they did in battle. What do you do with people who are trained to kill when they come back home? And what if there's no real home to come back to - if, heaven forbid, the war is fought in your own home? We need our soldiers when we need them, but they make us uncomfortable when the fighting stops.
All of that is bigger than a love story - than Peeta or Gale. And yet, Katniss' war does come to an end. And she does have to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out where to go at the end. So she does make a choice. But compared to the tragedy of everything that comes before it, it doesn't seem "enough". And I think that's the point. That once you've been to hell and lost so much, your life will never be the same. Katniss will never be the same. For a large part of this book, we see Katniss acting in a way that we can only see as being combat-stress or PTSD-related - running and hiding in closets. This isn't our Katniss, this isn't our warrior girl.
But this is what makes it so much more realistic, I think. Some may see this as a failing in plot - that Katniss is suddenly acting out of character. But as someone who has been around very strong soldiers returning home from deployments, this story, more than the other two, made Katniss come alive for me in a much more believable way.
I realize many out there will hate the epilogue and find it trite. At first, I did too. But in retrospect, it really was perfect. Katniss gave her life already - back when she volunteered for Prim in "The Hunger Games". It's just that she actually physically kept living.
The HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers", has a quote that sums this up perfectly. When Captain Spiers says, "The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it."
But how do you go from that, to living again in society? You really don't. So I'm not sure Katniss ever really did - live again. She just ... kept going. And there's not really much to celebrate in that. Seeing someone keep going, despite being asked - no, demanded - to do unconscionably horrifying things, and then being relegated to the fringes of society, and then to keep going - to pick up the pieces and keep on going, there is something fine and admirable and infinitely sad and pure and noble about that. But the fact is, it should never happen in the first place.
And that was the point, I think.
on August 30, 2010
Okay, on the one hand, I liked this book. Liked it enough that I couldn't stop reading because I NEEDED to know what happened--specifically to Peeta. I also liked what happened in the end...but...well...
From the first page of The Hunger Games to the end of Mockingjay, the one thing, the one character that kept me reading was Peeta. I liked Katniss alright, but she wasn't what drew me into the series. Katniss, like many reviews are saying, was a pawn in this awful war. In the first 2 books she acted against the 'control'. She rebelled--which is WHY so many people looked up to her. Which is why they wanted her face to be the seal of their rebellion. It made sense. But here's where I feel Ms. Coillins made a grave mistake in Mockingjay...she eliminated the 'goodness' that had motivated Katniss to move forward even when she didn't want to during the games from her life.
True, this whole series has been about fighting oppression and power. About fighting against a government set out to only make their own lives better, and I felt the first 2 books did that nicely. They were so dark, so horrifying, but inside all of that horror there was a spark of light, of sunshine, and that spark was Peeta and Prim--but mostly Peeta since he was there with her to remind her time and time again the type of goodness that was there to save.
Peeta represented true goodness, love, compassion. He was what kept Katniss from falling over the edge into total darkness. He was her rock, her friend, and no matter how confused she felt--she loved him, even if she didn't know it yet. The failure in Mockingjay was that, Ms. Collins took that light away from Katniss. There was no goodness anymore, and therefore Katniss lost her own 'personal spark'. Yet, this was never alluded to in the story. We just saw Katniss growing weaker and weaker, and were never given a reason as to why. People are complaining about how 'soft' her character went and I completely agree. But what isn't being talked about is the reason why. The reason is that Ms. Collins all but removed Peeta from this story.
I don't know about everyone else, but he was the only bright spot in this entire series for me. Everything was so dark and hopeless--except him. HE was the one the masses clung to. HIS words, HIS light, HIS goodness. He is what made Katniss look so incredible. It was his presence and words that did that. It is my opinion that she could not have risen to the level she was at without him--which is why she fell short in Mockingjay. The dynamic between them and what they accomplished together at both 'Games' was what drove the series for me. It wasn't even so much about the romance--although that DID add another human layer to this story which made it all that much more gut wrenching and true.
All across the review boards, message boards, etc...the main thing people mused about was 'Who is Katniss going to choose? Gale or Peeta?' (And really, was there even a doubt as to who it would be? Who it needed to be?) Yet, we get to Mockingjay and the author COMPLETELY obliterated that theme. Sure, we all understand that the war was the main plot, but the HEART of any story is it's characters and their personal journey. Love being one that drives most stories. The love was all but absent here. Sure, we get a resolution, Katniss chooses in the end, but it doesn't FEEL good to the reader. We were given no 'reunion' scene. We were given no 'love-filled' embrace. We were TOLD, 'and this happened.' Not fulfilling. Not in the least. Readers need closure. It doesn't have to be a 'happily ever after' which would have been completely off base for this story. But we need to see that in spite of everything that had happened, everything that the characters have suffered, that it had been worth SOMETHING. That everything they fought for, everything so many people died for, was worth something in the end. I'm disappointed because it wasn't like that. It was more like 'Yes, I finally admitted to myself that Peeta was who I loved, then I had some babies with him because he wanted them.'
Why, Suzanne Collins? Why? Why couldn't you let Katniss and Peeta be content afterward? Why couldn't it have ended with Katniss feeling at least somewhat like what they'd suffered had helped in some way. It ended with Katniss sounding just as depressed and unhappy as in the beginning--even though she had a wonderful husband and beautiful kids. I'm just...incredulous, I guess, that there couldn't even be a kernel of hope in the end. We all know this story wasn't a fairytale, and I prepared myself for bleakness. I just never imagined that I would get the ending I wanted (I was actually convinced Peeta would die and I'd be so incredibly mad that I'd throw the book into my fireplace), but that it would have such a sour note that I couldn't even be happy about it. I missed the dynamic between Peeta and Katniss so much. Only twice in the entire book did I feel ANY of that old spark (when he asked her, "You're still trying to protect me. Real or not real?" and when she kissed him to help him stay sane.) Twice in 400 pages. Characters and their relationship trump any and ALL fighting/gore/death--even in a war story because without that, readers don't care about the outcome of the war! This is where this novel fell short. The character relationships were completely annihilated. Gone.
Ok, I guess I've ended my rant. I just feel like she could have ended the book the same, but could have made that hopelessness feeling go away just a little. Because what is life if there is no hope? This novel left the reader feeling empty, drained, and hopeless. Not even being able to care about what happened to those characters we'd grown to love.
on September 13, 2010
To start I am a 47 year old Veteran.
I have read a lot of the bad reviews for this last book and I see a theme running through them all. They didn't get their fairytale ending and the people they liked didn't end up the way they wanted. Well If you are looking for a fairytale read Harry Potter. If you want a realistic book on how war really is and how people will sacrifice themselves to save their country, then this is for you.
The love triangle between the three main characters resolves itself in the best way that I could see possible. The way each one would react to the horrors of war were obvious from book one. I don't want to include spoilers so Ill just say, read this with an expectation of a realistic portrayal of the characters and how the war would change them. The ending on a personal level, is not necessarily a happy one, but it is a realistic one. From a "Big Picture" perspective I think it was a happy ending. To expect that all of the main characters could live "Happily Ever After" after surviving what happened in all three books is unrealistic.
on December 27, 2010
The title of my review sums up my feelings about this novel. I was addicted to the first two books. I could not put them down. When it came time to read the last book I kept saying that I needed to pace myself since I knew it was the last but instead I read it in a day. In the end, there was no need to rush. Now, that I've finished the trilogy I feel as wronged and empty as Katniss felt at the end of Mockingjay.
First of all, after reading the first two books I viewed this as a story about an incredible character named, Katniss. I felt that the war was a backdrop to the character. This was was what shaped her, matured her, tested her. But, by the end of the series it changed. It became about war, war is bad, blah, blah. Everyone knows this. This is nothing new. I do not need Finnick to get chewed to death or for Prim to incinerate for me to know this. But, what I didn't know and what I wanted to know was how Katniss would resolve this issue of war, this issue of being a pawn, of loving two different boys. These things were never told to me because she spent the majority of the book hiding, getting injured, being unconscious, staying drugged, or half insane. It was horrible enough that the usually dependable character of Peeta was hijacked but so was the character of Katniss. Her character and her reactions to the Games and the war were what made me invested in this story. There was none of that in Mockingjay. She just simply existed. Gale and Peeta were both seriously injured at the end and she didn't even try to find them once she healed. Really? These two men she would die to protect she suddenly could care less about them when one got shot and the other got burned? The author seemed too focused on throwing in as many tragedies as possible instead of showing us any genuine reactions or dialogue from the characters the readers cared about. Also, when Peeta was struggling to find his old self back in 13 she did nothing to help him but just kept avoiding him. In fact, that was really what she did the whole story which was such a change from who she was in The Hunger Games.
The second thing I didn't like was there was just so much pointlessness. When the heroes leave for their mission to assassinate Snow I think that we are finally going to see Katniss take control and stop being a pawn. We are finally going to see her mature and figure out who she's going to love. I'm waiting and waiting for this pivotal moment. I've got no time to grieve for Boggs or Finnick because I'm just trying to hang on to the climax that will make everything worthwhile. It never happens. Peeta and Gale get injured "offscreen". Prim who stayed in the background for most of the book suddenly gets plopped literally right down into the middle of all the action only to die. I'm still thinking there's time for this great climax BUT NO! Once again, Katniss gets injured only this time it's worse. Not only does she watch her sister die but she gets to forever carry scars that will remind her of how her sister died. But, that's not enough. Apparently, Peeta will also carry the same scars, too, only the readers don't even get to read what happen to him. All of this just seemed so pointless. I understand that war is bad and unpredictable but it did nothing to move forward any kind of plot or character development. I just felt like the author was trying to hammer home how terrible war can be but people already know this. This story in my mind should have stayed on track with the character of Katniss. Also, just how many people in a book can be "losing it" at one time? You have Katniss, Peeta, Finnick and Annie all having mental problems??? That's a bit too much.
Third of all, there were so many things unresolved. The resolution between Katniss and her two men just simply happened by chance it seemed. Gale invented the bomb that killed her sister so she simply picked Peeta. It helped that Peeta moved back to 12 and Gale did not. Would she have tried to find him if he didn't? Did she pick him because he was the only one there? Would she have picked Gale if he moved back? She was never proactive with her choices in the end. Everyone else made all her choices for her. Then there were other characters never fully resolved. Effie suddenly appeared at the end with little written about that. The style team just went away. Gale never really said good bye. There was no scene to find out about how Annie was coping. Her mother had nothing to say to her in the end other than a letter that was never read. Haymitch barely got mentioned once they were back in 12. Johanna had no ending. Peeta should have had plenty to say after what he went through and how Katniss treated him but there was nothing there to reward the readers in the end there, either. Also, the character of Katniss ended up doing pretty much nothing with her life after she stopped being the Mockingjay. Did her life peak at the age of sixteen and after that she did nothing that was meaningful? It seemed she married Peeta because he never left her side and had children for him because it was what he wanted...not her. In the end, she became this hollow shell compared to the girl her took her sister's place in The Hunger Games. She became her mother whom she hated so much in the beginning for "losing it". I didn't even understand why Peeta would want to stay with her in the end. She was nothing like the "Girl on Fire" that he and Gale fell in love with.
After I read this book I could not stop thinking about it. I couldn't decide if I even liked it or not. I was glad she chose Peeta in the end but that was all I was happy about. I had problems shaking off my feelings of depression. The book itself was depressing but I finally figured out my depression came from how drastically different this book was from the other two. It changed from a story about a unique character put into an impossible situation (Hunger Games and the war),deciding between two equally great men and instead changed into a lame After School Special on how war is bad. I already know this. What I wanted to know was how someone as great as Katniss would handle it. I never found that out because the character that I fell in love with never showed up in this book.
on December 11, 2010
First, as The Hunger Games are wildly popular at this time, I really did not want to like them as much as I did. There's a snobbery in me that tends to assume that extremely popular fiction has merely reached a low common denominator for the unwashed masses, and them alone (see Nicholas Sparks and Stephanie Meyer). That said, contrary to my expectations, I did not merely enjoy The Hunger Games. I was devastated by them.
I devoured the whole trilogy in about a week and a half. I've no doubt it wouldn't have taken that long if (a) I didn't have a day job, and (b) I'd had access to all three books in one sitting. If this seems extreme, well, it is. Not afraid to say it.
The framework is a common enough idea in literature: it's fiction of dystopia (there are hints that the country of Panem has replaced the now-dead USA) with an oppressive government and pockets of oppressed citizens. Leaders rise, conflict ensues, and the fates of citizens and nation alike are challenged, burned, and reformed (almost never in neat-and-tidy ways, either).
This isn't to say that the plot is formulaic, because the specifics of the Hunger Games themselves as modern gladiator-style melees to the death is unique and compelling in the future context. Katniss Everdeen as the first-person protagonist does not fit into any formal compartments either, and her inner conflict, selfishness, selflessness, good decisions and bad ones all present emotions that not only compel and frustrate, but also ring true.
While the storytelling is clean and the events easily maintain interest, it's the crushing human emotion and condition that propelled me through and left me an emotional wreck at the end of each novel. Relationship, loss, oppression, rebellion, selfishness, selflessness, brokenness, bitterness, hatred, destruction, redemption, grace, love, epic sadness, humor, injustice, family--it will rock you if you let it. And I recommend you let it.
The books have their fair share of violence, but the writing is neither overly graphic nor gratuitous. It's not a violence of glory, either, but one of tragedy and necessity. The love interest between Katniss and (well, it would be cheating to tell) is tactful and doesn't fall into the trap of being overtly sexual. There are instances where Katniss sleeps together with a boy her age, one that loves her, and one that she kisses and cares for--but it's only that. Their relationship develops out of care and protection, not sexuality.
I recommend the trilogy to anyone with a heart. I think it's more than appropriate for younger readers, provided you are ready to have some really great discussions about violence, liberty, oppression, revenge, love, and sure, even sex (though again, there is no inappropriate content to that end).
Please read it now.
Clearly Gregor was merely the prelude. Suzanne Collins, you've been holding out on us, missy. As an author we were accustomed to your fun adventures involving a boy, his sister, and a world beneath our world. I think it's fair to say that we weren't really expecting something like The Hunger Games. At least I wasn't. But reading it gave me a horribly familiar feeling. There is a certain strain of book that can hypnotize you into believing that you are in another time and place roughly 2.3 seconds after you put that book down. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer could convince me that there were simply not enough canned goods in my home. And The Hunger Games? Well as I walked down the street I was under the disctinc impression that there were hidden cameras everywhere, charting my progress home. Collins has written a book that is exciting, poignant, thoughtful, and breathtaking by turns. It ascends to the highest forms of the science fiction genre and will create all new fans for the writer. One of the best books of the 2008 year.
Life in District 12 isn't easy for Katniss and her family. Ever since her father died the girl has spent her time saving her mother and little sister Prim from starvation by hunting on forbidden land. But worst of all is reaping day. Once a year the government chooses two children from each of the twelve districts to compete against one another in a live and televised reality show. Twenty-four kids and teens enter, and only one survives. When Prim's name is called, Katniss exchanges herself without hesitation to compete alongside the baker's boy Peeta. To survive in this game you need to win the heart of your audience, and so District 12's trainers come up with a plan. Why not make it as if Peeta and Katniss were in love with one another? But in a game where only one person can live, Katniss will have to use all her brains, wits, and instincts to determine who to trust and how to outwit the game's creators.
I described the plot of this book to my husband, particularly the part where Katniss and Peeta fake being in love to gain the audience's approval and the very first thing he said was, "Oh! That's the plot of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" Then I mentioned that it took place in the future and that government leaders set up teenagers to fight one another to the death and he said, "Battle Royale". So sure, there are parts of this plot that have been done before. You could say it's The Game meets Spartacus with some Survivor thrown in for spice. But that's not what makes a book good or bad, is it? Some of the greatest works of literature out there, regardless of the readerships' age, comes about when an author takes overdone or familiar themes and then makes them entirely new through the brilliance of their own writing. Harry Potter wouldn't have been any great shakes if it weren't for Rowling's storytelling. Similarly, Collins takes ideas that have certainly seen the light of day before and concocts an amazingly addictive text. About the time you get to the fifth chapter that ends with a sentence that forces you to read on, you're scratching your head wondering how the heck she DOES that.
Your story often rests on the shoulders of the protagonist. Is this a believable character? Do you root for him or her? Because basically it is a very hard thing to create a "good" person on the page that your reader is going to fall in love with. Because we readers know that we are flawed, we are often inclined to side with the similarly flawed people we meet between a book's covers. Katniss, on the other hand, is so good in so many ways. She sacrifices herself for her sister. She tries to save people in the game. But there's almost a jock mentality to her too. Katniss can figure out the puzzles and problems in the game, but when it comes to emotional complexity she's sometimes up a tree. Most remarkable to me was the fact that Katniss could walk around, oblivious to romance, and not bug me. Seriously, nothing gets under my skin faster than heroines who can't see that their fellow fellas are jonesing for them. You just want to bonk the ladies upside the head with a brick or something. The different here is maybe the fact that since Katniss knows that Peeta has to play a part, she uses that excuse (however unconsciously) to justify his seeming affection for her. Thems smart writing.
Oh! And did I mention the dialogue at all? The humor? Yep, there's humor. We're talking about a story where adolescents hunger for blood, and Katniss is getting in lines about her trainers like, "And then, because it's Effie and she's apparently required by law to say something awful..." Good stuff. The words pop off the page. And then there's the fact that we're dealing with a dystopian novel where the author has somehow managed to create a believable future. No faux slang here, or casual references to extinct dolphins. There are some animals that were scientifically altered, but you can't have a future without a couple cool details like that, right?
In general, this book throws a big fat wrench into the boy book/girl book view of child/teen literature. People love to characterize books by gender. It stars a boy? Boy book. A girl? Girl book. Now take a long lengthy look at the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. It stars a girl... and a boy too. There's a lot of hunting, fighting, and survival... and a lot of romance, kisses, and cool outfits. There's strategy, the world's most fabulous fashion designer, weapons and a girl who knows how to fight. This is not a book that quietly slots into our preconceived stereotypes. And you know what happens to books that span genders? They sell very well indeed. That is, if you can get both boys and girls to read them.
The age range? Well, for most of this story I would have said ten and up. I mean, yeah the basic premise is that a lot of teenagers go around killing one another, and sure there's some romance to deal with, but none of it really seems inappropriate... until a final death scene appears in the book. I won't give any details, but suffice it to say it is gruesome. There are definite horror elements to it as well, so with that in mind I am upping my recommendation to 12 and up. I'm sure that there are 10-year-olds out there who've seen much worse stuff on cable, just as there are 12-year-olds who'll freak out ten pages in. Still, I'm more comfortable recommending it for the older kids rather than the younger. You'll see why.
It occurs to me that there has never been a quintessential futuristic gladiator book for kids. That is undoubtedly the roughest term you can give this book. Now I'm not a person who cries easily when she reads something, particularly something for kids. Yet as I was taking a train to Long Island I found myself tearing up over significant parts of this story. It's good. And it's so ridiculous that a work of science fiction like this could even be so good. You think of futuristic arena tales and your mind instantly sinks to the lowest common denominator. What Collins has done here is set up a series that will sink its teeth into readers. The future of this book will go one of two ways. Either it will remain an unappreciated cult classic for years to come or it will be fully appreciated right from the start and lauded. My money lies with the latter. A contender in its own right.
on January 13, 2011
Spoilers. Read at your own risk.
I came to this series late. By the time I heard about it, the entire series had already been written and published. I voraciously read the first two books in this series, and I had high expectations for the final book. Let me say, I am glad I did not have to wait a year for book 3, which was disappointing and left me feeling thoroughly unsatisfied. Here's why.
As the title of my review suggests, this book reads like Collins had to meet a too-quickly-approaching deadline. It is not the labor of love the other two books were (especially the first). I couldn't believe how much story still had to be closed when I had only 50 pages left to read, and the hurried nature of it all was very disorienting.
- Didn't "sound" like Collins.
This book read as if Collins collaborated with someone else, or even that entire passages were written by another person altogether. It felt choppy, disconnected, and just plain unnerving.
- Lack of focus and odd pace.
So much time was spent on unimportant details (such as Katniss's deciding which boy she loved and trusted), while major plot points (such as the ending with President Coin and Katniss's decision surrounding it) and major character deaths (in particular, Finnick and Prim) were insensitive and glossed over.
- Finnick's death.
Finnick was a main character who was loyal to Katniss and the cause, yet he was killed off in the most infuriatingly unceremonious manner, like it had to be completed in ten words or less. And, no. Annie's pregnancy didn't console me and was pretty meaningless. I would rather Finnick had lived. This was foreshadowing that I missed. Usually if a woman gets pregnant, you know that'll be their consolation because their lover (who's alive now) will probably die later in the book; or, if their lover has already died, you know the woman will magically be pregnant. Some of my friends didn't even know Finnick had died until after all the fighting when Katniss was counting who was left!
- Prim's death.
By this point, I was feeling like series became "Legends of the Fall" where pretty much everyone dies for apparently no reason, other than to be gratuitously tragic. It took me a while to even realize that it was Prim and she was dead because it was cheapened with odd hallucinations and no substance--again, the death of a main character which was nearly glossed over. Additionally, I felt this death defeated the purpose of the whole series, although I do know some people who felt it made perfect sense. I admit to being someone who cannot see how it made perfect sense at all, especially when it happened so late in the series. This was another death that I realized had been foreshadowed when the timed weapon was being described.
- The endless waffling.
I get that Katniss is troubled, trying to figure out what she wants, doesn't know who to trust... but, seriously--enough is enough! I got bored near the middle because every sentence and every thought was teenage angst. It started to feel like the "Twilight" saga, and that is NOT a compliment (you can see my review of that for why). In the first book, this uncertainty was understandably at the forefront; in the second book, it was still prominent and less understandable, but did not bother me too much; in the third book, I was bored with it.
This book did not feel like it rang true with the series. It was wholly disappointing and there's nothing worse than a book, especially a series, that leaves you feeling unsatisfied and cheated.