I finally succumbed to The Hunger Games trilogy. My friend Shannon raved about the books and then I found out that a high school in New Jersey had their entire 9-12 grade student body read The Hunger Games for their summer reading program, so I finally gave in. I flew through The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, during my fall business trips this month–I honestly didn’t want the trilogy to come to an end. And I’ll admit that I didn’t want to love them, but I did.
There are certain books I steer clear of becuase everyone else is reading them. I’m not sure why I resist popular opinion? And these are technically young adult, which was another turn off initially. After reading the first Twilight and Harry Potter , I swore off popular young adult books (though I’ve been convinced by my friend Justin to get past the first two Harry Potter books and read the entire series). But The Hunger Games, other than being free of profanity and sex, didn’t scream young adult read to me. The themes of death, love and grief were pretty heavy throughout the books.
The books are set in the future, when the United States as we know it has collapsed. The new world, Panem, consists of 12 Districts (most of which are very poor) and a Capitol. Years ago, the Districts waged war against the Capitol and lost, so each year the Capitol hosts, “The Hunger Games,” a live, televised event to remind the Districts who is in charge. Each District is forced to host a lottery to choose one male and female teen or child, known as a tribute, to participate in the games, where the participants essentially battle to the death until just one competitor prevails. Katniss volunteers to represent District 12 when her younger sister Prim’s name is called, and then Peeta, a boy she vaguely remembers from elementary school, is selected.
Katniss is a tough and determined tomboy…she and her best friend Gale often sneak outside the District 12 fence to hunt for food for their families and the local black market (a skill that will come in handy in The Hunger Games). She was mainly brought up by her father, who was killed in a mining accident. After he passed away, she was forced to take over caring for her mom and sister Prim. On the other hand, Peeta is the sweet and sensitive son of the local baker.
The first book in the trilogy focuses on Katniss and Peeta’s battle to survive The Hunger Games. It kills me to not be able to say more, but I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read them. Though I think it’s obvious that Katniss survives The Hunger Games and is the main character in all three books. I was surprised at how unpredictable the books were–when I finished The Hunger Games, I really had no idea what Catching Fire would be about. The premise seems somewhat straightforward but the books get pretty complex. Mockingjay was my least favorite book in the trilogy (it became a little Con Air or Die Hard-esqe…if you’ve read the books, you’ll probably know what I mean) but the last chapter closed the trilogy really well and I re-read the last paragraph a dozen times because it was perfect and I didn’t want to be finished with the characters or the books. I was surprised at how much I really cared about the characters–I held my breath in parts because I was so wrapped up in the story. Though Katniss’ narration/persona gets to be a little much in Mockingjay. I’ve heard differing opinions on how the trilogy ends or what people think of the third book–but it’s hard to give my opinion without giving away what happens.
I recommend them–they’re easy reads that’ll be really hard to put down and will keep you guessing. And while they’re fantasy, the world Collins created doesn’t feel like it’s on another planet–just a very scary version of the world we could live in, in the future. I don’t re-read many books, but I’d bet I’ll find myself picking these up again. And I might take up archery…ha! In the meantime, The Hunger Games movie comes out in March 2012. Check out the sneak peak (though not sure how I feel about this–I hope there’s a better trailer still to come):