on 5 January 2012
Like many of the recent reviewers here I came to The Hunger Games Trilogy relatively late after being badgered by friends who had already read the trilogy. At first I was resistant given I had never before read any Young Adults literature and the friends who were telling me to read the series were adults who read Twilight books, so their opinions could hardly be trusted. However, as with most readers of the series I devoured the books in fairly short order once I started them.
I am a particular fan of dystopian and alternate-universe fiction and the Hunger Games series effectively communicates many of the themes found in the famous dystopian novels of Huxley, Orwell and Bradbury et al to a young adult audience who may be encountering these ideas for the first time. While some professional critics have criticised the books for merely re-treading ideas that have been more thoroughly addressed in these classic adult novels, there is enough in this trilogy to be worthwhile reading even for those who are familiar with the classics.
Collins particular strengths are plotting and pacing of the novels; the pacing is incredibly tight allowing the reader to spend enough time in the world of Panem to feel emerged in the universe, but the books are not so long as to seem repetitive or for the exhilarating speed of the novels to be slowed. One of the excellent additions that Collins makes is the focus how the Hunger Games are a reality TV show and the tributes are styled and given media training as part of their preparation. While this might seem frivolous and at first jars with the horrifying to-the-death battles the children are about to engage in, it is an excellent, almost over the top satire of the cynicism, manipulation and shallowness that exists in current reality television and the celebrities it produces.
Katniss, the trilogy's heroine and narrator, is wonderfully complex, a girl forced to grow up before her time and take care of her family, making her hard an unforgiving in some ways while also intensely loyal and loving to those who make it in to her inner circle. The characterisation of Katniss is excellent, depicting her as often unlikeable but always realistic in her reactions to events around her. My only criticism of the writing of Katniss is how very brave and resilient she is depicted as being, which leaves little room for her to growth over the course of the series. However she is such a captivating character that I am willing to over-look this, particularly in view of the dearth of strong female characters presented to teenage audiences.
While the book is certainly gory and frequently depressing it is aimed at teenagers who are starting to become aware of some of the injustices of the world through the news and through their history lessons. Through the eyes of the young heroine of the novel they are given the opportunity to view an unjust, if incredibly extreme, world and better appreciate the freedom and opportunity available to them.
I have both read the book and listened to the audio book of The Hunger Games and would strongly recommend either to anyone, young or old, who has an interest in emersive dystopian fiction.
on 10 September 2011
I ignored this book for a long time on the basis that I felt it sounded too similar to Battle Royale. However I have finally got round to reading it, and am glad I did -whilst there are plenty of flaws, this is a fast paced, thrilling, adventure story, which provides surprises and visceral entertainment.
Katniss and Peeta are the teenage 'tributes' chosen from District 12, the poorest district of a post-apocalyptic North American society. Their district specialises in mining - others concentrate on farming, machinery, etc - but Katniss is actually a skilled 'outdoorswoman' - following her father's death, she has had to make a living off the land. Peeta is a baker's son - but one with a showman's gift for oratory. They and 22 other teenagers - 2 from each district - are required to fight to the last survivor in a televised arena battle. And yes, the arena is pretty much that of Battle Royale, with death zones, individual weapons, teenage love, regular announcements of the slain, etc. Basically if you just imagine Ms. Collins got permission to tell a story in Takami's setting, you'll be able to enjoy the story far more.
So other than the ...um, 'borrowed' premise, what else is wrong with it? Wafer thin characterisation - most of the other tributes are cardboard cut outs- iffy moralising ('Katniss stabbed him in the face. Later she reflected, 'Oh God, what have I done, how could I kill another human. I hate the government.' Then she fired an arrow into the heart of Boy Two from District Nine'). I paraphrase, but the moral struggle is filler, not truth. And some lazy story-telling - on entering the arena, Peeta is able to form an alliance with other tributes, whom we have never seen him talk to, who we are told do not rate his abilities and who would have been able to easily dispatch him.
But there is plenty right with the book too - the prose is strong, the action relentless and believable, and Katniss' romantic dilemma is much better defined than her issues with killing people. The Rue scene - you'll know it when you read it - is pitch perfect and remains with you long after the book is closed.
on 7 July 2014
I greatly enjoyed the first two books. Not the most original idea or piece of writing, but all in all very enjoyable, well plotted and written. Not sure though what has happened with the third and final book, its as if there were no editors and the whole book was rushed to the market. Its overplotted, violent, nonsence and just painful to read through. On top of it its quite predictable, I guessed half through the book what would happen at the end. I am from a former communist country, i.e. I lived through a dictatorship when I was a kid, and I find some of the ideas on the dictatorship in this third book plain ridiculous. I know, authors are totally entitled to create their fiction as they like, but for me it simply did not fly. I hope the movie makers do a lot of heavy editing, else the movies would be a flop imho.
on 22 October 2013
Have to agree with everyone else in this section - although we seem to be in a minority. The first book was very good and I was interested to see where it would go. The second one was frankly a bit dodgy, a pale imitation of the first book with far too much emphasis on clothes, makeup etc.(which I'd only just about tolerated in the first book). The last book was quite honestly bizarre. There was a bloody great revolution going on and what did we hear about? More clothes, more makeup, what lines she said for the camera...who the hell cares? I know propanganda is important in modern-day warfare, but it's hardly centre stage. She was supposed to be a strong confident woman blah blah blah. Strong confident women don't twitter on about clothes and makeup. They're involved in real action. Very disappointing.
on 15 April 2012
You have to accept the author's words that she hadn't heard of Battle Royale when she wrote this. To be fair, many elements of Battle Royale were not unique when it was written, but it kind of sets a modern standard for the use of the game as a form of control of the people that has been used by others, and is the standard by which this formula is judged. So like it or not, this book will be compared.
BR is quite a hard book to read; translations often are; but it's stunning, and it made a stunning film. It is extremely hard-edged. Being told in the third person, it's far harder to get an early handle on the winner; in The Hunger Games, it's a question of how, not if, Katniss will triumph.
This is standard teenfare; Swallows and Amazons with live ammunition if you like, and it works surprisingly well; there's enough action to keep you reading through something that's quite lengthy for what it really contains, and all the familiar caricatured characters of any school-based novel are there for all to see.
The Lord of the Flies could clearly be seen as an influence, too.
I think the author deserves credit for making the first person present narration work; this can really grate in some books, but it works pretty well here. However, given the first person narration, any form of suspense is missing as it's only a question of when and how the dice will fall in Katniss's favour, and this alone prohibits it from getting more than three stars, and should really reduce it to two.
Overall, yes, quite readable, but if it's considered special, that must be because it rises just a little above a desert of so much rubbish.
As a toxopholite, I welcome the new-found interest in archery amongst the young; let's hope it continues.
on 14 August 2012
i first found out about this book when the film was advertised,so i ordered the trilogy to find out what all the hype was about,i have finnished the first book and i nearly gave up but persevered with it as it was very slow but i kept on going and glad i did, this is a love story with a difference two people from the same suburb are selected to fight in a massive arena, then all combatants released and have to kill each other till only one person remains to be crowned the winner but the main character falls in love with one of the competitors, this is as much of the story I will tell as I don't want to spoil the read for you, the action is a bit slow as i have already said,i have not seen the film so dont know if it is like the book or not.
on 22 November 2015
** spoiler alert ** Again the book was well-written, kept you wanting to know what happens next, and has twists and turns that generally satisfy. The novel rounds out the trilogy well. The ending was perhaps rather traditional, as if the publishers wanted it to be acceptable to mainstream audiences, or asked for it to be changed due to focus group feedback. I can imagine more interesting and unconventional endings: she's so scarred that she turns to drink like Haymitch; District 13 was a Capital-run ruse as part of a Hunger Games variant; it was discovered there were other Capitals with their own districts, and further Hunger Games - a dystopian horror of such scale that it breaks them. Instead we have romantic love and babies to fix it all. Ho hum.
Fewer typos this time. "Could easily evapourate after the war"..."blood seeps through the labouratory-grown cells". I had an issue with the section just before the ending - Katniss does something unexpected and kills the head rebel. She is locked up, and there is a long trial. The ridiculous element is that she is never even asked why she did it. Didn't the rebels want to know? Wouldn't it affect the trial? Couldn't it be tied to things they needed to know about? Of course they would have asked her. The reason they don't is because the author wanted to delay explanations in order to focus on characterisation. Authorial reasons that undermine the plot authenticity. Likewise the dissipation of meaning from Katniss' assault on the Capital. Many tense chapters cover this, and then it is wasted, all the effort shown to be for nothing when she is beaten there by the rebels a few minutes previous, then taken out of the story at the key point. That totally negates the tension of large chunks of the book - what was the point when the protagonist achieved nothing at all? Imagine if at the end of the film Blade Runner Deckard arrived for the climactic fight with Roy ... then got knocked out at the front door, police arrived, Roy was arrested, Deckard woke up in hospital. Well, Mockingjay is like that.
Still, reservations aside, the book as a whole works. The trilogy works. The imagery is sometimes overt, waving a flag, but perhaps that's a convention of the Young Adult genre, and since it is still effective it gets a pass. I'll be interested in how the films interpret the novels, and can say I've had a good, escapist time reading them. Thumbs up.
The intensity of the previous two books is missing in this conclusion to the trilogy, because now Katniss is not fighting alone in the arena, sure that the desired outcome is one survivor. Now she is part of a rebel band fighting a war. She still feels that she is entitled to love two young men or have their love, even though she does not do much to support them or their families. She still feels she should be the star of the show although it is not about her anymore.
Now the show is a televised series of films, ironically called propos, propaganda shots. Katniss as a recognisable figure is to be costumed and made up and to deliver scripted lines to encourage rebellion and scare the opposition who control the nation of PanEm. This continued emphasis on celebrity culture rather than using her brains and survival resources makes it quite a different book to the previous two. I liked it less for this reason. There are some genuine war sequences which are not pleasant, especially bombing a hospital. The late sequence of challenges seems entirely unrealistic within a capital city which has been heavily populated; this is to tie in with the challenges met in the earlier books but it comes across more as a computer game.
However, all along this young woman has been a tool and we see that sometimes it is a case of the more things change, the more things remain the same. This was an intelligent ending and makes us think about how we can be sure of what - or who - we fight for. The final lines in the book counter the sheer nastiness of the series. While this is a less compelling read for me than the first book, the story has been growing in scale and I like that the scale shrinks again to finish.
And so we reach the end of this trilogy with a book which is different from the first two - there is less action but I thought that the ideas and the writing were more powerful.
Katniss is the face and the symbol of the rebellion but while she recovers from the dreadful destruction of her home sector and adjusts to her new life Peeta is still a prisoner of the Capitol. The last battle which will decide the future of the world as they know it is approaching but Katniss doesn't have a role apart from as a figurehead - and both sides need her to do that. The beginning of this book presents Katniss in a state of paralysis as decisions are made for her and events move on. It's uncomfortable for the reader who knows Katniss as a strong character from the first two books to see her in this way and we are about two thirds of the way through the book before she makes her move and tries to influence events - with very mixed results.
This is not a feel good book and nor is it particularly uplifting - some of it is very sad. The author has a lot to say about the corruption of power and the compromises that people have to make. She is particularly good at showing the reader how image is so important and powerful. In the end we know that there will be no more Hunger Games and that is good, but the price that the ordinary people have to pay for their freedom is horrendous. There are many echoes of Orwell's "Animal Farm" here.
This book sits uneasily with the first two in the series because it is more thoughtful and much less action filled. I enjoyed it more because of that fact but wonder if young adult readers who enjoyed the games scenario will feel fulfilled by this ending.
on 25 May 2015
The final instalment to ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy, I found myself finally being able to complete this series without having seen all of the films! Interestingly, my response to the first half of the book (i.e, part one of the film), was the same as the film: quite a lot of talk and description that slowed the pace down considerably in comparison to the opening novel. However, the second part of ‘Mockingjay’ kept me guessing with its twists and turns; the ending had me physically gasping aloud as I could not see how the story would conclude.
There is a lot of focus on Katniss’s mental state, which the film certainly overlooked. Tormented by her role in the two Hunger Games, she still struggles dealing with the death she has caused and her now pivotal role in the rebellion again the Capitol. It was this that slowed the pace down but on reflection, was a key part to the story’s conclusion. For a seventeen-year-old girl, she definitely carries a lot of emotional baggage and her conflicting emotions towards Gale and Peeta have her searching inwardly in a bid to find peace with herself.
As I drew closer to the end of the novel, I initially felt the ending was becoming predictable and too simplistic for even a teenage audience. However, the final few chapters intensified the plot and Collins surprises readers with Katniss’s fragility and the Capitol’s downfall. Not wanting to reveal the ending, I could not believe how ‘The Hunger Games’ ended and applaud Collins for taking the bold step of not keeping characters alive just because of popularity/importance. I think this is what redeemed the story and, coupled with Katniss’s troubled state of mind, could not put down the book until I had reached its satisfying conclusion.
What was also refreshing about ‘Mockingjay’ was the fact it was not a similar plot to the first two books. Not having to read about another Hunger Games made the novel more enjoyable. But, Collins does continue to interweave the theme of playing games throughout, to the extent that at times I had to pause and think about what was being suggested as the story came to its end.
The explosive finish really caught my imagination. Vivid descriptions made it difficult not to imagine the Capitol’s eventual downfall as the rebels grow in power and, whilst the film adaptations mean you cannot but see Katniss as Jennifer Lawrence, the heroine she becomes is admirable and disturbing at the same time. I found myself always wishing she would be able to return to the humble young girl she was at the start of the series, but enjoyed reading how she attempted to deal with the pressures that being the Mockingjay gave.
This was a really enjoyable read and a series I would not hesitate to revisit in a few years time. Even after finishing it, I found myself haunted by parts of the story and I think this is what makes a solid read. Collins concludes ‘The Hunger Games’ series in a satisfying way, leaving no room for a further instalment, whilst at the same time giving her fans exactly what they deserve: an ending that you can sit and imagine other parts to the story.