Book Review : Hunger Games trilogy

My boyfriend and I bought these books the other weekend because a lot of people have been recommending them.  I let them sit on the shelf for about two days before deciding to read the first book, but with just a few pages in, I knew that there was no way I was putting it down.  I spent the past four days locked up in my room trying to finish the entire trilogy.  I wasn’t really planning on writing a lengthy review, but I just couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself, so I decided to make a quick entry.

WARNING:  There will be plenty of spoilers in this review so if you haven’t read the books, you might want to close this page now.

THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE BOOKS

The whole idea of the Capitol, the Districts, the Hunger Games, the resistance, etc.  is so brilliant, and Suzanne Collins did a magnificent job of painting a clear image inside people’s minds of what it’s like to live in that world.   I could clearly imagine the pain and suffering that many of the people go through due to their lack of freedom.  These books are obviously not something you’d pick up for some light  and feel-good reading.  The situations that the characters are in are so serious and horrible that I just couldn’t put the book down because I needed to see that they would turn out alright.  The idea of two helpless kids being thrown into an arena for a fight to the death while their family watches every year is so horrible that I had to keep reading because I had to know that after all the fighting and the deaths, something good would come out of it.  And the same goes for the resistance and the rebels –  I had to finish the books because I needed to see that all that effort and all those deaths were worth it.  Which brings me to my next topic …

 THE DEATHS

There was so much death in all three books, that it shocked me.  (Which is stupid now that I think about it since the whole idea of the Hunger Games is a fight to the death after all.)  But the four deaths that affected me the most were Rue’s, Cinna’s Finnick’s and Prim’s.   I know that Rue’s death was pretty much inevitable, being a contestant in the games, but it was still painful because she was someone that Katniss obviously cared about, despite being her competitor.  As for Cinna, I was expecting the Capitol to cart him off and murder him the moment Katniss’s outfit transformed into a Mockingjay costume at the interview, but they didn’t.  They let him live and for a while I thought he was safe, until the Peacekeepers came for him and used him as a weapon to distract Katniss from the games.  I could just imagine her pain from seeing a beloved friend being beaten up and not being able to do anything about it.

I learned to accept Rue’s and Cinna’s death fairly quickly (because I think pretty much everyone reading the books expected them anyway) but Finnick’s and Prim’s took me totally by surprise!  When I first read that those lizard creatures managed to grab hold of Finnick, I was absolutely sure he would be able to fight them off and escape.  I mean this is a guy who survived not one but TWO Hunger Games!  He’s not just a random citizen, he’s proven that he’s a fighter, a survivor!    And so when he didn’t come out of the underground tunnel and they could hear his screams, I actually put the book down for a while because I was so angry over his death.  If someone as strong as him couldn’t make it, what chance did the others have?  It just felt so unfair.  Of course I eventually picked up the book again, confident that Finnick’s would be the last unexpected death and that the team would make it safely and successfully assasinate Snow, but surprise surprise – Prim gets blown up!!   I pretty much felt the same as I did when Finnick died, but this time it was unfair because she was someone so pure and innocent, someone who has no business being part of the chaos.  I kept wishing that Katniss just imagined seeing Prim at the mansion, that she was still back in District 13, safe and sound, but she wasn’t.  I had to accept that she was truly gone.  I think I was even angrier over her death than Finnick’s because it’s PRIM!  She was the reason Katniss even got involved with the Hunger Games in the first place, the one person Katniss wanted to protect the most, and she still ended up dying.

But despite it all, I can’t really get angry at the author for all the deaths because they’re what makes the books real.  Death is part of life and no matter how cruel it appears, we do have to learn to accept it.  Besides, looking back I should have known that Katniss would lose either Prim or her mother somewhere along the story.  There were so many people dying that the chances of them all making it was pretty slim.  I was actually surprised that they survived the bombing in District 12.  I was expecting either Peeta or Gale to die as well because I figured that was the only way Katniss would be able to choose between them, but thankfully they both lived.

THE ROMANCE

Everyone knows that I’m a big sucker for love stories, but I when I started reading the books I wasn’t really expecting any romance between the characters, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong.  I thought the books were just going to be about the games and the war, and filled with deaths and horrible things, but the author built up the vague Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle from the start.  I say vague because while Katniss and Gale obviously care for each other, there were no major hints that they felt any romance between them.  And until about halfway into the first book, the audience is also left guessing whether Peeta’s feelings for Katniss were real or they were just part of his plan for survival.  I liked that the books hints at a love story but didn’t focus around it and it didn’t take away from the actual plot.

As for the whole “Peeta vs. Gale” thing in the second book (and the third), I liked them both, but if I had to choose, I think Peeta is a better match for Katniss.  She explained it perfectly in the end I think, about how there’s already so much fire in her that she didn’t need someone who will continue to fuel it, but someone who will be there to remind her that there is always a reason to keep living.  I’m pretty happy with her choice in the end, but I didn’t really like how she led both of them on throughout the books.  However, to be fair, I believe that she didn’t do it on with evil intentions or because she wanted them both for herself (although it does appear that way at some times).   When the first book started out, it was clear that Gale meant a lot to her and that she only cared about Peeta for survival.  But a lot of things happen in the three books and she becomes torn and confused between Peeta’s kindness and Gale’s history with her.  I was still unsure about who she would choose until pretty much the last pages of the third book, but after the war Gale moves to another district and Peeta becomes her neighbor again.  It may just be out to convenience, but she starts relying on Peeta again for comfort (like she did during the games), but eventually realizes that she truly does love him and they end up married with children.  I think I would have been happy with whoever she chose, but I do like that she chose Peeta because of his kind heart.  (So kind, in fact, that Haymitch tells her that she “could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him” in the 2nd book.)

SCENES WHERE I CRIED

There were a lot of horrible stuff going on in the books, but there were two scenes that really touched me and made me cry.  The first was when Rue died in the first book.  I cried when Rue asked Katniss to sing to her, and while she decorated Rue’s body with flowers before the hovercraft picked her up.  And I continued to cry when the bread from District 11 arrived to thank Katniss for her kindness.  I think Rue’s was the only death I cried over because Suzanne Collins didn’t really give her audience a chance to mourn over the others until the book was over.  Everything happened so fast that she didn’t really give her audience time to allow pain to settle in.

The second time I cried was in the third book, after the war was over.  It was when Buttercup came back to District 12, injured and tired from his travel from District 13.  He returned to look for Prim, but only found Katniss there.  I cried because of his loyalty to Prim, but also for Katniss because it was a reminder that her sister was gone.  I cried harder when Katniss started to lose it and started shouting about how Prim would never come back, but eventually she calmed down and started to mourn with Buttercup.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Initially I was very torn about what to think of the books – they painted a very realistic picture of what happens during war, which is probably not something people find happiness in.  I like how it was written of course, but I don’t like fighting, violence and losing loved ones, which were all very important elements in the books.  I was torn between wishing that there was less of those, and knowing that if you take these away, then there isn’t really much for the story.  But the way the author told the story was amazing, and if I had to describe the books I would say it’s very stirring and realistic, because it shows us that war and hardship changes people no matter what.  And this was clear with all the characters in the story.  And most of the time, the change isn’t good.

For example, Katniss was portrayed as such a strong person in the beginning, but towards the end she was pretty much a clueless pawn to the war and even ended up a bit mentally unstable.   I was shocked when she  agreed to continue the Hunger Games with the Capitol’s children – I can’t imagine Katniss in book 1 ever agreeing to something like that.  But I expect that anybody who went through what she did would become unhinged.  Still it wasn’t pleasant.

My favorite book would definitely have to be the first, although Catching Fire comes as a close second.  I thought the Hunger Games were horrible and incredibly cruel, but undeniably entertaining, just like how the Capitol intended it to be.   A lot of people are probably going to hate me for saying this but I didn’t really enjoy the 3rd book all that much.  It was well written and I didn’t put it down until I finished it, but that was only because I couldn’t wait to see how this would all end.  But who knows, I might like it after reading it again.  I pretty much sped-read through the entire thing because the suspense was killing me, so I plan on reading the entire series again (at a much slower pace) next week.

MY RATING

After I finished reading all three books, there was such a heavy feeling inside me.  So many horrible things have happened and the author did a wonderful job of explaining the character’s situations and emotions that it made me feel like I was actually in the book and not just some spectator.  I actually couldn’t sleep for a while after finishing the third book and even wound up dreaming about them.  The dreams were bad and woke me up in the middle of the night, but I wouldn’t call them nightmares, just a bunch of thoughts wanting to get out (which is why I decided to write this entry).  I found the books to be incredibly haunting, but I guess that’s the mark of a good story – it sticks with you and keeps you wondering long after you’ve put the book down.

If I had been asked to rate the series right after I had finished reading the 3rd book, I would have probably given this a 3 out of 5  because I was so angry about how horrible everything turned out.  (The little girl in me would always demand a happy ending, filled with laughter, joy and kisses.)  But after having some time to really think about what happened and sort out my emotions, I now realize that the ending was perfect in its own way and therefore I give the series a 5 out of 5.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review : Hunger Games trilogy

  1. Pingback: Week 9/52 : It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart « What I have shown you is reality …

  2. Pingback: Books read in 2012 « What I have shown you is reality …

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