** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS **
Ok, so being totally honest here… when I first heard of this book I was kind of like … hhmmm ok, really not my thing. I’m really not into futuristic sci-fi novels and that is exactly what I thought this was at first. The whole idea of the novel being based on a televised game was a little far-fetched for me. I really had no plans on reading it however it was all my co-workers talked about in the staffroom at lunch time and how excited they were for the movie to come out. Their obvious delight and love for the novel made me curious and intrigued me into giving it a chance. Then when my scholastic order forms came in and I saw that I could get the whole trilogy (plus a mockingjay pin) for only 20$, I really couldn’t resist. And I have to say that I am so glad that I finally caved and read the series because it was AMAZING!
I literally read the entire series in 4 days. I read The Hunger Games in less than 3 hours on a Thursday night after work. I read Catching Fire throughout the day on Friday - reading bits and pieces on my lunch break and after work. Mockingjay took a little longer - I started on a Sunday morning and finished Monday night. I have not gone through a series this quickly since Twilight and Harry Potter. This is definitely a series that you need to read consecutively - if you don't have the second and third book readily available to you once you are finished with the first, you will drive yourself crazy waiting to read them. I could.not.put.these.books.down!!!
The Hunger Games
In the post-apocalyptic country of Panem located in the ruins of North America, the 74th Annual Hunger Games are about to begin. An annual event that occurs as punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol, each district must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 to compete in the Hunger Games. The tributes are selected by lottery, everyone has their name added once a year and you can choose to enter your name extra times in exchange for a terse, a grain and oil supplement from the government, to compete in a televised battle in which only 1 can survive. The tributes will all travel to the Capitol where they will partake in ceremonies, interviews and training prior to being dropped off into the arena to do battle.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year old girl from District 12, one of the twelve districts in Panem, where the countries of North America use to exist. When Katniss’ younger sister Prim is selected, Katniss does the unthinkable and volunteers to take her sister’s place as tribute in the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss knows that she as some hope for survival as she has been providing her family with food by secretly hunting in the woods after her father died a few years earlier. Joined by Peeta Mellark, the other tribute from District 12, Katniss makes her way to the Capitol with their mentors, Haymitch Abernathy, the only other victor from District 12, and Effie Trinket, the Capitol’s representative from the District. Katniss must learn to survive and to make choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love in order to be victorious.
I loved this novel! It had just about everything to make it a great novel:
þ A resourceful and intelligent heroine who does things her own way and doesn’t back down from anything or anyone
þ A sweet and sensitive hero who loves the heroine unconditionally
þ An original and unique setting – a world that is believable and rich in detail
þ A thrilling plot with twists and turns at every corner that keep the reader on the edge of their seat trembling with excitement and anxiety
þ Outstanding secondary characters who add so much to the story be it the much needed voice of reason or humour in a crisis
þ An ending that provides the perfect premise for the sequel but also concludes the present book
Collins is a born story-teller. She writes in an intense, slow-burning style - she is able to constantly build up the anticipation to the climax of the story that keeps the reader hooked from the very beginning but she is still able to create tender scenes and vibrant descriptions. The gore and brutality of the battle scenes was amazing - the idea that teens could kill each other when it came down to kill or be killed was shocking, kind of reminded me of Lord of the Flies. I also loved how the secondary characters really added to the story - I loved Cinna and Katniss’ glamour team - they added comic relief to the story and made it a little softer, a break from the deadly action (which I also loved!).
One of the few things that I would have liked to enhance the story was a map. I would have liked to have seen exactly where all of these districts were located based on the fact that they all had specialties, for example District 12’s is mining, District 11’s is agriculture, and District 3’s is electronics, just to name a few. The other flaw was that since it is a trilogy, you know that Katniss will survive - although I really can’t blame the book itself for that, if I hadn’t been living under a rock (apparently I was as I didn’t know about this book for the longest time especially considering it was first published in 2008!) my perspective might have been different not knowing that the story would continue on.
When I got to the end of the book and saw “End of Book 1” I was so relieved that I had purchased the trilogy and I that I had the second book on hand to start reading. If you are going to read the series (and trust me, you should) you must have the second book or else it will drive you crazy not knowing what happens next!
Against all odds both Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games but it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy - they have just won honour for their District and wealth and safety for their families but there are rumours of rebellion among the districts and Katniss and Peeta become the faces of rebellion. The Capitol is angry and the Capitol wants revenge.
Oftentimes sequels just don’t live up and end up being disappointing but not in this case. This is yet another AMAZING book - it was just as good as the first! Catching Fire had all of the same elements from The Hunger Games and it just kept building on it. The writing is just as strong and the details are just as remarkable - although the writing is simple, the story is thematically complex. This story seamlessly picks up where the first novel left off. The characters are even more developed throughout this installment and I have to admit that I fell a little bit harder for some of the characters - I was unsure of how I felt about Peeta and Katniss together but I found myself really rooting for them (sorry Gale!). This story is full of twists and turns and there were surprises around every corner.
Once again Katniss has defied the odds and has survived the Hunger Games for a second time so now you would think that she would be safe, but that is not the case. The Capitol is angry. Again. Still. The Capitol wants revenge. Again. Katniss must fight to protect those who she loves and defy the Capitol one more time.
I have to say that I was disappointed with Mockingjay. Perhaps it was because of how utterly amazing the first two installments of this series were or because my expectations were so high, but there was something missing from Mockingjay - it just was not as fun to read. As the series progressed I had an insatiable hunger for more and unfortunately my want was never satisfied. The overall tone of this novel was depressing and I felt that the readers were not given any closure on some of the characters and their relationships.
The story was still intense, suspenseful and full of action but I found myself missing characters, especially Peeta, who I had grown especially fond of. He was present throughout the novel, but it wasn’t the Peeta that I feel in love with - it was a mere shell of his character. I was never really all that fond of Gale, and the fact that he became the male hero in this novel kind of bothered me considering his presence in the previous two novels was minimal. I also didn’t like Katniss in this installment either - she went from a spunky, spirited, “you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do” character to a character with a “who care’s” attitude. Sure, I guess that after everything she went through the change might have been justified but I think that she lost some of her charm.
A lot of my favourite characters were noticeably absent- they were just about all killed off. There were some who were killed so fast that I didn’t even know what happened to them! I understand that in a war there will be causalities but I really wish that Collins had given them a grander death specifically Finnick – their deaths were unbefitting of the characters. The deaths were rushed and quite often pointless and they almost seemed like Collins was killing off secondary characters because she couldn’t bear to part with any of her main characters. It was almost like death for the sake of death to emphasize the fact that they were in a dangerous and deadly situation. I was also disappointed in the fact that Katniss basically spent the entire time on the sidelines – only getting directly involved when someone else commanded it. She was totally awesome in the arenas and in real-life battle; she was a little bit of a letdown at least until the final mission, in which she disobeyed an order – finally the real Katniss came back . . . it only took 2/3 of the novel. She also leaves the reader wondering about what happens to a lot of the other characters.
I was expecting a totally epic conclusion to this amazing series and unfortunately, it fell short. That being said however, this series will remain some of my favourite books and definitely a series that will be read again and again.