The extraordinary, ground breaking New York Times bestsellers The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, along with the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay, are available for the first time ever in a beautiful box set edition. Stunning, gripping, and powerful. The trilogy is now complete!
Realistically, there are no real surprises here, from the start of book one to the end of book three the outcome is virtually assured. Not because book is predictable, but the political climate in which it was written is: The Oppressed will clash with the Oppressor and we will all regain our freedom. That's not what makes this book interesting, what is, is that it is written in a way that makes you care about the rather obnoxious main character and her teenage angst fueled inner monologue about how everything ever is up to her.
Her mother is useless, her younger sister is vulnerable, her father is dead and even the men in her life are incapable of really surviving without her, except the boy she likes, he's like ... totally dreamy. And although, it's never put quite so succinctly (with exception of her mother, which is repeatedly lamented), the teenage self involvement definitely shines through on every page.
Still, despite this rather elementary let down, the story is engaging and makes you interested in how things are going to play out, even if there never is any doubt of what the destination will be. That's not to say the journey there isn't filled with twists and turns but always it comes back to the weight of the world resting on the heroine's shoulders, with the realizations and reflections that others did prepare her being at best a fleeting ghost and memory if her father, even if she does at various times drag a prep-team and mentor around, this never appears to truly enter her frame of mind.
Overall the world of Hunger Games is a distopia, with doublthink and misinformation being the order of the day for the different people in the world. The primary villain is a typical Stalin'esque evildoer that wrested power through manipulation and murder. The primary focus (the Hunger Games themselves) are children fighting to the death and the odds of individuals being chosen being directly proportional to the extent of their families suffering. Both of these factors clearly are designed to draw you in and again our current, western political climate is definitely the target environment, making this novel suitable to both adults and children. Though adults will likely view the self centered reflections as distracting and annoying. Not being a teenager myself anymore I can only assume that this will allow some to relate, even if their life is never as bleak as the book reflects, or worse, as the main character presents.
The book is thin (~400 pages each), with large print and few words per page meaning that each book can, with some dedication, easily be read in a weekend or less. The story arcs of the three books repeats itself with an introduction, a preparation to fight and finally a fight. And this same three stage approach itself applies to the overall series. Personally, despite being predictable in the overall arc, the story itself kept me reading and go straight into the next book.
In some ways I hope Collins does do the right thing and follow up with another novel (or series) to show what now happens in this world post liberation. Then again this seems unlikely, but I guess is a good indication that I liked the setting and the topics, which Collins herself states are based on Greek mythology and thus are timeless, albeit re-interpreted for a current audience.
One final note: the book is told from Katniss's perspective, while the movie provides information to the viewer the characters do not know. Clearly there are considerations of medium which are suited to each approach, but I find it interesting that James Clavell's Shogun was treated in the reverse way, with the mini series being character focused, while the book deals with the entire world.
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.
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.