Thursday, 12 January 2012

Review of the Hunger Games

I read the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, a three book series, including The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  I figured I would review the trilogy rather than each individual book.  The first two are very violent, but that violence seems to crescendo throughout the series and by the time the third books ends it’s nearly suffocating.   There actually is a bit of a “happy” spin put on the end of the story if you can call it that, after you’ve been battered, and the characters have been battered with so much brutality and loss, thus making it very hard to feel any sort of heartwarming or redemptive sense of being for characters you feel would have been better off dying back in the first book.  The series as a whole is a bit of a scathing comment about the basest aspects of humanity that hearken back to a Roman type Nazi State Almost.  It departs with an image of a new beginning and of hope, that is somewhat tempered by the previous chapter’s illusion to the, eventually, inevitable repetition of woman and mans’ mistakes. 
The story follows the protagonist Katnis Everdeen after she volunteers to take her sister’s place as one of the 24 (12 male/12 female) contestants of the 74th Hunger Games, held each year by the Capitol of Panem, a Roman type State, who’s citizens are exempt from competing in the games.   The object of the Hunger Games is that there will be one survivor among these 24 contestants, who will be elevated to celebrity status after the games are televised throughout the Capitol and the 12 districts that make up Panem.   Katnis must wrestle with the odds of survival and the internal struggle of knowing she will have to kill Peeta, the boy from her district who risked injury and punishment to save Katnis from going hungry when she was a child following her father’s death (in a mining accident) and mother’s subsequent depression.   As it turns out Peeta is genuinely in love with Katnis, as is Katnis’ best friend Gale who she had left behind in district 12.   Throughout the series Katnis is continually supported by Peeta and Gale, neither of whom she is certain she loves, and yet a type of love triangle between the three is an interesting subplot to the story.   What’s most interesting to me is that I realized how much these types of love triangles really capture me whether it be in a story or a movie.  I never fully appreciated how much it is that I pick a “favorite” so to speak, to “win out” in the triangle.  Early in the series I made MY choice for who I hoped she would be with.   The depth of the characters and the emotional attachment to them is wrenching as they suffer loss after loss, stripping away their humanity.  The Capitol also makes, “mutts” or “mutations” like the jabberjay, all aimed at keeping the district’s communities as starving subjects under their rule.  Later the jabberjay mates with mocking birds and becomes the mockingjay, the eventual symbol of the revolution against the Capitol.   
Ultimately I really liked the series a lot, but I think it’s a very vividly described, harsh series to have students read unless as seniors in high school perhaps.  The books were quite well written and for some reason early in the first book Suzanne Collins writing reminded me of Stephen King’s novels, even though I have only read 3 of his novels, Salem’s Lot, The Long March and one I cannot remember at this moment.  I would recommend the books, but also warn against the extreme violence and the sense of leaving the series with something more than merely a bitter taste, emotions almost bordering on depression.
Jon Bear

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