series review: the hunger games

The best series, behind Harry Potter.    Suzanne Collins, I thank you.

How do you go about reviewing something this big?

I thought and thought over how I would begin this review, but everything seemed wrong. So I guess I should just jump in and hope for the best? A month ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d have read all three THG books (twice!), formed a conclusive opinion about Peeta vs. Gale, watched the first film (and I’m going to be watching the second this afternoon!), worn my hair in a Katniss braid, purchased all three books, and have been given a Mockingjay pin (by my dad). My disbelief would have stemmed from the fact that my mom didn’t like THG (after she read Divergent, though, she agreed to read THG to see what it was like….and the rest is history). I’m so, so glad I was able to read this series. I spoke about the deep stuff, problems I have with the series, etc., in this post, but I’m going to do a little fangirling today. I think how I’ll do this is a mini-review about each book, and then my overall opinion of the series. Let’s get started… {and, as always, SPOILERS AHEAD}

Katniss at the Reaping

Book 1: The Hunger Games

Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

So. The first book. The one that started it all. It’s really hard to pick a favorite book (out of the trilogy), because they’re all so insanely good and heart pounding and emotionally gripping, but this first one is my favorite by a small fraction. It’s sliiightly less intense than Catching Fire (CF) and sliiightly less emotional than Mockingjay (MJ). I think, with all the drama and feels and media that surrounds the series, we forget about what started it all – Katniss volunteering for Prim. In my opinion, that act is one of the best moments in the series (and, believe me, there are many vying for top place), because, c’mon, going to the Games is basically a suicide mission. Katniss is small and scrawny…in other words, she doesn’t have a lot going for her. But she still volunteers. Speaking about epic moments, how about Peeta’s now-famous rooftop speech?

“It doesn’t matter, Katniss,” he says. “I’ve never been a contender in these Games anyway.”
“That’s no way to be thinking,” I say.
“Why not? It’s true. My best hope is to not disgrace myself and…” He hesitates.
“And what?” I say.
“I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not…. I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games…” ~The Hunger Games

SEE WHAT I MEAN? That scene is amazing. Now, the action, adventure, surprises, and suspense in this book are not to be taken lightly, but if you’ve read it once, the effect is somewhat ruined. Oh, you can still be bite-your-nails scared, because the characters stick so deep in your heart, but it’s not quite the same as when you first read it. I read really quickly, so I tore through all three books in a matter of days, and I had the biggest book hangover ever once I was done. I didn’t want to leave the plot twists, and adrenaline, and characters, and feels behind even after I’d read it all. But that’s getting ahead of myself…right now, I should be talking about book one, not the whole series. The machinations of the Gamemakers are never so evident in the series, as they are in the first book. Fireballs! Day turning into night! Muttations! And a bunch of other nefarious thingies (I’m so eloquent…). One thing I really liked was the last few chapters, after the Games are over. The story is still about survival, but of a different kind. Katniss (and Peeta) have to convince the world (but mostly President Snow) that they had no plans for rebellion. It leaves a great opening for CF, and instantly makes the book even more serious, since political power plays and spy games are always nervewracking.

Steal Katniss's Wedding Dress from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Book 2: Catching Fire

Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Um. I have no idea why the above plot summary (taken from Goodreads) is so messed up. Gale does not hold Katniss and an icy distance, and Peeta never turned his back on her. I think it would be literally impossible (until he returns to her in MJ…). Sure, there might be a little more distance between them, since Peeta discovered that Katniss just loved him for the cameras, but, if anything, Katniss is the one turning her back on Peeta. Anyway. CF is a lot more intense than THG. For one, President Snow comes to visit Katniss right at the beginning of the book, and, yeah…his presence is much stronger in book two, and it adds a whole new dimension. Plus, the Victory Tour is both depressing and exciting, since it gives a glimpse of Things To Come (aka, the revolution). AND THEN. They’re back to the Games. (well, there is a pretty big chunk of time between the end of the Victory Tour and the Quarter Quell, but it’s a tad boring, and the Games are more interesting, so….) I knew that Katniss and Peeta would be going back into the arena, but my mom didn’t, so when she read that…it was a major shocker.

“I am going back into the arena.” ~Catching Fire

So. They’re back at the Capitol for a round of makeovers, interviews, and planning-out-strategies. The tributes in CF are different from the 74th’s (mainly age difference) but many of them are still awesome. Chaff, Haymitch’s friend. Finnick. Mags. Beetee. Johanna (yeah, except for the elevator scene, Johanna was a pretty good character…I actually found myself liking her by the end). I loved how all the tributes held hands, and the wedding-dress-turned-Mockingjay (CINNNNA), and how the Cornucopia Bloodbath wasn’t really a bloodbath this time. I know the tributes were banding together just to save Katniss, but it was pretty amazing the way things turned around when they actually worked together. I must say that the arena was devilishly clever. Really, really clever. Pretty much pure genius. I can’t fault Plutarch and the other Gamemakers on that one. Poison fog, blood rain, monkey mutts, jabberjays, tidal waves….and a violently spinning Cornucopia whenever the mood strikes. Oh, and the ending of CF is the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, so make sure you have book three right there, ready to be read.


Book 3: Mockingjay

My name is Katniss Everdeen.
Why am I not dead?
I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans–except Katniss. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost.

Oh, Mockingjay. The darkest, most depressing, most serious book in the trilogy. Instead of the Games and some unrest among the districts, there’s all out war, fought with both propaganda and weapons (Fulvia’s idea of doing propo clips about the fallen tributes was amazing, btw). For over half the book, the story takes place in the all-elusive District 13, but, then, Katniss charges off into war with several others and MJ becomes all that more dangerous and intense. But to back up a little…hijacked Peeta is one of the worst things in the trilogy, if not the worst thing. He’s not Peeta anymore, and even by the end of the book, he’s not the same. Neither is Katniss, but Peeta’s un-transformation is worse. And, then, there’s accounts of torture, Finnick’s story, and The Hanging Tree. Seriously, that song is creepy.

“Are you, are you coming to the tree?
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here.
No stranger would let it be if we met up
At midnight in the hanging tree.” ~Mockingjay

The other verses are freaky too. So, basically, everything from Boggs’ death to the end had me in tears. One thing I really, really hated was Finnick’s death. He married Annie (one of the sweetest weddings ever), was more than happy, got back at Snow, and fathered a son (I’m not sure if, when he went on the mission, he knew Annie was pregnant, though). AND THEN HE GETS A POINTLESS DEATH. Seriously. A lizard mutt decapitates him, and that’s it. No-one ever thinks about or mentions him again. There was honestly no reason for him to die. It didn’t move the plot along, or even really send a message. It was just…there, and I really hated the stupidity of it. The same with Prim’s death, although I don’t feel quite as strongly about that (maybe because I like Finnick better, and I feel like I didn’t really get to know Prim). When Katniss screamed at Buttercup about Prim never coming back…that made me cry more than her actual death. But at least the end is, if not happy, hopeful. Bittersweet, yes, but not entirely without joy. Even with the book hangover, I was content with how the trilogy ended.

My overall opinion? READ IT. There’s no swearing, no romance beyond a few kisses that aren’t described in great detail (one of my issues with Divergent), and the violence is done tastefully (and it’s definitely not gratuitous). Some tales of torture in MJ are pretty heavy, but it’s just told, not described or experienced first hand. The series is definitely for older teenagers (fifteen or fourteen and up), but totally worth the read. The Hunger Games sends a thought-provoking message about our culture, without being heavy-handed, as well as some amazing literary moments and a solid reading experience. I highly, highly recommend it.

“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.” ~Catching Fire



2 thoughts on “series review: the hunger games

  1. This series. I love it so. It is like my child. I think I’ve read it about a dozen times now??? Maybe?? Not sure.

    Either way, we are on the same page here, friend!

    Peeta is just precious. Johanna is the best. Finnick is my smol son. 🙂

    I love how you mentioned that FRIENDSHIP is a big theme in the first book. And, aaaaaaall romancey stuff aside, Gale and Katniss have SUCH a wonderful friendship (which is why it breaks my heart, the way things end between them… ERGHH!). It’s precious. I love them. They are glorious and perfect.

    Ah, Finnick’s death. I didn’t think it was pointless… I thought it fit, that it worked well. And it was a “good death.” He didn’t just lamely die. He died sacrificing himself for his friends, which is awesome and so very Finnick. You get the feeling he would have been pleased with his own death. I also love the “flashback” thing Katniss has about his life. So sad. So perfect. And then he actually IS mentioned later when Katniss and Peeta make the memory book with his son’s picture in it. “Strange buts of happiness.” GAH.

    One thing you pointed out was so true – this trilogy is oddly devoid of God. I never thought about it before, but it IS strange. I mean, I get it. Collins may not be religious herself and not ALL her characters need be. But all of them do appear to be atheists? Odd.

    Also Prim’s death. I also didn’t find it pointless – it was very intentional on Collins’ part, I thought. But, like you, I didn’t like Prim (or Rue) as a character so I wasn’t the least bit sad when she died. HOWEVER. Again like you, I got SO emotional when Katniss started grieving with Buttercup after returning to District 12. Ugh. SO. SAD.


    • I need to reread these books. I really do.

      Well, I don’t really think Finnick’s death is pointless (at least not anymore) but it’s written so shoddily and sloppily. 😛 Same for Prim’s death, kind of.


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