Monday, April 9, 2012

On "The Hunger Games" Series

I'm not one who generally jumps on what I like to call "fad books". If everyone is reading it and obsessing over it, I'm somewhere over in non-fiction finding an obscure book no one else I know has ever or likely will ever read. I have not read a single Harry Potter book, nor have I or will I ever read a Stephanie Meyer book (see the "Books I Read" post for my opinion of the Twilight series, and also the Valentine's Day post for further proof of my feelings).

Back in 2009 when all  my friends were reading The Hunger Games series, I was reading David Sedaris. I wasn't really interested in the books, it sounded too sci-fi-y to me and that's not really what I like to read, so they consumed them and I did not. When the final book in the series came out, I saw scathing reader reviews on Amazon about the way the series ended. I didn't understand why everyone was so upset. That's how Suzanne Collins wanted her series to end, she's the author, she knows how the characters' worlds are supposed to finalize. Still, having never read them, I really had no idea of the story or the characters.

Flash forward to 2012. "The Hunger Games" movie has come out and in the 3 or so weeks since it's been in theaters, I've seen it twice and am wondering who I can get to go see it with me again. It was a compelling concept and story with a remarkable female lead, a complex character who is strong and true and has conviction. She doesn't need anyone to save her; Katniss knows others are relying on her to save them and she accepts her fate as a doer. And then there was Peeta. I didn't love his character in the movie at first, but I was also feeling quite sorry for Gale at the time.

I loved the movie, and I wanted to know what happens to Panem and Katniss and Peeta and all the other characters in the story. With filming on the second movie/book in the series starting in the fall, I decided maybe just this once I could jump on the fad book bandwagon. Luckily, my best friend Steph has all the books. I asked her for the second and third because I'd seen the movie and didn't feel like I needed to read the first one. She brought them to me, and me having another week and a half before I return to work, thought I'd have plenty of time to read them.

She brought me Catching Fire and Mockingjay last Wednesday. It is currently Monday. I have finished both books and asked her to bring me The Hunger Games so I can actually read the whole series. I loved these books. I did. Both of them. From start to finish. Me being me, I did read some reader reviews of both books on Amazon just to see what people thought. I skipped all the SPOILER ALERT ones because I wanted to find out for myself what the story had to offer. People felt the second book was kind of pointlless, which I entirely do not agree with. And everyone seemed so upset by the third book, which I find ludicrous.

Maybe it's because I'm a trained reader. This is what happens to you when you do an English degree. You learn to read and analyze what you've read. You learn about the true evolution of characters, that if they stay the same after unthinkable tribulation, there's something wrong with them or your writing. The things that Katniss experiences and witnesses in the series are horrific. If she was the same girl who volunteered at the reaping in the third book, she hasn't grown as a person at all. It is understandable, if not natural and assumed, that she will change as a character as she continually is put in harms way and essentially used as a pawn in the Capitol's game. So many complained about her character evolution on Amazon, saying she isn't "supposed" to be hiding in closets, she's supposed to be stronger than that. After reading half of the second book, I knew she'd be hiding in closets and for a perfectly legitimate reasons.

Not one of the reviews I read about Mockingjay, the final book in the series, seemed pleased with it or the way the story ended. That was actually my favorite part of the series. The third book was intense and electrifying. My heart was actually pounding for most of Part 3, the final section of the story. I found myself admiring Katniss and her resolve even more, feeling heartbreak for the losses suffered, and complete satisfaction at the way it ended. Collins wrote the ending exactly as I would have if I had authored the books, and maybe that's part of what made it so satisfying, but even more so, I think the completion of a story about death, war, and heartbreak needs to end in such a way that there is hope left in that imaginary world.

So many people were upset about the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, and essentially read the book to find out who she chooses. They missed the whole point of the books. Was love a part of it? Yes. But mostly it was about the human spirit surviving against all odds during war, and the aftermath of loss when there is finally peace. Peace in the land doesn't always mean peace in the soul, and the final chapter of the story-which I read multiple times- truly demonstrates what Katniss suffered, what and who she ultimately suffered for, and that it cannot be erased or fixed with a simple declaration of peace.

As for the love triangle... Peeta won my heart in the second book. My cousin Elysa told me to read the first book and he'd win my heart then too. I saw the movie a second time after finishing Catching Fire and I liked Peeta much better the second time, especially knowing what I did about the rest of the story.  Katniss does make her choice in the end, and she gives her reasons why. As you watch her character change throughout the last two books, it makes perfect sense and she makes the right decision- at least to me she does.

What I'm most sad about is that it's over. Well, technically I still have the first book to read and the second and third movies to look forward to, but I know (pretty much) the whole story. As I was nearing the end of the third book last night, I wanted to put it down to prolong the inevitable but I couldn't. It was all I could do to set it down for a minute to go to the bathroom or take my pills. But as previously stated, it was my favorite (so far). The nice thing about young adult books- they're quite an easy read.

I think one great thing about fiction and stories like this, stories that you actually get involved in and attached to characters, is the same thing that's nice about imagination. The story can always live on in my imagination.


  1. I will stick to nonfiction. Still. I am very much against these books, Stephenie Meyer, or any of the other passing fancies that have come along in the past several years.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed them! I'm looking forward to reading the second and third books. I'll come over to get them someday, when my life gets less crazy :) And if I find any other amazing YA "fad" books I htink you'd enjoy, I'll throw them your way :)

  3. That is almost exactly how my story went with "The Hunger Games" except I read the first book and then didn't get into the other two until the movie came out. Suzanne Collins' writing is head and shoulders above Stephenie Meyer. I completely agree about being a trained reader and seeing the purpose behind the third book. I was only disappointed in the ending because I think she could have used another full conversation between Katniss and Peeta. It all seemed to end too quickly for me. The characters grow over three books and then, after Prim, everything slams to a close. I have always been a Peeta fan, but after I watched the movie, I became slightly obsessive. Is it weird to say that "Catching Fire" is my favorite? I'll go against the norm, I guess.

  4. I'm right there with you. I'm not one to jump into the new hot book. I wait until I have nothing else to read and then give them a try. I read all 3 books the week Adam was in the hospital and loved every bit of them. Understanding the characters through the third book makes the ending almost seem enevitable. Can't wait for the next movie. I liked the first book the best.

  5. Remember how I recommended those books to you multiple posts ago?! However, whenever everyone else likes something, I don't want to do it, read it, etc. So I read the books when they first came out, and eagerly awaited the release of each subsequent book. But now that everyone else likes them and won't stop talking about them and seem to have TOTALLY missed the point of the dystopian society warning (what idiot made "Team Gale" and "Team Peeta" shirts? NOT EVEN THE POINT)... bleh. I'm annoyed that others would even dare lump these books in with Twilight. These books are leaps and bounds ahead of Twilight in every way imaginable. I agree, the ending of the 3rd book was inevitable, and yes, if you see the development of Katniss throughout the books then that was the way it was meant to be. So, I'm supposed to see the movie with you and my mother now?? :) Love you!

    1. So I can't decide if you're taking jabs at me for now liking the books or agreeing with my assessment of how stupid everyone is about missing the point and putting them in the same category as Twilight or both of the above. Whatever it is, you should go see the movie with me because 1) I just had a kidney transplant and 2) I love it and also 3) because we're cousins and soul friends. You know I'm a late bloomer, it just takes me a while sometimes. Which is also my excuse for COMPLETELY MISSING YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!! I am the worst. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY ON FRIDAY LAST!!!! I'll take you to see "The Hunger Games" for your birthday! How bout that??? :)

    2. Ha ha! Oh I don't care that you missed my birthday. You just got a new kidney, so that can be your excuse. People say they have "baby brain" while they're pregnant or just had a kid, so you can say you have "new kidney brain." I wasn't mocking you for now liking the books, that is inevitable (to like them, I mean). I do, however, hate the onslaught of dummies (not you, you are not a dummy) who love the books (and lump them with Twi-tards) and get stupid tattoos with their friends that say things like "real, or not real. REAL." as if Katniss and Peeta's love affair is the entire theme of the series. Guess I'll have to come down and see the movie with you. Do we have to invite my mom? (haha, just kidding if you read this Mom...)