Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

I started writing a review about The Hunger Games trilogy as soon as I finished reading them but I decided to sit on it for a little bit. I’ve been thinking about the books for a few days now, which says a lot, actually, because many books pass through your life and then they’re gone. I don’t think that will ever be the case for these, even if I’m not really a huge fan.

Suzanne Collins writes very well. Her writing is descriptive and full of emotion. It was easy to identify with Katniss and subtle word choices made it clear how characters were feeling or what they wanted others to think they were feeling. The plot was clear but there were enough twists and turns to get to the end that I wasn’t bored; in fact, I couldn’t put The Hunger Games down unless I absolutely had to. And, as a mother of two, I did have to. The upside is that the book was very easy to slip back into each time I picked it back up.

The Hunger Games would actually make a fantastic stand alone novel and in some ways, I feel like it should have been left as one, perhaps with a wrap up chapter. I would have wanted a sequel but I would rather be left wanting with a book than left wishing for better.

There ARE spoilers ahead.

I was completely absorbed within the first page. I rooted for Katniss and Peeta and Gale. I couldn’t decide who was better for Katniss. Gale was her long time friend and companion. He shared an interest in hunting and understood where she came from. On the other hand, Gale is full of an almost irresponsible anger at The Capitol and Peeta has a romantic streak that almost made Romeo and Juliet look like child’s play… and he skillfully uses this streak towards survival for both him and Katniss.

During the Games, I wanted to root for Katniss as the protagonist of the book but Peeta really caught my eye. Collins sets it up for the reader to root for both tributes (players in the Games) and I was eagerly turning the pages so I could see what happened. I couldn’t wait to find out if both of them could survive. I knew the other books featured Katniss and figured she would live, but I didn’t know anything about Peeta.

Basically, the first book…very good. I loved it. I looked forward to Catching Fire and Mockingjay (Mockingjays are a creature I absolutely adore, by the way) but unfortunately… I was disappointed.

Catching Fire started off strong. The reaping of the Quarter Quell (75th anniversary of the Hunger Games) had an excellent plot twist, though not a surprising one. Most of the new characters were fleshed out and given a history, though some did fall a little flat. Understandable, but still noticeable. I really liked some of the new characters introduced and I fell even more in love with previously introduced characters. I was intrigued by the description of the Arena and with the horrors contained within. I sympathized with the characters as they went through their emotional journeys (Spoiler: Finnick choosing Peeta over Mags, for example).

Somewhere around the 3/4th marker of the book, when they left the arena, I started to question the direction the book was taking. This is where Collins started to just pluck Katniss out of the line of fire and “fix” her situation, repeatedly. I was still happy by the end of Catching Fire, and eagerly looking forward to Mockingjay, but it was mostly because I was curious about Peeta’s situation, to be entirely honest with you. At this point, Katniss was somewhat on my nerves, even if her instinct for self-preservation was completely normal and understandable.

Once I settled into Mockingjay, I found myself waiting for word of Peeta, mostly. I kept reading because I always finish trilogies if I can, and because I usually love books. I should tell you: I’m not a very harsh critic when it comes to books. Good writing and a decent plot with interesting characters is all I need. Mockingjay, however… it seemed like most of it was spent with Katniss in some sort of mental breakdown or another. She was introduced as a strong – if a bit wild – character and she broke down mentally three times in Mockingjay. She pretty much became a pretty icon for the rebel’s cause instead of an actual leader, which is not what I expected. Why set up such a strong, enterprising character just to have her be reduced to a mentally unstable figurehead? I get that no one would be able to go through everything Katniss went through without scars but it seemed strange, to me. She spent most of Mockingjay as an angsty, irritable teenager who cared mostly about her best friend and the guy who loved her.

The plot was a little weak by this point too. The hubs (arena-like traps) were interesting and the characters that worked with Katniss really drew me into their lives but every time something went wrong, Katniss was “saved”. At the very end, after a long build up towards a battle with The Capitol and President Snow (where Katniss and her team spent a lot of time dodging traps or hiding out instead of fighting), there is an anti-climactic show down where Katniss wakes up, yet again, in a drug-induced daze.

I could actually deal with that part, because I felt for her pain, but when they pretty much closeted her up for months during a trial after an unexpected (but much welcomed) assassination, I was done being patient with the book. I got to read about what she ate, her withdrawal from painkillers (a morphine equivalent) and her thoughts, but nothing about her trial or why she was pardoned or anything of the sort. Then she’s sent home, where Peeta eventually shows up for a happily ever after with kids. The most honest part of the last 20 or so pages of that book was when it was mentioned that Katniss and Peeta both lived with what could almost be called PTSD.

If I seem a little harsh about Mockingjay, it’s only because I had such high hopes after reading The Hunger Games and enjoying most of Catching Fire. I’m not trying to be unnecessarily tough on the books and I will definitely watch the movies when they come out on DVD (plus, I like Jennifer Lawrence) but I can’t honestly say I’m a huge fan, even though these books are right up my alley.

I would still, however, recommend them to anyone interested. Most people I know happen to love all three books, and I understand why. I just feel that there are a lot of loose ends and “too convenient” wrap-ups to say that it finished strong.

And that is my long-winded opinion of The Hunger Games trilogy.