*Note: Don’t worry if you haven’t read these books – there are no spoilers in this post (the most spoilers are in the synopses I pulled from Amazon.com!)
If you’re like a million other people in the world, you’ve probably already read these books.
If you’re like me, you never read something when it’s at its height and its trendiest. You wait and wait and then finally give in anyway (so why bother waiting? I don’t know, but I always do).
The benefit of this, of course, is you don’t have to wait a year for the next book to come out and then another year for the third – they’re all already out :).
This is how it was when I read the Twilight series – I only had to wait for book 4. And yes, I enjoyed Twilight and got sucked into the books, but let’s not kid ourselves that that was quality writing, because it wasn’t. But there was something that grabbed you about the characters and the plot (well, until the fourth book when it got all weird with the baby ripping her out from the inside and the werewolf imprinting on the baby…I still don’t quite get all that) and so I give the author, Stephenie Meyer, credit for that.
This is also how I read the Harry Potter series. I didn’t get into Harry Potter until Book 4 or 5, I believe. So I only had to wait for Books 6 and 7 to come out. I wasn’t one of the crowds lining up at midnight – because it would take a LOT for me to do that for anything – but they were well worth the wait.
My university degree from UBC (University of British Columbia for you non-Canadian peeps) was in English Literature, and one of my favourite courses was Children’s Literature. Perhaps because my aunt is a children’s author, or because when I write I tend to prefer to write for young adults. Who knows, either way I loved it. And in this course Harry Potter was always on the reading list. JK Rowling can teach any writer more than a thing or two about the craft. I could go on and on about how amazing JK Rowling is, but this isn’t a post about Harry Potter, so I’ll restrain myself.
For today, keeping on this-young-adult-series-that-becomes-a-cultural-phenomenon kick, I thought I’d talk about my latest obsession: The Hunger Games.
The books have been out for a while but I only just got into them before Christmas, and I devoured them.
For a quick synopsis, because I hate writing synopses myself, let’s turn to Amazon.com. If you already know the books, skip this part:
Book #1 – The Hunger Games
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.
Book #2 – Catching Fire
Book #3 – Mockingjay
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
Unlike Stephenie Meyer and more like JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins is a seasoned writer who brought a lot of intelligence and craft to these books. My favourite of the trilogy is a tie between the first and second; I think the third book was way too rushed and I didn’t appreciate the amount of time devoted to the action sequences (some of which were hard to picture, so I didn’t feel they were well described), only to wrap up Katniss’s future in a few pages at the end.
I get that Suzanne Collins did not want to feature the romance in these novels first and foremost. This is no Twilight, and in this way the Hunger Games trilogy reminds me of the Harry Potter series. The main character – Katniss – has the weight of saving her entire world from an evil force, just as Harry does, so obviously no romantic plot line will or should overshadow that. But as readers we still care about Katniss as a character, and I felt that after being expected to care about her and follow her for three books, to wrap her future up in a few pages at the end was a bit of a disservice to the fans.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, The Hunger Games is also – like its Twilight/Harry Potter predecessors – getting made into a movie.
The reason I’m excited about the cinematic rendering is because they’ve cast it well. No one can deny Jennifer Lawrence’s and Josh Hutcherson’s acting talents. Their respective performances in Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are Alright proved that. Plus, I LOVE the casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna – that is inspired. So I have high hopes!
I’ll end this review – because I’ve gone on for far too long already (only because I love the series so much!) by taking you back to the books for a moment.
I’ve commented on writing style, plot, characters, etc, but what really makes this series stand out for me is its thematic strength. The way Suzanne Collins makes this completely foreign world seem so relevant is by showing us what can happen when our obsession with reality TV (which is of course, completely manipulated and unreal in its execution) can damage us as a society and allow us to step away from our morals. Before we know it, we too could find ourselves entertained by the idea of watching kids murder each other in an arena.
Sound crazy? In many ways, our society needs only to distance our own sense of what is right and wrong from what kind of entertainment we demand and we could be there in no time. Our built-in instinct to slow down and watch a car accident coupled with our seemingly insatiable desire for seeing every second of someone’s life on reality TV…well, put it together and see what you get.
The fact that Suzanne Collins’ writing really makes you stop and think about that is one of the most powerful messages of her entire trilogy.
- Have you guys read The Hunger Games books? If so, did you love ’em, hate ’em?
- Which was your favourite book?
- Are you going to see the movie?