This trilogy has been causing a bit of a stir recently, and I have to say, the first place I heard about it (as with most current events these days) was twitter. I put the feelers out as to what the general concensus was on these three books, and the overall reaction seemed to be a positive one, with the underlying disclaimer that I needed to be aware of the target market of the trilogy, ie “young adult”.
Now, I’m aware that for some, the “young adult” genre causes a bit of discomfort. Because basically its for teenagers innit… and for me being a teenager was, lets just say, an “awkward” period of my life. It was all sweaty palms and anxiety about whether anyone would ever fancy me, whether I’d pass my GCSE’s and when I’d finally get to go out to town and go to an actual real life nightclub and get drunk. To be honest though, my twenties weren’t much better. Replace GCSE’s with degree, and nightclubs with a failed marriage and you’re there… the thirties seem a marginal improvement, but I’m only two years in so I’ve got time to cock them up yet…
Anyway. In the midst of all of this rambling, what I’m trying to say is don’t let the “young adult” label put you off, because this trilogy actually deals with some fairly adult themes, without graphically describing them, which in my opinion is a skill in itself.
The books are set in a future vision of North America, in which the population of “Panem” has been split into twelve districts, each of which are kept in pretty abject poverty, apart from the “Capitol” district, which as its name suggests, is the controlling sector. The first book begins with the annual “Hunger Games”. Now, this is a pretty brutal concept really, which basically involves the random selection of one male and one female child from each sector (apart from the Capitol) to compete in a “last person standing is the winner” style fight to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol, as well as to keep the serfs in the 12 sectors in line and remind them who is in control on a regular basis. Nice huh? Now, for old farts like me, this rang a bell,and reminded me of an old film I once watched on the Betamax video machine called Running Man, which was basically an adult version of the same theme. The film starred a young buck called Arnold Shwarzenegger, who you younguns will know from politics and him recently doing the dirty on his wife… See the Daily Fail for various updates on his life! The books also draw ready comparisons with Battle Royale…
I read this on my kindle, so I hope you’ll pardon the stock images!
The main protagonist in the The Hunger Games trilogy, is a young lady who goes by the name of Katniss Everdene. Now, I’m sure that I’m not spoiling the premise of these books too much by giving away that she ends up taking part in The Hunger Games in book one. Book Two, Catching Fire deals with the aftermath of her appearance, both on a personal level for her, but also on a wider level for her friends, family, and certain political sectors. Book three, Mockingjay then extends this theme further.
So, lets have a look at these book by book, and I’ll share a few thoughts whilst trying to minimise spoilers
The Hunger Games
This pretty much had me gripped from the first page. I initially found the character of Katniss to be a fairly complex and interesting one,and her relationship with her other family members intruiged me. In one way, this was possibly also a flaw in the book,as I later reflected that I would have liked Katniss and her mother’s relationship to have been explored further. This feeling actually continued and grew stronger as I read the other books in the trilogy. There were also plenty of obvious opportunities for suspense given Katniss’s actual role as a participant in the games, and the tension from her entering the arena was well maintained, and kept me turning pages. I also, however, enjoyed the actual build up to the games, which gave a lot of insight into how the citizens of the Capitol seemed to have lost perspective on what they were actually forcing the participants to do, but rather viewing this as sheer entertainment. Another thing I initially liked about this book was the non-conventional use of a potential romantic interest, which instead of being viewed through rose tinted teenage specs, was used as a way of gaining support for the Game participants.
Sadly, not as intriguing as The Hunger Games, as I felt that this initially began to slip a little into typical teen romance/love-torn teen territory, which in my opinion detracted from the main event. This book had a fast pace beginning and ending which were both really enjoyable, however, for me, the middle third of the book lacked a little pace. Again, I was left wanting more about Katniss’ relationship with her mother, and even with other members of her family, and I actually began to find the side-storyline about her love interest ever so slightly irritating. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to finish this book at a couple of points, however the ending did make up for the middle section massively. This book does convey a lot of interesting themes about political manipulation and the lengths people will go to to either protect the people they love, or to protect a cause that they have strong beliefs in. It also makes some inroads into exploring the impact of participating in the Hunger Games on its participants.
I actually enjoyed this far more than the second book in the trilogy, because in this book we get to see more of some of the other districts in Panem, which added to the depth of the books for me. I like a well planned post apocalyptic vision! For me, Margaret Atwood always has, and always will be the mistress of this particular ilk, but Collins does a really admirable job. I enjoyed the political plot lines in the book too. The negatives? The ongoing disjointed relationship between Katniss and her Mother continued to irk me – I’d really have loved a bit more about them, but that’s just a personal thing…
Throughout the whole of the three books, I did enjoy the overall theme of how such experiences effect those involved – Obviously being aimed at the YA market, this couldn’t go too far, but there were some great hints at darkness throughout.
Overall, I’d give the trilogy a thumbs up – a great start and ending,which could have been let down by a slightly slow middle part, but definitely worth a read. It’s stoked my interest in the films too, and I will be going to see the film version when released, even if only to say “ah, the book was better” when I come out of the flicks!
Have you read the trilogy yet? Did you love, hate or feel indifferent? I’d love to know your thoughts!