!This post contains spoilers!
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockinjay by Suzanne Collins is an interesting trilogy set in a futuristic sort-of-post-apocalyptic North America called Panem. The story revolves around a teenage female protagonist named Katniss Everdeen, a hardened hooligan of District 12 who is no stranger to breaking the rules in order to survive. The story is largely driven by milieu. The Capitol and the twelve surrounding districts are balanced on a very unstable status quo in which the tyrannical Capitol subjugates each of the districts into producing various resources to fuel their extravagances while most people in the districts struggle to survive from day to day. The Capitol uses an institutional “sporting” event called The Hunger Games to keep the districts in fear and remind them how pitiful they are compared to the mighty capitol. Each year teenagers from each district are entered into a raffle and two tributes are selected from each district to battle to the death in the Hunger Games, the last person standing returns to their District as a hero and lives a life of luxury.
In The Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen gains the attention of the Capitol when she volunteers to be a tribute in place of her innocent cardboard sister, Prim. Her fellow tribute from 12, Peeta Mellark is harboring some latent romantic feelings which despite being confusing and odd from the perspective of Katniss, are very helpful to them in winning popular support during The Games. The first book is recounts the entire 74th Hunger Games in detail. Suzanne Collins does a fantastic job at introducing the setting and situation of Panem without info-dumping all over the page. The conflict was introduced at a quick, but manageable, pace and when the Games actually begins Collins pacing really shines as we live the action in an intense and painful way. The ending was surprising and I enjoyed it greatly. The only overall complaint I had with the book was with Peeta. Multiple times early in the novel Peeta’s physical skills are foreshadowed as “more than they appear” and yet we never see Peeta do anything physically impressive, I found this broken promise annoying because Katniss always had to haul his butt out of the fire. The redeeming qualities of Peeta and his overall goodness and nobility are also emphasized, and Collins presents them better, but half of them are still off screen (the whole trilogy is told from the first person perspective of Katniss) so we hear about him being a really good guy, but most the time when he is actually around he is a lovesick cripple.
Catching Fire continues the trilogy as Peeta and Katniss find themselves at odds after Katniss makes a series of major communication errors at the end of The Hunger Games. In addition, their swashbuckling defiance of the Capitol’s dominance has apparently incited rebellion in the Districts and President Snow blackmails/extorts/coerces Katniss into trying to twist the public image in the President’s favor. After failing to do so Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch are thrown into the 75th Hunger Games in which all the competitors are previous victors from their districts. This Hunger Games felt much different from the first one and when the surprise twist was revealed at the end of the book I wasn’t at all surprised. I didn’t know what was going on, but it was painfully obvious that this Hunger Games had more going on behind the scenes then Katniss was aware of.
Mockingjay continues and closes the trilogy as Katniss struggles with a rather convoluted love triangle and comes to terms with being the plaything of the political powers that be. The districts are in open rebellion and the status quo is blown to heck as Katniss & C0. try to ride out the storm and figure out what to do about it. Mockingjay was the hardest novel for me to get interested in because I was getting bored with the characters. There was this fantastic advanced technology war going on and we were still stuck in the head of a teenager who is becoming more and more psychologically screwed as the story continues. By time she finally got involved with the war I was pretty bored and just looking to see the story resolve. The surprise-random-deaths at the end of the book felt pretty stupid to me and at that point I was beyond caring about the resolution of most of the characters. When the romantic conflict was resolved at the end I was fairly satisfied with it, but overall it bothered me that all we were left with was these two invalids living in a house in the middle of nowhere with the whole world gone to heck and they just don’t seem to care. If I can’t care about the characters (or the characters don’t care) I cease to care about the story.
For that reason I think the first book was clearly the best of the trilogy. Katniss makes a heroic decision to save her sister and against all odds is able to survive a truly traumatic and insane event that she didn’t even want to experience in the first place. After that conflict was resolved everything else in the series felt sort of pitiful by comparison. Which shouldn’t happen when the books are about a revolution. Overall I liked the series, I just came away liking it less at the end then I did after the first book.