Review: Hunger Games Trilogy

All three. Yes, because you won’t be reading just one anyway. 🙂

I got severely sucked in to this book series this last week. Severely in that, even amidst teaching and studying full-time (but including a Easter holiday) I read all three in one week. You might think that I ignored my husband that whole time, but don’t worry, he read them all in a week too.

So, I have been mulling over how to review this book since I finished Mockingjay on Monday. Here’s what I finally decided on:

***Please set aside what you have heard about The Hunger Games for the rest of this review. Thanks!***

1. Summary

America didn’t make it. They fell into wars and ended up destroying themselves. Pity. A new country rose out of the ashes of what used to be America, and as they rose, they determined to institute checks that would ensure that the people never again tried to overthrow the government and take power for themselves. The way they tried to implement this was through a yearly contest called “The Hunger Games”. Two tributes from each of the 12 districts of Panem would be chosen at random and sent to an arena where they would fight until only one tribute remained as victor. This was just a way for the government to reinforce their power and their right to rule over the people.

Book 1 follows a tribute from the district furthest from the Capitol. The Capitol is the center of Panem life. People in the Capitol don’t work, they are surrounded by luxury, and live lives of utter pleasure. The further you travel from the Capitol, the more oppressed and poor the people are.

From the very beginning of the games, this girl defies the rules of the government of Panem. Every action she takes, whether consciously or not, is in opposition to the self-acclaimed power of the President of Panem. This is going to be the thread that carries you throughout the books.

Obviously, people are not happy with life in the districts. They are oppressed, overworked, not taken care of, and treated with disdain, while their fellow countrymen live in the lap of luxury in the Capitol. Now, they have someone to follow. Now they have someone who has stood up to the Capitol and is still alive. The second and third books take you through the people’s attempt to overthrow the government of Panem and where that leads them.

2. Morality and Social Issues

Please don’t hate me for my summary. I’m trying really hard to give you a summary that will let you know what the books are about without spoiling it! And on that note, I do want to say that while a lot of people seem to think at first that the books are about “The Hunger Games” and the violence and gore that you would expect when you put 24 teenagers into an arena and tell them to fight to the death, that is not really the underlying tone or message. Yes, that is part of the story, but I honestly did not feel that the books were as violent or gory as I had anticipated they might be. In fact, there is a lot of weight given to several of the deaths that occur in the arena. (Although, I will admit that the third book does encounter a lot of violence, but it is wartime violence and different than violence for entertainment’s sake.) The premise of all three books is not to elevate or glorify the violence of “The Hunger Games” but rather to show how futile and wrong they are, and to show a people trying to fight back from an insurmountable injustice.

This trilogy is extremely entertaining and enjoyable, but at the same time it poses questions and challenges the reader to think through concepts such as justice, equality, and the effects of power on a people. Suzanne Collins, the author of the books, writes specifically about the effects of war on children, and this series shows that. Power is a deadly weapon, and one that can destroy even those with good intentions. Added on to that, pain and injustice are crippling diseases. One with power has the ability to use these to control, maim, and dictate an entire people. The Hunger Games forces you to look at these issues and address the realities that they entail.

I will say that there was one moment when, in the midst of my excitement over the book, I felt a pang of guilt and wondered “Why am I reading this? They are getting ready to kill each other and I am excited about this?!” But, as I said, the book does not glorify the killing. The story is told as a first person narrative, so rather than having a displaced view of the arena and watching the fighting from a spectator’s seat you are in the middle of it and thinking the thoughts that the tribute is thinking. You are sharing in the fears, the hatred, the disgust, and the anger of it all.

One last comment – because I heard today that people have complained about the “explicit sexuality” in the books. I honestly was shocked when I heard that comment. The books contain kissing, and a complicated love triangle, but never once was there a scene that I was uncomfortable with or thought was inappropriate. Conversely, I was impressed with Collins’ ability to incorporate the love story and keep everything above board. There are nights that a boy and girl sleep together, but never was this in a sexual way – it was always an attempt to keep the nightmares away. Nevertheless, I think it is important to address this issue if you are deciding whether or not to allow your children to read these books. If I had children, I would let them read them – I would probably read them again with them! (And on that note, I think that these books would create great discussions between parents and children on thinking critically about big issues in our world.)

3. Critique on the Story

As you must have noticed by now, I thoroughly enjoyed these books. Probably my favorite thing, and the thing that I can’t get over is the genre. I despise reading science-fiction. I can’t say that these books are science fiction, but they are futuristic with technology and creatures that do not (nor do I imagine ever will) exist. In that sense, they are slightly sci-fi. However, they are so grounded with historical pictures and familiar things that I had absolutely no problem envisioning everything that was going on. It is a plausible world, an imaginable world, but not my world. I found that extremely effective.

The books are definitely addictive and the story is very fast paced and keeps you guessing. The writing itself is simple, and easy to understand, but it is not poorly written. I would highly recommend these books to . . . just about anyone. But please, read them with an open mind. Don’t read them and think of what someone else said, or the fact that they are the new fad, or that you’ve already seen the movie (hmmm . . . next week’s post!)

I promise, you’ll enjoy the journey!!

{read spring 2012}

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