Originally posted 4/13/2016. Lead image from Amazon.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I never noticed before, but those little dark circles in the background of Hunger Games and Catching Fire are broken on Mockingjay.
It’s still RE-READ SEASON (re-posted from back in January) and still going well! The Hunger Games series is also better than I remember! In fact, in years past I didn’t read these for re-read season because they didn’t rank very highly in my mind. But I’ve discovered a few new things in the series, and especially after reading Collins’ Gregor the Overlander, I’ve gained a new respect for the series’ moral (it’s much more subtle in Hunger Games, so I hadn’t even noticed it before). I’ll discuss the rest in the review itself. Since most of my review will be positive, and there’s no real need to split it into positive and negative sections, I’ve split it instead into the categories of what changed from my previous read, and what stayed the same.
Things that stayed the same:
(**SPOILER**)Rue’s death (**End Spoiler**) still made me cry. This is why The Hunger Games has officially been added to my Favorites shelf; there have only ever been two books that have made me cry (the other is I Am Malala).
It still makes me want to take archery lessons and learn survival skills. And martial arts. And get stronger. Come to think of it, the series makes me feel completely vulnerable and weak. But in an ambitious way…
I still hate the present-tense writing. There’s a reason we have past-tense writing, and that reason is to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Things that changed from last time
The Romance: The series is particularly famous for its romantic element, specifically that some people adore it while others despise it. And, of course, the interesting mix of Peeta X Katniss. While the romance did annoy me last time, this time I went in expecting to despise it again. But after reading Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series, I began to see the Peeta vs. Gale as representative of (as much as I hate to talk about symbolism) Katniss’ struggle between Innocence and Survival. Peeta, as she explains near the end of the series, is the flower that blooms during peace. He is good at speeches and art but not much of a fighter. Gale, conversely, has no use for artistic things and is perfectly willing to give into instinctual hatred and revenge. Additionally, this time I found Peeta’s (**SPOILER**) brainwashing utterly hilarious. I love the way he became so sassy with Katniss. Though, on that note, I didn’t like how he eventually figured out a way to figure out what was real or fake, judging by how “shiny” things were. I think that detracts from his character’s strength and gives him an easy way out. (**End Spoiler**)
The Premise: Before I didn’t care much for the dystopian atmosphere. And I still don’t. What changed had to do with the genius of the arena. Before I thought it was just an interesting premise, possibly based off of the Minotaur myth. But you know what? I envy that premise! Plenty of writers for books, TV shows, and movies jump through all kinds of hoops to get their characters to do heroic things or put them in dangerous situations or otherwise deus-ex-macchina their way out of them. But guess what advantage Collins gave herself? The Games! The Gamemakers want there to be a show, so they don’t kill competitors right off the bat. Katniss gets a bow and not a gun because they would make for poor TV ratings. Katniss gets parachutes at the last moment(s) (and not a super cool weapon) because of the rules in place. She doesn’t die in the wilderness because the Gamemakers provide some tools so that a popular person won’t die off. All these things are controlled by a higher power, which does make for good entertainment: both for the Capitol and for the reader. Even when the Games are over, (**SPOILER**) Katniss keeps her bow and is sent almost without training into battle because she has an imagine to keep up. She gets to dress like a superhero because the public needs to see her as one.(**End of Spoiler**) How incredible is that? Because the characters care about the media in their world, it provides better media in our world! It’s remarkable! It’s ingenious!
“But Battle Royale did it first!” And Battle Royale probably found it from somewhere else, modifying it slightly. And that source found it from somewhere else, and that source found it from somewhere else. People repeat story elements all the time, constantly improving them, adapting them to new times and new audiences, and then eventually adding their new masterpieces to the public domain. The Hunger Games combined with and added twists and new elements to whatever premise Battle Royale may have, just as Percy Jackson put a spin on Greek mythology and Shakespeare put a twist on Pyramus and Thisbe and a million other authors put a spin on the Odyssea. Still think it’s unfair? Well, bare this in mind: I’d never heard of Battle Royale until the Hunger Games. If Battle Royale‘s story is no longer in the public mind, and a significant portion of the population has never even heard of it, then it’s unfair to say that no one can remake it or take a single idea from it, because then the public would lose the story altogether. So don’t complain about Collins taking the Games from some other book unless you also want to complain about her taking the name Cesar, or the idea of a love triangle, or mutations, or brainwashing, or illegal poaching, or battle to the death for entertainment, or the idea of tributes from the Minotaur myth, etc. If it was an unnecessary, cheap knockoff of Battle Royale, it would never have achieved popularity. If it’s a better version of Battle Royale, then all the better for the public/readers. If it, like every other book in the world, is an eclectic mix of every piece of media the author has ever experienced, then leave Collins alone; she wrote a great story.
Catching Fire was better: Last time, I could barely make it through the second book because it was so boring. But this time, I was anticipating the parts that I remembered, and I was invested in comparing those scenes to my memory whenever they came up. I kept waiting for Peeta’s big announcement, for Snow’s big announcement, for their escape, etc.
I felt worse about (**SPOILER**) Prim’s death:(**End Spoiler**) Last time, I didn’t really care at all. I think I’m just getting more empathetic as I get older. Supposedly teens mature emotionally. A bit late, but what other explanation is there?
The message: Last time, I completely missed the idea that there was a moral to the story. But after reading Gregor the Overlander, and paying close attention to the About the Author, it became far more obvious. And I applaud Collins for fitting it subtly into the story-arch.
If you haven’t read the series, read it. It will definitely be worth your time, and it’s important to gain knowledge on such subjects and form your own opinions. These books may last a generation or two into the future, maybe more, so you’d better get your reading done while it’s still age-appropriate!
What do you guys think? Up to reading it again?
All questions, comments, or concerns are appreciated and may be eventually demanded at gunpoint.