When it comes to book triologies I usually arrive at them way after everyone else and the hype surrounding them, see Harry Potter and Twilight as examples. The same happened again with The Hunger Games but as usual my curiosity won in the end and I decided to read the books to see just what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I did because in this triology I found a story I was quite literally gripped by, reading chapter upon chapter and page upon page for hours on end becoming completely lost in the story.
The Hunger Games
‘The Hunger Games’ tells the story of Katniss Everdeen an ordinary girl who lives in District 12, one of the poorest districts in the world of Panem. Filled with dangerous mines where the men work and very little food result in people starving to death and doing whatever they can to survive. Katniss lives with her mother and sister, Prim, and she is the responsible bread winner for them after the death of her father in one of the mines a few years before, something she is not fully over. As a keen hunter, hunting with best friend and confidante Gale, she risks her life every day to put food on the table and to sell on to make some money.
Every year The Hunger Games takes place, starting with the reaping of ages 12 to 18, each year one girl and one boy tribute from each district is sent to fight to the death in the Gamemaker’s arena. Only one person can win or survive while the other 23 die. When Prim’s name is called on her first reaping, Katniss runs forward to nominate herself in her place, saving her sister’s life but risking her own. The rest of the 1st novel goes through the build up to the Games with interviews, parades, meeting her team and the District 12 boy tribute Peeta Mellark, a boy desperately in love with Katniss. During the Games we see Katniss’ fight for survival which sees her nicknamed the Mockingjay after the pin she wears; there’s tragic deaths, heart-breaking moments and the relationship between Katniss and Peeta evolves, gripping the audience watching and seeing them both survive.
With great description throughout it’s easy to imagine the Games and the arena for yourself, you can picture yourself there with Katniss through everything. This book may be set in a slightly dystopian vision of the future with horrific reminders of our society and what can become of it but it draws you in keeping you in suspense. The love story that runs alongside is also gripping with Peeta completely in love with an oblivious Katniss who’s questioning her feelings for Gale but playing along with a romance with Peeta in order to survive. It makes for a heart-breaking ending that leaves you wanting to find out what happens next.
‘Catching Fire’ picks up six months after those Games at the beginning of the Victory Tour for winners Katniss and Peeta. Life has changed drastically for the pair since the Games and it doesn’t seem like it will be going back to normal anytime soon. Katniss’ suicide stunt rebellion at the end of the Games has terrible consequences for her and those she holds most dear with threats coming from President Snow towards her. Uprisings start in certain districts that she and her Mockingjay persona is blamed for and then comes the 75th Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, which sees Katniss and Peeta competing again. The introduction of past winners from other districts and the many different characters from the weird to the mad to the scary is a wonderful read and adds greater depth to the whole world of Panem and the Hunger Games.
The whole idea of the Quarter Quell and the clever arena is something that I really loved and shows the sheer imagination Collins must have to be able to come up with something this good. That is backed up by her wonderful storytelling and brilliant description that really gives you an idea of exactly what the arena is like, how it feels for Katniss to be in there and we see Katniss grow into an unconventional heroine and stronger woman. The Games doesn’t last as long time wise as it does in the previous book but so much happens in such a short space of time making the book a fast paced read that leaves you constantly in suspense. The book ends brilliantly with so many questions and so much confusion about what just happened which sets up the final novel perfectly.
This final book, ‘Mockingjay’ sees Katniss along with 2 other rescued Quarter Quell tributes and past winners, Finnick and Beetee, living in District 13. This is the District they were always told was wiped out but in reality the citizens have been living underground for the past 75 years since the war. Back with Gale, her mother and sister but without Peeta who’s been captured by the Capitol, Katniss grows further away from the girl we were first introduced to becoming the Mockingjay completely. This role sees her become a figure of hope and leader for the rebellion that has grown out of control and leads to a full scale war in the districts.
Here, Collins perfectly strikes the balance between the war and battle strategies and the mental and emotional struggles Katniss is going through as she trys to decide who to trust and what she should do. Throughout, there are lovely touching moments of happiness and love such as Finnick’s marriage, there’s scary, almost creepy encounters with Snow, nightmares to be found in the Capitol and Peeta’s returns as well as heartbreaking moments specifically the many emotional deaths but one thing is for sure there is never a dull moment. Even in the last two chapters there is shock, despair and confusion and you really do worry it’s going to end terribly. For me, the book ends perfectly though a little rushed, a couple of extra pages to round it off in the same way but not as suddenly would have been better.
Apart from that, this is a great trio of books that never sees Katniss Everdeen, her family, friends and her home change in ways that mean none of them will ever the same again. She achieves a lot and loses a lot and in many ways I feel the books address the concept of fame and success and the price you have to pay for that, it may be more extreme here but Collins does have an underlying point. It’s a very philosophical story in that sense with a strong, confident young woman at the centre of it all. She fights for her family and what she believes in but she is flawed through her stubbornness, refusal to follow orders and obliviousness to other people’s feelings and she knows that. In my opinion, this is a triology that deserves its hype with an interesting, unconventional character and thought provoking story at its centre.