Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy {Part 1}

**Note: I have tried to keep this post as spoiler-free as possible, but it is difficult.  Minor spoilers may be given away, and I think I have made the ending rather obvious.  If you have not read the series,you somehow don't know the storyline yet, and you don't want to know what happens, you mayn't want to read on, especially where I discuss the plot.**

Oh, and just so you know, I'm having strange font-size problems, so if it's too big or too small, I apologize.

When a bunch of people in the writer's club I belong to said how much they loved this series, I became rather interested.  When I found out they were making a movie of it, I got more interested.  When two close friends of mine read the series and liked it (one loved it), I became desperate to read it.  Finally one of those two friends lent me the books.  (I finished them in four days, of course.) I was extremely curious as to exactly why these books are so popular.

Well, I am glad to say that once again I am not obsessed with what the rest of the world is obsessed with.  *pokes nose in the air*  It's an okay series, but it's definitely got problems. Like most things, it has good points and bad points.  I shall now proceed to ramble on about it all in no particular order.

Before I begin, I must say one thing.  WHY did Ms. Collins give her characters such odd names?  Some of them are okay, like Gale and Prim, but Katniss? Even worse, Peeta???  *shudders*

Apart from the names, I found the majority of the main characters to be largely unlikeable and a bit flat.  I did understand them, which is important, but I didn't particularly like most of them.  The one exception was - you probably guessed it already - Peeta.  The boy with the bread, he-whose-name-is the-worst-in-the-entire-series, the one truly good character.  Peeta is the only one whose love is true and unselfish.  (This goes back to the true love post, if you missed it.)  Oh, and I also liked Rue, but she's not really a main character.  I didn't like Katniss.  I understand that she had a shocking amount of hardships to bear, but I still couldn't stand her selfishness.  Most of the time she only does what will help herself, not taking into account anyone else.  The only one she seems to truly love is her sister Prim.  

 The series has a lot of morality problems, even if one leaves out the fact that nudity seems to be entirely acceptable in the world of Panem.   Supposedly the books are meant to protest violence, and to a certain extent I can see that, but the thing is, violence doesn't seem to be protested against if the "good" characters commit it.  Katniss's countless killings.  Gale's ruthless traps that play on human sympathy and charity in order to murder the most people possible.  (One may argue that the traps were not presented in a necessarily good light, but I don't think it was clearly against them, either.)  It's hard to explain it properly without giving away major spoilers, but you probably get the idea.  The books seem to subscribe to the philosophy of the ends justifying the means, which is of course wrong.

 Now for the fun part - style/plot/characterization critiques. (Mwahahahaha...)  The first thing that struck me when I began The Hunger Games was the first person, present tense writing.  It took about a third of the book for me to get used to it.  I'm not necessarily saying it was a bad choice, just different.  It actually makes sense, really, given the action-driven plot.  It adds to the feeling of immediacy in the series.  I don't think it's something I personally would have chosen, but I didn't write the book, so it doesn't matter.  It was quite interesting.  I've never read a book written like that before, so points to Ms. Collins for originality there.  I did find the actual writing to be a bit simplistic and limited, but given the audience and, once again, the plot, that is understandable.  There were some nice descriptions, mostly in the first book, but for the most part the vocabulary was unremarkable.

As for the plot, in general it was pretty tight.  I do rather believe in history repeating itself, so I find the idea, mentioned in Mockingjay, of a Panem et Circenses world believable.  The Romans kept it up for a while.  It's not like it's unprecedented, though the Romans didn't use children.  They were not averse to killing entire families, though, if sources are correct, so it makes little difference.  I shudder to think what they would have done with modern technology like that in The Hunger Games.   Anyway, enough with the history lesson.  The one MAJOR problem I have with the plot is District 13.  It's part of what makes the series so depressing: the leaders of the rebellion which is supposed to free Panem don't seem much better than the Capitol.  The monotonous, gray life led by the residents of Thirteen is not something I'd be happy about!  Sure, they're warm and they don't starve to death, but they are allowed no individuality, no self-expression.  Realistically, I doubt people could live like that.  Humans have an all-too-apparent need to express themselves.  Perhaps I am reading into it too much, but by her characterization of Thirteen Ms. Collins seems to degrade humanity into something that needs only the basics of bodily survival - food, clothes, shelter.  At least the Capitol made some twisted sort of concession to beauty, and it did not meddle in the daily life of its subjects.  Thirteen seemed to be, far from a savior, only a new power ready to take total control.  It is very sad.  

Well, that's all for today.  This was beginning to be one of my excruciatingly long posts (and perhaps already is), so I've split it in two.  Tomorrow I shall post the second part, where I discuss what I actually liked about this series and give my final evaluation.  I promise that it's shorter than this one.


  1. Actually, I liked that Katniss wasn't perfect, and that she screwed up most of the time. Then we really saw how her bad choices affected her. And I thought that Gale's bombs were portrayed in a very realistically horrid light...I liked the name Peeta, too... However, to each her own! :)

    1. Goodness, we are different. :) It's interesting to see how completely opposite opinions people can have! I can pretty much understand your opinions, though I disagree, on everything but Peeta's name - HOW CAN YOU LIKE IT? O.o

  2. I didn't like Katniss, either, even though I can totally see how she became what she was.

    District 13 bothered me, too, although I couldn't place a finger on it. You did! "At least the Capitol made some twisted sort of concession to beauty, and it did not meddle in the daily life of its subjects. Thirteen seemed to be, far from a savior, only a new power ready to take total control." Eeeeks, perfect description.

    1. Oh gracious me, I'm flattered, Shaylynn. :) I am glad that I wasn't the only one who was bothered by 13. Horrid place. *shudders*

  3. Your review completely sums up my opinions on The Hunger Games. I read the books, but did not enjoy them very much. The blurred morality issues in the books really bothered me, as did the nudity. The only characters that I did actually like were Peeta, and of course Katniss' cat. While I can understand that Katniss has been through a lot, her selfishness made me dislike her quite a bit. The storyline I also found rather poor. It is disheartening that the most popular books in modern day culture is literature of this type, merely giving entertainment to the masses.A great writer's books reflect morality and understanding, these will undoubtedly stand the test of time. While writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis will remain giants in their own right, having affected and encouraged entire generations,I fear Miss Collins will not create the timeless tales, memories, and life lessons that great literature is meant to give to a healthy culture.

    1. Your point about popular books bringing nothing more than entertainment is all too true. I cannot see Ms. Collins encouraging anybody at all (I found the books rather depressing), and life lessons seem sadly lacking in her writing. Our culture is NOT healthy. One needs only to look at the prominence of another popular book series, Twilight, to see that.

  4. While I don't think Gale counts because his brutal weapons end up being a big issue between him and Katniss, you do bring up a good point about Katniss' violence which I never noticed before. She IS a very violent person and towards the end she and her group DO kill an innocent civilian. She might hold Gale to a certain standard on violence, but does she practice what she preaches? Nice job catching that. :)

    I also did not like anyone except Peeta. I actually think Katniss was THE main problem of the series. I always say, "I like The Hunger Games. I don't like Katniss." hahaha :p

    I got the feeling that Collins wanted us to hate District 13. :p

    1. Hm, you're right about Gale's murdering weapons ending up being a big issue, Mary. I didn't think of that, probably because when I read the books I already knew that Katniss would end up with Peeta, and I didn't care a bit about gloomy old Gale. Thanks for the complimet. :) I'm actually indebted to a discussion about the series I had with a friend for my catching of that aspect, so I can't take too much credit.

      Haha. Unfortunately Katniss, being the narrator and protagonist, is rather an integral part of The Hunger Games....

      Really? What purpose would it serve? You may be on to something there....but what literary purpose does it serve to have the savior be hateable? WHYYYY, MS. COLLINS?

    2. This is Murbie from SWC, btw. :p

      Hahaha, yeah, she is rather integral. Come to think of it, I did like some of the side characters like Gale and Haymitch and Finnick. :p I guess I liked the series because of them.

      I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible but...*SPOILER WARNING*

      District 13 wasn't the savior in the end. Remember who Katniss killed at the end of Mockingjay? It wasn't President Snow. The arrow meant to end the life of the one, great villain of the trilogy went somewhere completely different. ;)

      This kind of ties in to my big problem with Katniss: after the first book, she is out of her league. She is just the Girl Who Defied the Capitol with a Bunch of Berries. In Catching Fire, the other Games victors are much older, smarter, and more experienced than she is. In Mockingjay, District 13 has high-tech weaponry and facilities and armies, and decades of experience in dealing with the Capitol. Katniss is nothing compared to those things. Collins tries to play up Katniss' role as symbol of the rebellion but she doesn't do anything inspiring with that in book 2 and in book 3, she's useless without the promotion of District 13. The only way Collins could possibly make Katniss important in comparison to District 13 and its leaders was to lessen the District somehow. Collins chose to tear down the morality of the District so that Katniss would have a good reason to turn against District 13. Katniss did just that, and that is THE ONE THING that made her the hero of the story.

      *is done patronizing* :P

    3. MURBIE??? Oh my gosh, I had no idea! *glomps*

      I didn't like Gale, but I ended up rather liking Haymitch and I definitely liked Finnick. One of the things that made Mockingjay so depressing was what happened to Finnick in the end.

      Ohhhhh....I understand now. I realized that Katniss killed who she did because that person was as much of a threat as Snow, if not more, but I didn't really think about the big picture there. Katniss and District 13 make sense now. *revels in the joy of understanding*

      What I wonder is, would Katniss's action be enough to save Panem? Sure, she killed That Person, but wouldn't Thirteen still be Thirteen, even without The Person? I guess we're supposed to just hope that things would change about Thirteen after That Person was gotten out of the way. I know it would have made the series too long, but I would have liked to see District 13 reformed before it tried to reform everyone else. Katniss might have had a better role that way.

      Anyway, thanks so much for that comment. I love to be enlightened on such things.

    4. Hai! *glomps back*

      Yes, Finnick at the end was pretty terrible. :(

      I was wondering the exact same thing! I mean, the epilogue did say the Games were stopped and everything....but Collins never really developed the character who ended up in power at the end, so we readers have no idea if she's all that great or not.

  5. You brought up some really good points about the books. I think, though, that Collins meant District 13 to be realistic rather than an example of morality. In history, regimes often fall only to be replaced by systems just as bad--or worse. Collins is asking us to look at what District 13 really is, apart from its opposition to the Capitol. I think she's trying to tell us to look at things objectively, rather than to assume immediately that something is good simply because it has positioned itself against something that is bad. Things aren't always black-and-white.

    That being said, have you ever read Collins's Underland series? I haven't read them all yet, so I don't know what the end message is, but so far I think Collins does a fantastic job with moral issues there. She raises questions about war and violence (when is violence ever justified and what kind of violence,if it is) and the protagonist is actually sort of a pacifist--a real contrast to Katniss!


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