The Books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay
By: Suzanne Collins (For ages 12 and up)
People Have said:
The Hunger Games -
“The Hunger Games is as close to perfect an adventure novel as I’ve ever read. I could not put it down. Collins has transformed the ancient Labyrinth myth into a terrifyingly believable tale of future America. Readers will be hungry for more.
—Rick Riordan, author of The Percy Jackson Series and The 39 Clues
Catching fire -
“Whereas Katniss kills with finesse, Collins writes with raw power…The Hunger Games and Catching Fire expose children to exactly the kind of violence we usually shield them from. But that just goes to show how much adults forget about what it’s like to be a child. Kids are physical creatures, and they’re not stupid. They know all about violence and power and raw emotions. What’s really scary is when adults pretend that such things don’t exist.”
“This concluding volume in Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy accomplishes a rare feat, the last installment being the best yet, a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every level.”
—Publishers Weekly,STARRED REVIEW
Tie-Ins: The Hunger Games Film
Review: (Moderate Spoiler Warning)
Having watched ‘The Hunger games’ film first after much prodding from my little sister throughout my entire time of studying my Masters, once it was completed I finally sat down and decided to read the whole triology.
Book one revolves around the Hunger Games itself and it is, by far, my favourite. It works nicely as a self contained piece of grounded dystopian sci-fi, with a difficult, strong, complicated and often ‘unattractive’ protagnist at the help who is, in my opinion, one of the characters that all authors should aspire to when writing a grounded real female character, and when tackling the difficult age range of between a child and an adult. Like great dystopian sci-fi one-offs (such as So Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) it drops you into a near future that is plausible yet can grapple with more imaginative futuristic elements with ease. In the Hunger Games Katniss’ home is near-medieval in hardship, and one of the greatest skills that Collins achieves is how perfectly she paints Katniss’ life here, allowing you to feel every inch of the hunger and survival that is a reality of her life. When this is contrasted with the decadent Capitol - a reflection of all the worst parts of a distinctly Westernised style of consumerism and celebrity culture - and when Katniss’ skills are pulled to use in the Hunger Games itself, the action and contrasts are handled by a very skilled hand indeed in Collins’ writing.
As no doubt you would have seen from movie promotions, the Hunger games takes part as a form of forest survival, and for me the book’s - indeed the triology’s - greatest strength is in this Battle Royale of starvation, cunning, politics and survival. A weakness, in my opinion, is shown when things grow too fantasy based when the surreal genetic mutations (‘Mutts’) are introduced. While some, like the Mockingjay, are very effective as symbols for political rebbellion, others come across as simply B-movie monsters, far more noisy yet far less frightening than the threats of wounds, diseases and starvation that have you gripped on the edge of the seat beforehand. Despite this slightly hammy interruption, the book is all in all edge-of-seat reading, with fantastic character development. There are no Mary/Gary-Sues here, no cut corners, and plenty of emotional punch mixed with the thrills.
In Catching fire Katniss’ strategy in the Games have ramifications on a global scale, and Collins handles the writhing knots of politics with a deft and experienced hand, not flinching at the brutalities and complications. Yet, in my opinion when I read it, by taking it to this series loses a certain something. The microcosmic panic and survival and the sureal pomp around creating the games is lost. Without giving too much away, a re-emergance of the Mutts and an attempt to replicate elements of The Hunger Games bypass genuine survival and fear and reality and leap straight in to plain old gimmicky. However, those political knots and the knots in katniss’ own heart and head are the saving grace of the agreeable but perhaps not special second book (that and a certain new character or two). The twists and the turns and the way Katniss reacts both impulsively and with planning, and alternates between being used and taking charge, being in the dark and being illuminated make for some riveting reading.
Mockingjay is a fitting end to the series but is by no means an easy read. Character conflicts, deaths and war create an utter rawness in the reader through sheer empathy and damned good writing. Collins handles the filth of war perfectly: she makes no apologies and never flinches in telling its horrors on the macrocosm and microcosm, and the little pieces of hope as well as the descents into madness and grief, the betrayals and the loyalties. By the end of it I was distraught but to have written it any other way would have cheapened it, and for that I applaud her.
Overall, I enjoyed the series. I feel that the first book could have stood alone, and out of the three it is the only one that I would revisit, though all three are very well written indeed. Perhaps by the end of the series my yearning for the simpler world of the first book (corrupted though it was) was because of a loss of innocence of sorts from the idealism and soft simple blows that we often find in other books. Emotional trauma, however brief, with the understanding that life is often not ok, and Collins will be damned if she shows it as any other way. In that way I feel as close to Katniss as a reader ever should for a character in a book. Katniss faces a difficult journey and there is no going back for the Girl on Fire. And that was always the point. But there is hope for her, and as the pages close and the message settles there is hope for the reader too.
The sign of a great piece of literature - not simply a good book - is that it makes you feel right to your core and it sears itself onto your mind for a long time to come. The Hunger Games Triology does just that.