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Hunger Games series

Last summer I started reading a series based on my SIL’s recommendation.  It started with The Hunger Games and continued with Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.   I approached this YA series with some reluctance.  It is written from first-person POV and in present tense.  I usually have a problem with just one of these.  I was worried that both together would be a big stretch for me to read.

I was completely wrong.  The story connected immediately.  I was immersed in the life of Katniss Everdeen and her problems in the far distant post-post-apocalyptic future.  Her character is well developed as is the background of the nation of Panem.  Ms. Collins does a great job of exposition through dialogue and introspection.  She gradually lets us know that Panem is the former site of the USA.  The Capitol is somewhere near modern-day Denver.

I won’t give a synopsis here.  Wikipedia seems to have a good one, but beware spoilers.  My 10YO daughter loved the first book and can’t wait to get her hands on the second.  I just finished the last book.  After really enjoying the first 2 books, I excitedly began the third and final book in the series, Mockingjay.  Read more if you don’t mind spoilers.

Just as in the first two books the character development seems on track at first.  The book starts where the second left off.  I do see that the premise of this book was probably a little challenging to the author compared to the other two.  Books one and two followed the same pattern in a way.  Book three departed from that.

I tried to enjoy Mockingjay. I really did.  I couldn’t get past some problems I had with it:

1.  Magic weapons.  The contrivance of all bad fantasy novels (Oh look, a magic sword!) comes into this series in a big way.  It isn’t a magic sword per se but as all Scifi aficionados know that any technology sufficiently advanced seems like magic to those with less.  In this case, the weapons Katniss and Gale get in district 13 are kind of ridiculous.  If the scientists can make these for Gale, Katniss, and Finnick why don’t they make them for all of the soldiers?

2.  The lack of growth for the protagonist.  It seems that everything in this novel just happens to her and she reacts to it, never changing really.  At least at first.  Throughout the entire first part of the novel, Katniss vacillates between crying and being strong, between thinking she loved and had lost Peeta and wondering if she loved Gale.  Overall I felt as though she had a really selfish bent throughout the first part of the book.  This didn’t fit with the Katniss from the first books, the girl who stepped in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games.

Real spoilers below……

Are you sure?…….

Okay then.  I warned you.

3.  The abruptness of the change in Katniss when Peeta is rescued.  Peeta was rescued by district 13 and when Katniss tries to go to him he tries to kill her.  He has had his mind altered by the Capitol.  Katniss, for her part, ran and hid and cried some more.  She refused to deal with the situation or come to grips with it emotionally.  She wrote him off and was cold and somewhat cruel to this man she thought she loved.  While the argument could be made that some people react this way, I found it unbelievable in Katniss.

4.  Ms. Collins gets rather preachy in this book.  I think she seems a bit like an anti-war activist in parts of the book.  War is never pretty and I think she  conveys that quite well.  I felt as though the whole series had kind of a class-warfare feel to it, but it especially came out in the final book.  She did temper her message some in that even the benevolent dictator does some terrible things, too but I think that part goes along with the anti-war message of the story.

Now I did not HATE this book, regardless of all the problems I had with it.  I just didn’t like it as much as the first two.  I think some things worked out a little too conveniently.  Some terrible things happened without a lot of explanation.

I liked that fact that Ms. Collins had the guts to kill Katniss’s sister Prim though.  I did not like when it happened.  I did not react quite as viscerally as I would have in either of the last two books but I hated it nonetheless.  The fact that I was attached to this character means that I was, at least to some extent, emotionally invested in the book.

Overall the series was very good.  The final book detracted from the total effect.  I would suggest The Hunger Games and Catching Fire to anyone.  Mockingjay is on my read once and forget list.

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