The Hunger Games
Rating: 3 stars
Rating: 3 stars
Rating: 3 stars
I had a spate of catching the first Hunger Games film partway through on TV, so the next time it was on I watched it from the start, and loved it. I watched the film before I read the book, and it was a gripping read, despite knowing the outcome. There’s enough that’s different in the book to create genuine heart-in-mouth moments, and the descriptions of Katniss’ dehydration and trackerjacker hallucinations were grim. I can understand why they were left out of or toned down for the film. I understand why Collins has Katniss backpedal from her feelings for Peeta at the end of the book (there are two more in the series to sustain!), but it grated more than it did in the film. It lacked subtlety, somehow. By the end, though, I was itching to crack on with the next in the series.
I was told by a couple of friends who had already read it that Catching Fire was less exciting (they actually said boring) than The Hunger Games. They were wrong. It’s just as exciting and has more in the way of plot development that made me care more about the characters. The author’s habit of recapping things from book 1 as though the reader was incapable of remembering the plot or was watching a mini series annoyed me slightly, but fortunately that only happens a couple of times. The lead up to the Quarter Quell is more expositional than the first book. There’s less murderous action, but still some pretty grim things going on and the tension is still there while the story moves on. Then the Quell starts and it’s back on with the strategies, the psychology and the gore. I liked Katniss more and more as she developed through the book. I think if I’d read these books when I was in my teens, I would have wanted to be her. I identify with her sense of injustice that is countered by her reluctance to face things down until she absolutely has to, even now in my 40s! I liked how she started to learn that acting in your own interests can have wider implications. It’s a sound, non-preachy exploration of consequences. There are ups and downs in the plot, some flat patches, but overall it’s as strong a story as the first book.
Mockingjay is a powerful end to the story. Katniss grows up into a believable young woman, still impetuous, still selfish, but learning about forgiveness and needing people. The book doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of war that mean the loss of people who don’t deserve death and the revelation of ugly character traits in the face of other people’s ugliness. It isn’t a cheerful book, but I respect it the more for that. I like the space Collins gives to the characters to develop. I like how she hasn’t shied away from difficult events, and has created a realistic world where people behave in very human ways, but she doesn’t use it as an opportunity to preach her own world view. She shows very skilfully that people are contradictory, there are many ways to view a situation, and you don’t always get the happy ending you want. There is a happy ending, but it’s tinged with the sadness and horror of what has gone before.
I don’t often read YA literature, but I’m glad that I read this series. I also loved the rest of the films. Even the two wrung from the third book. Controversial among my circle of friends, I can tell you!