Reading Challenges

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: ★★★★☆

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: ★★½☆☆

Honestly, I’m still trying to decide whether this deserves two stars or three, because frankly… I’m not entirely convinced I enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised by The Hunger Games; I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and I ended up giving it four stars, which is rarer for me than I’d really like to admit.

But this…? I just don’t know what to think. I guess when it all comes down to it, I was simply shocked by Collins’ plot choices. I really don’t understand why she set things on the path she did. (view spoiler)[I mean, revisiting the Games? (hide spoiler)] I hate to say it, but it felt like something of a cop-out. Like she was falling back on a proven plotline, and then only put in a mediocre effort.

Still, I suppose I could have pardoned that if it hadn’t felt so rushed. There was just too much plot crammed into too few pages, and so nothing got to develop at a proper pace. I didn’t get to know the new characters, though I could tell I would have liked them if I had–these were characters I wanted to get to know and yet didn’t have time to, which ironically is a problem the first installment didn’t have.

And I could even have pardoned that if the last chapter(s) hadn’t been so damn abrupt. Suddenly so much happened in so few pages that even though the supposed twist could be seen a mile away–especially considering the multitude of spoilers about this trilogy that permeate the internet–it still seemed to come out of left field entirely, throwing itself in the face of all that came before it. There’s no word for my feelings toward the ending other than dissatisfied.

In the end, I’ve opted with three stars. I’m mostly running on the idea that the third installment will bring me enough satisfaction that I’ll be able to pardon the shortcomings of the second. If it does not, however, this might just settle with a final star rating of two. Pity.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: ★★★★☆

Read for Read by Theme‘s September 2012 theme, Teenage Protagonists.

This review also appears at Amara’s Eden.

This was so much better than the second one. And, thankfully, it helped me figure out exactly what I didn’t like about the second one.

Hunger Games and Mockingjay are fundamentally different, and even if you haven’t read the series, you can spot the disconnect in the people who left glowing reviews of the first book, but were drastically disappointed by the third.

Hunger Games is a Battle Royale-esque tale of survival in a sadistic game show gone wild.

Mockingjay is the story of a country’s Revolutionary War.

Looking at the two books from that perspective, it’s incredibly obvious why fans of the first book might not appreciate the final book. And, by extension, you can see why these fans enjoyed the second book while I most decidedly did not.

The second book was more of the same. Catching Fire was Hunger Games Redux, with the hints of revolution being distant to the characters and mere undercurrents to the reader–right up until the final chapter. In the final chapter of Catching Fire, we are blasted into a Mockingjay mindset with zero buildup, and I found this to be incredibly jarring.

As Catching Fire is essentially the same story as Hunger Games with a different ending tacked on, it’s obvious why people who enjoyed the first book would find potential amusement in this second installment. If they loved the idea of the games, they’d love to see more of the games. Nothing illogical about that. What strikes me as illogical, however, is that the second novel of a trilogy is meant to be transitional, and Catching Fire completely failed in this regard.

So a reader like me, observant enough to know that the plot of the series is inevitably going to swing toward revolution, spent Catching Fire expecting to see Panem transition from a place of oppression to a place of revolution. But Suzanne Collins didn’t give that to us. Instead, all the necessary transition takes place off-screen, as we are glued to Katniss–and Katniss is both selfish and oblivious.

It’s obvious, then, that after Catching Fire the full-swing revolution of Mockingjay would catch off guard those who were still in a Catching Fire mindset, and it isn’t hard to see why those fans wouldn’t appreciate that. I, on the other hand, had been waiting for it all along.

So, that aside, some other thoughts:

I don’t like any member of the love triangle. Katniss is a sociopath. Gale is boring. Peeta is a creep. On the other hand, Finnick turned out to be awesome, Beetee was awesome from the start, and Johanna proved herself to be a complex, interesting, and tragic character. I would have liked to seen more of each of them, and instead Finnick got his head eaten, Beetee may or may not have killed Prim, and Johanna was never mentioned again after being forced to sit out of the battle. Oh, and did I mention that Effie only showed up for about two paragraphs?

Speaking of Prim’s death, I get the feeling I was supposed to care. I didn’t. Prim never got to be much of a character, really. In the first book, she was just a plot device, and that carried over into the second. In Mockingjay, she showed signs of being an actual character, but there was nothing to really define her. Prim was just a thing that is Good to the point of teetering on the edge of Sueness. So when she was killed it was more, “Sucks.” than “Oh, god, no, why!?”

However, Prim’s death is clever on the meta side of things: The Hunger Games‘s first Doorway of No Return is saving Prim’s life–it’s the one action that means Katniss cannot go back to the way things were.

Hunger Games‘s final Doorway of No Return is Prim’s death. At the end of that battle, at the point that Prim dies, Katniss is on her downward slide to the end point with no chance of doubling back and changing things.

So, yeah. That’s cool.

Know what wasn’t cool, though? The Babies Ever After ending. I hate Babies Ever After endings.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not taking the whole “I think I’m being a feminist, but I’m actually being an asshole trying to force other people to be like me”, “no woman should ever have babies because my philosophy’s the right one” route. I, like Katniss in Hunger Games do not ever want to have children. Katniss, unlike myself, did not want to have children because she didn’t want them to grow up in a world of starvation and deadly Hunger Games. And so it is perfectly logical for Katniss to reevaluate her position on parenthood once the Capitol and the Games are both out of the picture.

No, I’m annoyed because it’s a cliche. The flash-forward-to-the-children thing is always cliche and will always be cliche when anyone does it, ever, and yet they will do it again and again for as long as stories are told. And it will almost always annoy me.

So, what ending would I have liked instead? Try this on for size:

In all honesty, as soon as Katniss voted for a new round of Hunger Games. Opinions vary on the motives for her vote, and I’m not getting into that. What I am getting into is the repercussions of that vote.

When Katniss kills Coin, she is locked away for a certain amount of time before being released. While I was reading that short passage, I was getting excited because I am a terribly cruel person.

I totally thought Katniss, as punishment for betraying Coin and the rebels who supported Coin, was going to be forced to participate in the very Games she voted into existence.

How fucking awesome would that have been? Someone write that fic.

*sigh* But I’m not Suzanne Collins, so I suppose I’ll have to settle for babies. Unless someone writes that fic, please. Though I do have to say that one glorious and wonderful thing came out of Collins’ choice of ending.

The Buttercup scene. That came ohsoveryclose to redeeming Katniss. I don’t get emotionally attached to books often, but KITTY. A kitty’ll do it every time.

View all my reviews

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