I haven’t posted multiple reviews in one post before today. One could argue that the Trilogy is really one long book, but hey with five days left in 2013 and one more book to go, I’m erring on the side of hurry up and finish. Write the three reviews together and dive into that last book!
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games works by itself or as the beginning of the trilogy because it comes to a relatively satisfying conclusion. The book introduces Panem, a country that exists in the ruins of what was once the United States. The Capitol tightly controls 12 districts and demands retribution from each district for a rebellion it crushed 75 years ago. The retribution is the Hunger Games in which each district must send two children (male and female) over the age of 12 to compete to the death until one victor remains. The Games are televised and are literally “must see TV,” citizens are required to watch the fate of the children.
The story is told in the first person by Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old from District 12, the mining district. She lost her father 5 years ago which caused her mother to suffer from severe depression. Katniss was left to fend for her younger sister, her mother and herself. Katniss is angry with her mother, she’s become a hunter and a loner except for her friend Gale.
When names are drawn for the games her younger sister Prim is chosen. Katniss volunteers in her place and along with Peeta, a baker’s boy she is sent into the Hunger Games. Because Katniss is the narrator of the story we discover everything through her. Her mistrust of everyone both serves her and hinders her. She’s surly, unfriendly and her chances of winning are slim.
The preparations for the games are extravagant. Other contestants come from districts with more advantages: more food, more resources and preparation. Katniss and Peeta are coached by the only past District 12 winner, Haymitch, who is a drunk. During the televised interview of the contestants Peeta declares his love for Katniss, and suddenly star-crossed lovers are competing against each other. This can work to their advantage because viewers will sponsor and support contestants they like. While Katniss has no feelings toward Peeta, his affection is real. And then the games begin.
During the course of the games Katniss and Peeta team with others and then with each other. At the end, they devise a way around the rules, and both are declared victors, a first in the 74 years of the Hunger Games. They return to District 12 triumphantly. You could stop there, but the seeds of rebellion have been planted. So on to Catching Fire.
Catching Fire begins with President Snow making a visit to Katniss, threatening her and her family because of the rebellious act that allowed her and Peeta to win the Hunger Games. During the games she had worn a token from her district, a pin in the shape of a mockingjay. She and the mockingjay have become symbols of defiance, which President Snow cannot tolerate. Further, the president knows that the love story between Peeta and Katniss isn’t real, but suggests that it better be, because their popularity with the populace is based on that story. She and Peeta are trotted out on the victory tour. They’ve never been to the other districts, but they see signs of dissent. During the next few months security tightens in District 12 and government abuse of the populace begins.
Every 25 years the games are called “quells” and include some special feature. For the 75th anniversary of the games, the Capitol announces that this year’s games will include two competitors from each district who were past winners. The Capitol has changed the rules especially for Katniss, as she is the only female winner from District 12. Of course Peeta will not allow Haymitch to participate, so both of them will be in the arena again.
Katniss is being forced into a role with which she isn’t entirely comfortable. She understands that a government that controls its populace through threatening its children’s lives is toxic. She is unsure what her role should be, weather rebellion will do any good. Her first instinct is to flee, get out of the districts entirely, but that choice, if it was ever available, is eliminated quickly. Snow has trapped her in the Quell, but she believes because of his charisma he would be a better rebel leader than she, and so she sets out to assure that he wins the game.
The other competitors in the game and a few others have different ideas, most of which she discovers, but not all. The game comes to an end, again through means not intended by the president, and all hell has broken loose. And the book ends. Onward to Mockingjay.
Mockingjay begins in the ashes of what was District 12. As a result of the collapsed Quell, the government bombed District 12 to smithereens. Her mother and sister are safe in District 13 which survives underground., Katniss has learned that the end of the Quell was planned by rebels, some of whom were players. She believes that she has been used and once again doesn’t know whom to trust. Several players were rescued, but the Capitol still has Peeta in custody.
The rebel leaders want Katniss to continue to be the face of the rebellion. President Coin, the leader of District 13 appeals to Katniss personally. Katniss doesn’t entirely trust her. Nevertheless she makes a deal with Coin that she will participate in exchange for a number of things including pardoning Peeta and other Quell participants that survive. Her old friend Gale has survived and is fighting for the rebels, ruthless in his determination to defeat the current government. Another player who survived is technically savvy, and the weaponry he and Gale are devising are frightening in their effectiveness.
Of course the Capitol isn’t going without a fight. President Snow uses every tool he can, including torturing the rebels who were caught and executing them on television. He tortures the Quell participants who weren’t able to escape, and reserves the worst for Katniss’s ally: Peeta. As the rebellion gets closer to succeeding, it is unclear whether Coin and her allies intend to change Panem, or merely change leadership. Has Katniss risked all just for more of the same?
The questions that the Hunger Games trilogy ask are in no way subtle, but they are the correct questions. Do the ends justify the means? Does the defeat of one evil guarantee it will be replaced by good? While some of the characters are clearly evil (Snow), or very good (Prim), most are more complex and more interesting. Seeing the entire process through Katniss’s eyes certainly provides a lot of surprises. This trilogy was very engaging and fun to read.