Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20 - Hunger Games Trilogy **SPOILERS**

(The spoilers will start later, and I'll give another warning before I get into that part of it all.)

I love to browse the book section almost every time I go shopping.  I'd seen the Hunger Games trilogy many times, had even picked them up several times, but in the end never bought them.  They seemed to be the new hot thing but each time I paused to consider them it was always that post-apocalyptic thing about them that turned me away.  Then YouTube (of course) made me reconsider.  Many of the gurus I'd been watching were doing reviews of these books and loved them.  Teenagers, adults, girlie-girls, everyone seemed to love these books.  Maybe I should give them a chance?!  But still, I kept passing them by.

Hubby doesn't read nearly as much as I do.  Well, honestly, he reads one book a year and that is whenever the new Piers Anthony Xanth book comes out.  Perhaps he's catching my reading bug now though because this spring he mentioned he'd like to find more to read.  I immediately thought of the Hunger Games books again.  He watches those futuristic type movies, the sci-fi stuff, the things I thought these books were about.  I thought this would be my chance to try reading them and if I didn't like them could pass them on to hubby.

(Ok, pause here while I explain that 99% of the time the books I read are books that I buy.  Every once in a while I will borrow one from someone.  But almost never do I go to the library.  I love libraries but I don't like the time limit I have to read the books, and I usually don't even have time to GO to the library.  So while you might be sitting there wondering why I didn't just get The Hunger Games from the library and if I didn't like it just take it back . . . well, now you now.)

While talking to a male coworker who also loves to read, I asked if he'd read these books.  He said he'd read the first one and loved it but had heard bad things about the other two.  I asked if it was too girlie for my hubby, and he said no.  I asked if it was too sci-fi for me, and he said no.  So the next time hubby was shopping with me I pointed out these books and he looked them over.

"Sure, I'll give it a shot," he decided, and put the first book in the cart.  A week or so goes by and he's having a hard time getting motivated to read.  When he finally does start, he can't get into it.  He doesn't like the writing style.  He doesn't think he'll like it or finish it, and sets it aside.  I had been struggling through an absolutely horrible book at the time and decided to dump mine and try The Hunger Games.  And was immediately hooked!  Why had I waited so long???

(Spoilers will begin now . . . )

The Hunger Games
'Winning means fame and fortune.  Losing means certain death.  The Hunger Games have begun . . . 

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts.  The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards is as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games.  But Katniss has been close to dead before --- and survival, for her, is second nature.  Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.  But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.'

Even though this is not the type of thing I'd normally read, I loved this book.  I was hooked immediately and all the way through.  It was the first book in quite a while that I didn't want to put down, and couldn't wait to get back to.  It's definitely not too futuristic or sci-fi.  My stomach was in knots, I mean full on stress, worry, fear for these kids.  Ok, maybe that doesn't sound fun, doesn't sound like something you'd like to read, but my point is that the story pulls you in.  I found myself thinking about what my own odds would be if I found out today that I was being thrown into an arena with nothing but the clothes on my back and had to avoid being killed by the 23 other people who were also trying to survive.  Could I do it?  Ha.  I'd have been dead in the initial blood bath. 

Katniss chooses distance and avoidance as her survival technique.  This may seem like the way to go, but in the end you'll have to kill at least one person to win.  Along the way she does form a couple of alliances, but again, in the end she'll have to kill her allies.  It's nerve wracking and heartbreaking to think about!  Is it better to team up with someone, get you through a few more days, knowing you'll have to kill that 'friend' at some point anyway?  Things like that was what made this book so captivating.  I like that we don't get too much information about the Games beforehand, not too many details about exactly how it all works.  It's like we are going through it too, finding out things as though we really were just another helpless child thrown into the madness.

Even for as much as I loved it, there were some weak points.  The whole 'fake romance for the cameras' part of the storyline was dorky to me.  It was supposed to be a way to draw the audience's sympathy for this doomed couple, to get more sponsors and boost their chances.  And then one would have to kill the other at some point.  I didn't like this part of the story because they kept saying it had to be done, they had to fool the Capitol.  Why?  It was weak to me.

Another part that didn't work for me was the sudden announcement that oh we're going to change the rules this year and there can be two winners as long as they are both from the same district.  What?  Why?  It seemed like a pointless thing to throw in, especially half way through the Games.  It seemed like a very weak choice for how to move the story where the writer wanted it to go, especially when that announcement was later changed and they went back to 'only one can survive.'  To me, it might have been better to leave that whole two winner thing out and still have the berries drama at the end.  It would have still be Katniss and Peeta teaming up and faced with one killing the other, and the end still could have been the same.

The heartbreaker of this book was definitely when little Rue died.  Oh my gosh, have your Kleenex handy for that.  And I've seen the girl who will be playing her in the movie.  Yep, pretty sure I'll be bawling.

Catching Fire
'Sparks are igniting.  Flames are spreading.  And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games.  She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive.  Katniss should be relieved, happy even.  After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale.  Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be.  Gale holds her at an icy distance.  Peeta has turned his back on her completely.  And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol --- a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop.  And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try.  As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever.  If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.'

I did not like this book.  It picks up pretty much where the first book ends, but the fact that it is almost completely based on what I found to be the weakest part of the first book (the fake romance) pretty much doomed this one for me.  Where I can maybe see pretending to be star crossed lovers in the first book could get you a few sympathy votes from viewers of the Games, I fail to see how discontinuing the charade could possibly bring down a government.  Really?  'Oh Katniss and Peeta would rather die to be together' in the suicide berries pact at the end of the Games is somehow turned into an act against the government.  And not only that (weak and stupid as it is), those secret underground rebel forces see that as the motivator they need to kick their uprising into gear.  Huh?  And oh what a coincidence, it's time for the Quarter Quell games . . .  something that was never even mentioned before this, I don't think . . . and oh, we're going to change it big time this year and punish you and keep the country in line by sending you back to the arena.  HUH???  Just because it worked in the first book doesn't mean it will again.  And this second Games was too complicated, like it just had to outdo the first book.  For me it failed miserably, went way too overboard.

I just don't like where the story went with this one.  If it was going to be about the growing unrest, ok, I might have still been ok with that if it hadn't been dependent on the cheesy points of the first book.  Maybe I'm just not 'getting' it because this is not the type of story I usually read.

There were a few good parts, like Katniss's struggle to return to her previous, normal life.  Gale distancing himself from her was sad.  Not wanting to leave the old rundown shack of a home she'd been raised in to go to a rich fine government gifted home was sad.  Peeta getting mad and being surprised that her feelings hadn't been real in that fake romance was sad.  But the heart breaker in this one, even though I hated the idea of it in general, was her reaction when she found out they'd be going back into the arena.  She hadn't been expecting it, and neither had I.  Seriously, I think I gasped and my eyes were immediately tear-filled.  I loved her reaction, trying to run from the reality.  Too bad the rest of the book couldn't match those few moments.

'My name is Katniss Everdeen.  Why am I not dead?  I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed.  Gale has escaped.  Katniss's family is safe.  Peeta has been captured by the Capitol.  District 13 really does exist.  There are rebels.  There are new leaders.  A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it.  District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol.  Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans --- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for the countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem.  To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distress.  She must become the rebels' Mockingjay --- no matter what the personal cost.'

I love the name Mockingjay.  I loved to hear people say the word in the YouTube reviews I watched.  Too bad I didn't like this book either.  Well, I liked it better than the second one, but would still have to classify it as 'didn't like.'  Again, this one plays on the whole idea that one little 17 year old girl is the only way this massive uprising, years in the making, can happen.  That just does not work for me.  I understand there needs to be some trigger, something to make the rebels decide 'Now is the time!' and the suicide berries incident could have been that fuse to light this bomb . . . but don't hinge it all on one girl after that.  Include her in the rebellion, sure.  Have her work with them, for them, help them, but don't make the whole dang thing dependant on her.

This book is much more straight up war type stuff.  Again, not my preferred type of story but I found this one less annoying because it was more of just that.  Plotting, planning, training, attacking.  Not so much of the Capitol inconsistencies or cheesy plot points.  Wait, I did think Peeta's whole storyline was rather ridiculous, at least up until the very end.

The heart breaker of this one was not when a certain main character died, but absolutely when Buttercup the cat returned.  I'd forgotten all about him by that time so yeah, when he returned and what happened upon his return had me bawling, yep.

In the end, I'm glad I finally read the series even though I didn't really like 2/3 of it.  That doesn't mean they are bad books.  As I've pointed out, this is not a subject I would normally read.  Maybe fans of this type of story understand the reasons for what I found to be weak or unnecessary.  I'm not saying you shouldn't read them.  I'm saying that *I* was disappointed with where the story went.  I guess I was hoping for something more sappy, like her struggles to return to a 'normal' life, or Gale's troubles in relating to her after the trauma of the Hunger Games.  I mean, she'd gone through something with Peeta that others could never imagine, and she has a bond with him now that even Gale can't quite compete with him.  Maybe there could have been rebel action, inspired by her berry antics, that she was no more a part of than anyone else in the common world of the districts.  You know, she's trying to resume her 'normal' life and sort out her troubles while the uprising is taking place around her . . . but not involving her.  She's a bystander torn between 'Yay, topple the government' and 'Go away, you're making things worse!'

I'm excited about the upcoming movie.  Like other books I've been less than thrilled with, I'm hoping the movie versions are better for me.  Hehe!


  1. I liked reading this. I had only heard the name "Hunger Games" and knew nothing about the series and had no plans to read it, so reading this review 1) didn't ruin anything for me, and 2) now I'll have a clue if other people I know talk about them. Lol :D

    The weak points you mentioned do seem weak. I wonder if I would feel differently if I actually read the books.

  2. I think the first one is definitely worth reading. I don't think the movie will do as good a job of conveying the terror and horror of the idea but I'm anxious to see it anyway.