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The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I went back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to start my blog with a post about the Hunger Games. This book is EVERYWHERE. I only know a handful of people who haven’t read the books, or at the very least, seen the movie. I’ll admit that sometimes I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with books that become such a huge hype in pop culture. I am a diehard Harry Potter fan, but to this day, no one has convinced me to pick up the Twilight series.

I first started hearing distant rumblings about the Hunger Games series towards the end of last summer when my friend was debating reading it. Not knowing a lot about it and spotting it in the Young Adult section, I decided against it and left Barnes & Noble with another stack of books. Then those rumblings continued to grow, until finally they became a full on thunderstorm: appearing everywhere from my Facebook newsfeed, to Twitter, to spotting every person on the subway furiously reading a book from the trilogy.

And so, in late January, I thought it was time to join the cult. I was in the process of finishing Foundation by Isaac Asimov which, while I enjoyed the book, was not what I would consider a light read. I told myself the Hunger Games would be a welcome change of pace, and boy, was I right. There was a change of pace quite literally. It took me a few weeks to trek through Foundation whereas I finished the entire Hunger Games trilogy in just one week. All three books in seven days, and let me tell you, if I wasn’t working full time you could probably cut the number of days by half. I picked up the books every chance I got.

I’m very happy that I started reading the books while not really knowing much about them. I always want to kick myself after reading a review that reveals to many details. I had no idea what the so-called Hunger Games were and when I finally became aware I’m sure the look on my face was priceless. Yes, young children were expected kill each other in violent, gruesome ways. Yes this was supposed to be entertaining to a group of people. Special bonus, you got to (more like were forced to) watch as they happened.

While the Hunger Games are technically classified as “Young Adult” novels, I think the reason they resonate so much with everyone is the fact that very adult themes are developed through the course of the trilogy. The problems faced by the main characters, while futuristic, are in their simplest forms very scary and realistic issues. The use of propaganda to strike fear in the people of the districts is not something that hasn’t been used throughout the course of history by harsh and extreme dictators. Citizens of all the districts are constantly shown images of the war-torn and destroyed District 13 as a way of saying “Hey you, if you don’t stay in line, we’ll blow your district to smithereens just the same way that we did to District 13.”

The Hunger Games are televised in some sick version of a reality television show. Realizing this, I started thinking about the reality programming that is currently on television. Sure nothing seems as drastic in my weekly viewing of the Bachelor,

There are two women left, but only one rose. I can’t decide so please, let’s settle this with a fight to the death, winner take the rose battle… Preferably with spiked clubs.

but you have to question where reality TV started and how it’s continued to grow and progress. This is extreme, but again, not a completely unrealistic fear for the future. Even the idea of genetics and mutations (or muts as they’re called in the books) are not so far-fetched. I was reading an article in the New York Times (you can find it here) about just how not-crazy the concept of a mockingjay really is. Obviously you can’t just leave a mockingbird and a jay alone in a cage with a little wine and some Barry White, but the idea of genetic mutations created by scientists spreading into the wild is certainly not unfathomable.

Let’s get it on?

Another main reason that I thought the Hunger Games trilogy was such an enjoyable read came from the character development and relationships. I found the relationships between Katniss and all the other characters complicated and interesting. I struggled along with Katniss trying to decide which male character I wanted her to end up with in the end or if she should end up with anyone at all. In discussing these relationships with a friend, she made a great point. She said “you can’t decide because Katniss can’t decide, that’s what makes the books great. You’re so confused because she’s confused.” In speaking of the relationships that Katniss shares with the other characters in the book, I love that Collins manages to keep the romantic relationships prominent, while also allowing the other key themes to really shine.  A lot of books that feature a so-called “love triangle” as a prominent plotline frequently lose sight of everything else.  This is not the case in Hunger Games. In fact, Katniss tries to ignore any and all romance because she wants no part in starting a relationship and eventually bringing a child into such a violent world where they might have to participate in another round of the Hunger Games . With that being said, don’t get me wrong, I was as completely caught up in the Gale versus Peeta saga as most others were. But I was also concerned about Katniss’ relationship with her family, Haymitch, Cinna and all the other members of her community that suffered in a world of chaos and backward morals.

One last closing remark:  I’ve talked to a few of people who weren’t completely thrilled with the way the series ended. I personally really enjoyed the end, however I can understand their disappointment to a point.  In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t the happy fairytale ending that one might have hoped for. For me, this made the series all the better.  Change isn’t instant, it’s a gradual progression and I really appreciated that Collins uses this realistic aspect to create her (happy?) ending.

And while I was happy with the way the books ended, when they did end I was not happy. And by not happy I mean I had no idea what to do with myself. Fortunately though, I moved on… eventually.