Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Reviews: The Hunger Games Trilogy

So, over the last week or so I’ve been tearing through The Hunger Games Trilogy. I downloaded all of them onto my Kindle mostly because I had reached a plateau of indifference with The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series and needed a palate cleanser but also because I genuinely wanted to finally find out what all the fuss was about before the movie got released. And I have to say I’m really glad I did.  I’ve decided to review the trilogy as a whole instead of reviewing the books individually, because I’m not sure what I can say about them individually that everyone and their dog hasn’t already said. I also want to do a blog post or multiple posts comparing the movie cast with who I have in my head, which I’ll get to later.

But for now lets deal with the books shall we? I wanted to talk about each book on their own merits, but I think I’d like to talk about the entire story arc instead. The problem I had with the story as a whole that I did not have with the individual books themselves is that I think the series wanted to be two things, it wanted to be about love triangle between three people put in a very difficult situation, which is why it kept putting Katniss in between Gale and Peeta. But it also wanted to be a story about governmental power and how media and entertainment can be perverted and manipulated to control the masses but how it can also be used as a tool of rebellion. Both stories are fine and can be told together, as was shown masterfully by the first two books, but if you can’t figure out how to end both uniformly, which I feel was the case in the third book, just do one.

See, the thing is, I’m still really hung up on the third book for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. I fell asleep the night after I finished the book, perturbed with how the book  and the series as a whole finished and I woke up the next day just as perturbed for reasons I don’t understand. What I’m coming to figure out is that for the first three-quarters of the book, I was excited because I couldn’t quite tell where the author was going with the story. And then I realized neither did she. Susanne Collins, I truly believe, did not know how to end the story and so she wrote about a million different endings that kept piling onto each other in ways that didn’t make sense.

O.k., I’m about to get really spoilery for quite awhile.  If you haven’t read the third book, stop reading. First of all, the book pissed me off when Prim got killed off because it got rushed to that part. How Prim ended up in the middle of the battle field felt so forced and strange and absurd to everything else that had happened. Having Katniss injured (AGAIN! Seriously, this is some kind of torture porn on par with the abuse The Bride has to take in the Kill Bill series, its almost ridiculous!) and in this weird comatose state didn’t help matters either because it felt inauthentic to the Katniss we’d known throughout the entire series. And then! Pinning the whole bombing back on the leader of the rebel alliance, President Coin, felt even more forced and absurd. The big kicker was assembling the survivors of the games and having them decide if another games should be held, this time with Capitol survivors was so completely craze balls random that I can’t even figure out why it would be there. I mean I get it, but I still don’t get it. And to solve the whole romantic triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta by having Katniss and Peeta just sorta… end up together. It felt off. You build these characters up, and explain their reliance and love for each other and then you just let it peter out like that? Really? Like I said, the first three-quarters gave me the feeling that it could’ve ended any number of ways, so for it to end up the way it did just felt like a lot of wasted energy.

I still love the series as a whole, but I feel there could have been some forethought placed on the ending that would’ve put for heft on everything that preceded it. An argument could be made for the ending that is there being more realistic. It’s not as if I thought the Mockingjay would rise to power and start running the government. That really wasn't Katniss's bag from the very beginning. I very much thought she’d end back up in the forest she loved, but not the way she did. Okay, rant done.

So, to be thorough, I give Hunger Games, the first book an A, Catching Fire an A+ and The Mockingjay a solid B. The series a whole, I give a B+ and I’m really super excited for the upcoming movie. Keep it tuned here for my casting analysis for all three books.

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