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

Ages 15 and up

This is a series that I had been looking forward to reading for months. It was recommended by a friend who has impeccable taste in books. However, said friend also mentioned that the second book, Catching Fire, happens to have a doozy of a cliffhanger ending. So I thought, that knowing how well I don’t handle cliffhangers–it might be wise for me to wait until the final book was in stores. All of that to give my excuse for taking this long to finally read the series. That said–there is no excuse for not reading this series. None at all. Ever. You get the point.

From start to finish, Collins leads the reader (which will hopefully be you) through an intense journey–one of the most intense journeys I have ever been through as a reader. I was literally shaking when I finished Mockingjay. Collins kept me wanting to turn to the next page a little sooner, yet she was so in control that when I had to put the book down and carry on with my life I could. I wasn’t worried about what would happen next (except with the last 100 hundred pages, but that was excitement rather than wory). It was sort of riveted detachment. That’s not a contradiction I’ve experienced before.

Granted, it is a violent series. the premise introduced in Hunger Games–a sadistic Olympics where 24 teens fight until only one is left standing–guarantees some blood and violence. But I’ve read gorier (The Illiad anyone?) and some of that is considered classic literature (see previous aside) with the gore only there for shock value (see again).  Here it helps define the struggle of the main character to hold on to her humanity–or at least have some remaining when the games are over. It also provides an interesting glimpse of where mindless entertainment can lead. For the parents of young teens I would suggest reading this book before you let them, if only to know what the heck they are talking about when they want to discuss it.

And while we are on the subject of character: Collins has created some beautiful characters. Her mastery of the first-person narrative had Katniss commenting on aspects on my own life long after the books were finished. Her thought process felt as complicated and conflicted as my own can feel in times of stress. Plus, Collins creates a legitimate love triangle. I’m not talking about a childhood acquaintance thrown in just to stir up drama when the guy you know the heroine will end up with skips town. I’m talking two guys, each with equally strong (but different) ties to her heart. Even though I had an idea of who Collins was setting her up with (and I agree with her choice), I spent the majority of books two and three quite content with her ending with either guy. Partly, because romance wasn’t really what this story was about–it’s merely a piece of the big picture (If that isn’t a lot like life, I don’t know what is.)

This is obviously not a light, fluffy read. It was fun in places, but also hard. After all that Katniss goes through though, happily ever after is not an ending that she can immediately reach. She’s been through too much to be completely okay by the end of Mockingjay’s 27 chapters, but she (well, they) is on her way there and still fighting like she has from page one. This series is real, it’s not a happy-go-lucky fairytale–but it’s also not entirely a tragedy. It is well-written and thought provoking and surprising (yes, it’s not something I experience very often so it should count for double). And quite possibly among one of the best series you will ever read.

I take that back–There is no possibly about it.

Who Should read This: Any one who enjoys future fics with post-Apocalypse premises.

This is a Good Example of:

  • First person narrative
  • Relationships between characters (both friends and enemies)
  • Character development
  • Plot and story twists
  • Balance of overall big picture with character’s romantic life
  • How to have you readers banging at the bookstore door begging for the next book (See specifically, Catching Fire)

This book is one my recommended reading list.

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