“Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run
So we’d both be free
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met at midnight
In the hanging tree” – Mockingjay, pg. 124
These eerie words haunt the pages of The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins’ young adult masterpiece. Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and Gale Hawthorne set the dystopian world of Panem into motion with a spark of rebellion that starts the fire of revolution.
Love & Loyalty
These two themes bleed through the tear-soaked pages of this trilogy. Collins’ message is loud and clear—don’t give up on the ones that you love. Ever. Through hell and back, Katniss Everdeen is fiercely loyal to her family and her friends (who are few and far between). Her love, though it be a tough love, is stronger than the iron grip of the corrupt Capitol and anything they can do to her.
The Hunger Games burst on the scene in 2008 and has since become a global phenomenon, which includes holding the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list and becoming major motion pictures. The book series is a critically acclaimed work of art that has permeated culture today and is one of the most widely-read books among teens and young adults. Like Everdeen, it too caught fire.
The premise of the book, while dark, is brilliant. The execution is even more remarkable. Collins demonstrates an unusual level of talent in her deliberate, ingenious crafting of setting, character, and plot and how she weaves together the three elements. She creates believable characters who develop richly over the course of the trilogy. Moreover, these characters are some of the most loveable people a reader will even encounter—it is hard to let them go as the final pages of the book slip through one’s fingers.
As dazzling as the characters were, the books were equally dark and gruesome. Since the very definition of dystopian is something characterized by oppressive government and circumstances as well as human misery, it is understandable that this book would be rather dark. It also goes without saying that there was much violence in this series (consider the premise), but it should be stated that much of this violence was described rather graphically. There has been much controversy over the graphic nature of this trilogy. The vivid descriptions of violence elicit an array of emotions in the reader, which is their primary purpose. They also help to develop the plot and help you understand the motivations and experiences of the characters. Is this a reason to discard this entire series? Not necessarily, no, though readers should use discretion—particularly if they are younger or more sensitive to violence.
There are also several instances in which a character is nude for a scene. In these situations, it is never explicit nor is it sexually-related. Additionally, a character recalls at one point how he was sold into prostitution. There are times at which the hopelessness of the situation is so oppressive that multiple characters consider suicide and one character actually attempts it.
This book oppressively gloomy and hopeless. It is what I would call “necessarily dark”, meaning that without it being so grim, this book series would lose out on its capability to really suck a reader in and involve their emotions. Additionally, all of the darker themes in this trilogy were tied directly into the plot and therefore were necessary.
The pacing of the books is very well done in the first two books. When it comes to Mockingjay, the third installment in this series, Collins plummets. Her pacing is dreadful, her writing quality reprehensible, and her story mediocre. While the other two books demonstrated remarkable writing talent, she no longer took chances in the third book; she took the “easy way out” on many elements in the story. The inability to finish strong detracts from the overall quality of the book series, but it was still a solid read.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a piece of political or dystopian fiction as well as those who enjoy modern science fiction literature. For those who may not enjoy these particular genres of literature, this series can still be worth your time. There are many lessons to be learned from Katniss and the world of Panem. As you read, however, do not just accept this trilogy as “another good story”, but assess how the feelings and circumstances of the characters relate to your life and the Word of God. Katniss is a very real character because, like us, she is imperfect and acts on emotion rather than logic