I have already mentioned it in previous reviews, but when it comes to hypes, I try to be careful. Sure, when a novel or a series gets hyped, there has to be something in there that makes it so big, but I’ve learned that it might not always turn out the way I prefer. I won’t go into details about it, but let’s say that I’ve had my share of disappointments. However, with friends – whom I trust when it comes to books – gushing over it and the movie, at the time, about to pop up in theatres, we took a chance and bought The Hunger Games boxed set when it was half the price at Waterstones. To make a long story short: It was money well spent.
Now, more than three years later, Mockingjay Part 2 is about to be released, which brings the franchise to a close. In honour of this, I decided to reread the trilogy starting this month. With a book a month, I’ll finish both the books and the movies i November.
Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.
The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
So, the premise. It’s quite something, isn’t it? On the surface, it’s a really entertaining plot but at the same time very thought-provoking, for it takes everything we know and magnifies them to the extreme. There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to poverty and richness, reality-TV has become a monstrosity and democracy became the dreaded T-word. The cruelty of mankind gets its time in the spotlights, and it isn’t pretty. The reader sees everything from the main character’s point of view and when you sense her bewilderment over the excess in the Capitole, you can’t really help but reflect on your own life a bit. Are we doing alright, or are we having our own Hunger Games in a foreseeable future. The Games an sich are an excellent plot device for they trigger interest, suspense and tension. From the very start, the Games are announced and the book slowly builds towards the very start of it. Every time you finish a chapter during the first half, you’ll be wanting them to begin. And begin they will. Once we are in the arena, the book reads like an action movie. Where the plot has been building to the start of the Games, it really takes off here. Grabbing you and never letting go with surprises and touching moments along the way. Despite the nature of the Games, the book isn’t gruesome. There are a few icky moments here and there, but because we see everything thtough Katniss’s eyes, we’re spared from the brutality of vicious killers like Cato and the like.
“And begin they will…
As I mentioned, we see everything through the eyes of the main character, Katniss. Now, this has some pros en cons. First the con, and that is, you only get to know what she knows. That is a pity, cause the world she lives in is so interesting and you want to get to know that world. Well, I wanted to. But because you’re limited to Katniss’s head, you don’t get all that much but what we know is enough to keep going. Another drawback is that we don’t know what’s happening elsewhere. But whilst that is a bit of a drawback at the beginning, it becomes a major pro when the Games actually start. Being limited to Katniss her thoughts, we get to experience the Games the way she does. No knowledge in advance about sneaky Tributes who lurk around the corner, waiting to stab you where it hurts. No, when Katniss discovers, you do. This really brings the tension to the book and I found it really well-executed. The other character of interest is Peeta, the boy Tribute from District 12. We don’t get to know him all that well, but I really liked what was going on between him and Katniss and the twisted way she feels about him. The other characters don’t stand out that much, and even Peeta fell a bit flat for me. It’s all about Katniss here and where it would’ve bothered me in another book, it didn’t here. That being said, I would have liked to get to know Rue a bit better, and Effie is golden. Though I must say that movie-Effie comes to mind when reading, so my perception is muddles by the brilliant performance of Elizabeth Banks..
“sneaky Tributes who lurk around the corner
If, as an author, you can manage to get me not to mind the characters all that much, you must be doing something good. And Suzanne Collins is definitely doing something good here. The writing style also fits the book. There aren’t any long and convoluted phrases, but she keeps it rather short and it works really well. This book is all about the tension the story creates and the short sentences accentuate the overall feel of the book. Rapid. Quick. Haunted. Hunted. Always on guard en no time to have an idle chat about the weather. The story, as a result, is quite fast-paced, especially when the Games do begin. From then on, you’re at the top of a rollercoaster and all that’s left is the plunge down. It’ll be over before you notice it. Or is it?
Today, after reading the book for the second time and having seen the movie numerous times, it stays a brilliant story and a great book. The knowledge of what was to come did take some tension away from the whole experience, but like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games is one of those series you’ll always enjoy.
★ ★ ★ ★