The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The series centers around three main characters: Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne. This dystopian novel takes place many years into the future when the nation of Panem is divided into twelve districts. The way the dictator-like presidents have run the country for the past 75 years is by holding a Hunger Games once a year.
They reap two tributes from each district and put them in an arena where they fight to the death until there is only one person left standing, the Victor. These Games are held, supposedly, to “keep the peace” so that there won’t be another rebellion like there was before the Games started.
Katniss, an independent and sarcastic teen, volunteers as tribute when her younger sister’s name is called at the Reaping. Her best friend, harsh, but caring Gale Hawthorne, takes care of her family while she is taken to the 74th Hunger Games. Peeta Mellark, a sweet and innocent guy, is the second tribute from District 12 who meets Katniss in the Capitol where they begin training for their first Hunger Games. Together, they will have to overcome many obstacles in order to survive the Game the Capitol is playing—and they are the pieces.
I read this book for my own personal pleasure and was not required to write a review. Therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
Note: This review is of The Hunger Games series as a whole so it is much longer than our usual reviews. To read a review of book one by itself, you may visit this link:The Hunger Games.
What if the world treated you unfairly, but you didn’t feel like you could ever make a difference?
Then, one day…everything changed and you suddenly had a chance to make a bigger difference than you ever could have imagined? This is exactly what happened to Katniss.
To give you a better perspective as you continue reading my review, I would like to give a little backstory.
These books were becoming wildly popular right around 2012 when the first movie was released. At the time, I was around 14 years old and coming from a conservative, home-school family, I wasn’t allowed to read series like this. Therefore, only knowing the gist of the story (teenagers killing each other for no good reason) I had a very negative view of the trilogy in general for a long time. That is, until I saw one of the movies myself.
For three years, I let scenes from Catching Fire settle in the back of my mind. Then, finally, I asked my mom if I could read the series. Of course, being an official adult and everything, she said I could now use my own discretion to decide what I should or shouldn’t read. So, a year ago, I read The Hunger Games trilogy for myself. And it changed me. How, you ask? Well, one, I realized that I can’t judge a series completely based off of stereotypes or what other people say about it. I have to decide how I feel about these things for myself. And two:
I realized that Suzanne Collins is one of the best writers I’ve encountered in a while.
Now, I tell you this in order to distinguish my review from others. I’ve met many people who breezed through reading The Hunger Games, enjoyed the love triangle and Dystopian element, and walked away without a second thought. I want you to know that there is a lot more going on here than it may at first appear. So if you’re willing, let’s dig a little deeper.
First of all, most trilogies, or series in general, tend to start off strong. But as the books continue, the greatness of the story tapers off and by the time it ends, you’re ready to move on to something different. We’ve all said at least once in our lives “the first book was the best, but as for the rest…” For me, at least, this was not the case. I very much enjoyed The Hunger Games, but I liked Catching Fire much more and Mockingjay…talk about emotions. I loved that this trilogy built to an epic climax in every sense of the word.
The tension and power of the message never slowed down for an instant.
Second, I just love how Suzanne Collins interprets her characters. While her writing style in this series is not my favorite and I found myself re-reading some sections in order to truly understand what was happening, her strong-point is definitely her characters. Every single one from the often drunk and very embittered Haymitch to the entertaining, but occasionally heartless Caesar to the many sides of Finnick—they are each so raw and complicated and real. Even before I saw the movies where the wonderful and talented cast brought this story to life, these people were real in my mind.
Why did they feel so real?
I will try not to give too many spoilers as I continue, but I think the answer to that question is: flaws. Every character has a flaw (yes, even the perfect Peeta…I think 😉 ). These flaws help add to the feeling that what they’re all going through is real, too—even though I’m so glad it’s not!
Another thing I loved about this trilogy was Katniss and Peeta’s relationship. Never once is physical attraction between them mentioned in the books. Most YA novel romances that I’ve read are so centered on how attractive the love interest is that I begin to think that that’s all their relationship is hinged on. While we don’t get the opposite idea that either Katniss or Peeta are particularly ugly…honestly, it just doesn’t matter!
So what did their relationship hinge on, then—if not attraction?
Believe it or not, it was their shared experiences. They experienced two Hunger Games together and let me tell you, fighting to survive an arena together creates a bond like no other. Their romance was very much an action—not just feelings. As a Christian, I believe that that’s what real love is: action. Feelings come and go, and there were certainly times when they sure weren’t feeling in love in a given moment, but they never gave up on each other because they were able to see beyond their emotions. This alone is powerful stuff.
Suzanne Collins also grappled with the question of war in this trilogy.
When is it the right time to attack your enemy? Are there rules about human dignity that we shouldn’t break when we go to war with each other? When I can make a difference, but at a risk to myself, am I still obligated to do something? These and others are questions that her characters try to answer, each approaching it in different ways.
Katniss, whose perspective we were in the entire trilogy, was a bit of a hard character to read at times. She is blunt, sarcastic and very rough around the edges. She always says what’s on her mind, but what she’s thinking isn’t always pretty. And yet, at the same time she is also compassionate; she feels very deeply and personally when it comes to the people and events happening around her. All this to say, the Games broke her. And they broke Finnick, Joanna and Peeta and on and on. It broke all of them and changed them so that they’d never be the same. But they still needed to put themselves back together and move on, no matter how difficult it was.
Even though the series was written in first person and present tense (my least favorite combination ever) and Katniss was hard to like at times, I easily give this trilogy, as a whole, 5 out of 5 stars.
There was no profane language in the series and while there were several kisses, there was nothing especially explicit about them. The content, however, is very mature as it deals with some very tough topics. There is quite a bit of violence to be mindful of, though it was all done very tastefully. I was never grossed out or felt like Suzanne Collins had crossed the line in terms of gore. But because of the mature themes, I would probably recommend this book for ages 13 and up. This all depends on the maturity of the reader.
Valerie Cotnoir graduated from homeschooling in 2016. She is currently studying for a BA in History through online courses with Lumerit Education while working part time at the preschool at her church. Valerie was born in Montreal, Canada, but lived for fourteen years in Plano, Texas before moving with her family to the Raleigh area in North Carolina. She is the oldest of four and has two sisters and one brother. She’s been writing since she could hold a pencil and reading books just as long. She loves having deep conversations about theology, books and movies with friends and family. Her favorite memory verse is and has been for many years John 16:33:
“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”