This is not Battle Royale: The Hunger Games Trilogy, A Review

And I’ve done it.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding book blogs, specifically @president’s, mainly because I didn’t want to know how it ended. There’s more to the books, of course, a lot more than just the love triangle that everyone was so eager to place overzealous bets on, but that’s just it.

I’d be a liar not to say I cared more about who she ended up with than how the brutal games/uprising/revolution played out.

So.

As much as I wanted to read the rest of the trilogy right after finishing “Hunger Games”, I simply refused to spring for hard bound copies of the books. Hard bound copies are expensive, heavy and they wouldn’t go with the paperback first book I already have.

I found a way (ahem) to get copies from the vast wasteland that is known as the Internet, but I am loathe to read e-books. I hate them, they make my eyes and head hurt. By this time I’d decided I would get a Kindle, so I put off reading until this particular gadget made its way into my hands.

That was yesterday afternoon.

I started reading “Catching Fire” last night, then finished “Mockingjay” minutes ago. What I have to say won’t be particularly extraordinary, or powerful, or even helpful to those who haven’t read the book, but it’s a manner of exorcising the heavy feelings that the trilogy has imprinted on me.

Here goes then, and spoilers await.

First of all, wow.

Already I have been rendered inarticulate. I liked the first book well enough to want to read the rest of the trilogy, but “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” definitely blew it out of the water. There is nothing to fault in Suzanne Collins’ steady tone; her narration in Katniss’ occasionally unnerving balancing act between lucid and broken is undoubtedly moving.

Katniss Everdeen, a source of much consternation for me in “Hunger Games”, has completely won me over. Collins addresses her many flaws in “Mockingjay”, revealing through Peeta all that I have hated her for in the first book. Manipulative and dangerous, wavering and more of a survivor than a hero.

But it is perhaps this acknowledgement that finally brings Katniss full circle. When all a hijacked Peeta sees are her faults, the reader steps up, quick to counter his statement with a list of Katniss’ redeeming qualities. There are not many; she is not a particular favorite of mine among the many female literary characters I’ve come to know. But Katniss, for all her flaws and weaknesses, is a good person in every sense of the word.

More than Katniss, however, Collins achieves a bittersweet rendition of humanity at its bleakest and finest. The world they’d just destroyed was replaced by another one exactly like it, proposing another set of Hunger Games in retribution for past crimes. There is no promise of a better future, even with the deaths of Presidents Snow and Coin. There is nothing to guarantee that the games will not be repeated, in the same way that Hiroshima and Nagasaki may be the future we all eventually face.

It’s human, this folly of wanting to destroy the other in the hopes of achieving some sort of “greater good”. Collins presents this reality in a chilling, straightforward manner — no bullshit about the promises of a brighter tomorrow, no efforts to paint a smile on the aftermath of a war. It’s there, just there, no drama and no fanfare. You live with it, that reality of us being a nuclear switch away from Panem.

Despite her often moving prose and otherwise fluid writing style, Collins occasionally jars with a very bad case of telling more than showing. As the narrative is told from Katniss’ point of view, Collins’ narration of Katniss’ emotions can somehow take away from their sincerity, making it seem at times that Katniss is rationalizing said emotions rather than actually feeling them.

But when Collins shows, she shows. The old man whistling in District 11, the families of Rue and Thresh, the beating and death of Cinna — these tiny sparks are far more poignant than any of Kat’s internal monologues. They speak volumes without dragging the novels down with their weight, infusing the reader with a sense of loss that no amount of Kat’s self-reproach can ever hope to duplicate.

Finally: Peeta, Katniss and Gale. I’ve been rooting for Peeta from the start. There’s something about the Boy with the Bread that made him a much warmer presence than smoldering Gale. Where the world was filled with camps raring to destroy each other, he remained kind yet brave; beset with demons but fighting with all his might to remain a decent human being; a constant in a world falling apart faster than a house of cards.

And so I leave you with this brief yet very serious and mature conclusion to my review of the Hunger Games trilogy:

Peeta & Katniss!!!!

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