When I watched the 2012 film "The Hunger Games" and enjoyed it, I became interested in reading the books which they were based on. It was when I saw "Catching Fire" in the theater and was blown away that I knew that was going to happen. My goal became to read the trilogy before the movie came out of DVD, and I accomplished that. The DVD releases tomorrow, and yes, I have plans to watch it tomorrow night. What was it that I enjoyed so much about these stories? Let's dive into that.
"The Hunger Games
" tells the story of a nation divided into 12 deprived districts and one rich, opulent Capitol. The Capitol has been ruling Panem since the districts revolted 74 years ago, and it keeps the districts isolated and impoverished through various means. Each year, to remind the districts that rebellion doesn't pay, one boy and one girl are chosen from each sector to meet in an arena and fight to the death. Only one of the twenty-four tributes will come out alive. Called the Hunger Games, this is the Capitol's triumph every year, and the Games are reality TV at its overly-glorified worst.
On the Reaping Day, when the tributes for the Hunger Games are selected, heroine Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute after her 12-year-old sister is originally selected. Katniss has been the breadwinner in her family for several years and is fiercely protective of her sister. The male tribute selected is Peeta Mellark, who, unknown to Katniss, has been drawn to her ever since they were in first grade together. Katniss wants nothing to do with Peeta, knowing that if she is to survive it means she might have to kill him in the arena. They arrive at the Capitol and are shocked at its gaudiness and worldliness compared to their home in District 12. The tributes receive a few days of training and are run through interviews with the media before they are dropped into the arena and the battle for their lives begin.
In the book it is clear just how cunningly Katniss approaches the Games. She knows every moment is televised and she plays that to her advantage. This is unlike the movie, where it almost seems accidental that Katniss handles the experience as well as she does. Her time spent illegally hunting back at home gives her a strong advantage over the rest of the tributes. Always her goal is to avoid Peeta, until the unexpected announcement that if the final two tributes are from the same district they will both be crowned winners. Then her goal becomes finding Peeta and keeping him alive so that they can win together. There are many obstacles she faces, including injury, dehydration, and certainly the other tributes. Then there's the Capitol, who has an agenda which they do not want to see overthrown, especially not by Katniss, who has been nicknamed The Girl Who Was On Fire. Coming from the smallest, poorest district, her showing them up would be a very bad thing indeed.
" tells the story of the consequences Katniss faces for having won the Games and unknowingly given the districts a spark of hope that freedom from the Capitol might be possible. Threatened with having her family and closest friends killed if she refuses to be a pawn for the Capitol, Katniss pretends to be a rule-follower and in love with the man of the Capitol's choosing. But it isn't enough, and to further punish her, the Capitol announces that for the 75th Hunger Games, the male and female tributes will be selected from the pool of previous victors. As the only female victor from District 12, Katniss has no choice but to face the arena again. This time she knows the Capitol will stop at nothing to kill her. But behind her back, a rebellion has been forming, an alliance of inside players whose goal is to keep The Girl Who Was On Fire alive. These Games play out very differently from the previous ones, and come to an unexpected and shocking end when the rebellion inside and outside the arena reaches full scale.
," very few know for sure whether The Girl Who Was On Fire is alive or dead, but she has unwittingly become the face of a revolution. The remaining tributes from the 75th Games who were whisked by the rebels to their new seat of military force, District 13, deal with heavy PTSD, while the ones who remain the clutches of the Capitol are tortured and forced to make pleading television appearances begging for the uprising to come to an end. This book is a tale of two halves: the first of coming to grips with the horrible things in the past and becoming resolute on what needs to happen in the future, and the second holds a military campaign to overthrow the Capitol once and for all. I actually preferred the first half of the book, because it was very real for what our characters had gone through. Their tragedies were not carelessly overlooked. Plus reading about military assaults isn't my cup of tea. As the battles unfold, who is really trustworthy? Does the rebellion leadership have a better agenda than that of the Capitol? More sacrifices will be made, more lives will be lost, more surprising decisions will happen. The conclusion, however, is satisfying, even if it didn't include all the characters I wanted to still be alive at the end.
This trilogy is a departure from what I normally read, but I was glad to go on this journey. I like being challenged to think about liberty and freedom, and the very high price it can require. Would I risk everything if it was asked of me? What would I do if forced to make some of the decisions that Katniss and others face? I would hope to have the strength and faith to, as Peeta put it in the first book, not let it change who I really am.