The Hunger Games Trilogy

Here be spoilers.

No, seriously, I’m going to talk about my thoughts and feelings on the entire Hunger Games series and the ending of Mockingjay in particular so if you’re one of those people who’s waiting for the next two films to find out what happens then I have two pieces of advice:

1. Don’t. Go and read the books, they’re guaranteed to be so much better and you’ll get a much richer experience.

2. Stop reading this post. Now.

And so to business. I’ve just finished re-reading the trilogy for the third time and I actually read Mockingjay twice just to confirm my thoughts. I’ve mentioned before how much I like this series but it seems that the more I read it, the better it gets. I read it in June 2013 and mentioned in this post that I found it even better than the first time and I found the same this year. So I wanted to devote some blog-space to discussing why.

It seems to be a pretty common opinion that the first book is the best and that the series declines from there onwards and I generally agree. It feels to me almost like book number 1 was written as a stand-alone novel with two unplanned sequels tagged on the end which is something I think spoiled my enjoyment the first time round. In fact even having read them and enjoyed them I think I’d still be pretty happy if books 2 and 3 had never existed. The bittersweet ending of The Hunger Games has a quality of 1984 to it, a reminder that things don’t always end happily ever after.

The first time I read the series I definitely felt that the sequels were a bit flat and almost cobbled together in comparison and I found the grand finale to be unspeakably disappointing. I felt like the whole series had been building up to a dramatic climax and in the end Collins just had Katniss get knocked out and wake up once it was all over. I hate, hate, hate that kind of cop-out ending which seems to suggest the author ran out of ideas and doesn’t know what to do with the suspense they’ve built up over the length of the novel.

I think this kind of view is natural when you’re reading it for the first time – you’ve spent three books getting to know Katniss and to root for her and view her as the saviour of Panem so when she fails to deliver there’s a natural disappointment.

But reading it this time (and maybe because I knew what was coming) I felt differently. Because realistically, how could we expect Katniss to be the hero we expect her to be? Apart from the fact that she’s only 17, a fact that is easy to forget given the maturity and world-weariness of her narrative, by the end of book 3 she’s completely broken. Entirely understandable given all that she’s been through but hardly hero material.

She blunders through the Capitol with only the bare bones of a plan and a single aim – to kill President Snow but if she had, by some miracle, succeeded would that act really have ended the war? I’m not convinced that it would. Snow must have had some kind of deputy who would have stepped into his place, used her actions to prove that the Mockingjay was deranged and potentially destroyed the rebels campaign completely. And who among us would have accepted that Katniss was able to reach and murder the president in his fortress when she had such a tenuous grip on reality never mind her own location?

So on reflection, given the very real picture of Katniss’ “mental disorientation” Collins had painted I think that the ending on Mockingjay was spot-on, I’m still not completely convinced about Coin, I’m not quite sure that her death was necessary but I preferred Paylor so I’m not complaining.

One of the other things that I know a lot of people are unhappy about is the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle so I’m going to share some of my thoughts on that as well.

First of all, I have no doubt that if she’d never had to go to the games, Katniss and Gale would have ended up together one way or another although whether they would have had children I doubt.

But things didn’t turn out that way and is it really any wonder? Even if we forget the fact that Katniss did have history, of a sort, with Peeta can we just consider everything that the two of them went through together. At the age of 16, when none of us are particularly stable hormonally speaking, they were thrown together, forced to demonstrate a deep an abiding love for each other (real or not) and put through a hell which they both only survived because of the other one. Now even if there weren’t some kind of feelings there before all of that, it’s hardly surprising that there would be after. And maybe Katniss did come out of the arena feeling confused about her feelings towards Peeta but she hadn’t exactly had time to think things through and sort fantasy from reality had she? In the most intense of situations she’d been forced to enact a romantic attachment and coming out of that arena she should have been given space to process her feelings, the events of the Games and what she wanted to happen next but she wasn’t. Instead she was thrown back into Peeta’s arms for the Victory Tour and the Quarter Quell and confronted with the realisation that Snow was going to insist on them having a Forever After (Happy presumable optional).

So of course she was confused and then we can add in the fact that she was somewhat preoccupied with her post-traumatic stress and the fact that her entire world was teetering on the edge of extinction and why exactly are we so surprised that her romantic liaisons weren’t exactly straightforward?? In actual fact all she really seemed to want was to be left alone whereas it was the rest of the world who wanted her to have nothing else on her mind but picking a potential husband. I think this point is proved perfectly by the fact that she’s so surprised when Coin suggests that Gale should be presented as Katniss’ lover in the propos. All she wants is someone she trusts standing by her side, supporting her. Which is all anyone in her position would want. So can we stop with the love triangle nonsense please?!

I think one of the reasons that this has become such an issue is down to the films. In the books we get insight into all the intricacies of Katniss’ thought processes, we get the true nature of her history with Peeta which is skated over in the films as well as her clear confusion over Gale’s romantic feelings. Katniss’ inner voice is something which is seriously missing from the films, without it I feel like they’re quite flat, lacking a layer and texture which make Katniss a real person in the books and making me quite nervous about film 3 (UK release date: 21st November!). In the final book Katniss does a lot of sitting and staring at dust specks or generally hiding from the world which I don’t think will really work on film. I’ve seen films that do take that tack and they’re as boring as hell (Three Colours Blue, avoid, avoid!). In the book we actually hear her inner pain rather than imagining it as she stares into space on screen so I’m worried about how it’s going to translate. However, given the trailers that have been released so far I’m still pretty excited to see how it works out!

I seem to have gone on for a lot longer than I intended but if you’ve stuck with me this long I’d love to hear your thoughts on The Hunger Games!

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6 responses to “The Hunger Games Trilogy

  1. I have a lot of love for this post. I keep meaning to reread the trilogy, hoping that prior knowledge will make me see the ending in a different light but I’ve not gotten around to it yet. I just felt like the end of Mockingjay completely ruined what was otherwise an amazing story, but I think rereading it will make me think of it a little more like you! Your thoughts on the love triangle are interesting too, I always read Katniss as being asexual and that her feelings for both Peeta and Gale were platonic that became something more intense because of her experiences in the games… It’s definitely more of film invention! (Kind of ironic considering that the story is about the world being more concerned with their love than the fact that kids are being made to kill each other.)

    • I definitely felt the same about the ending, I wasn’t really looking forward to re-reading it but I had a completely different perspective this time so it would be really interesting to see if you feel the same when you get round to it!

      And yes on Katniss, I sort of assumed she isn’t asexual because how often is that a thing on mainstream literature?! And also I think that while she definitely seems to be, a lot of her feelings are coloured by her refusal to have children in case they end up in The Games so she never sees relationships as an option. It’s much more of a thing in the films which really annoys me but what else can you expect from Hollywood 😦

  2. I adored the book Mockingjay, I really don’t understand why so many people disliked it (except for the whole being knocked out thing). I thought it was so powerful and had some really important messages about the reality of war, messages that seem even more important with the state of things going on in the world at the moment. I think that’s one of the things that makes The Hunger Games trilogy stand above the rest of YA dystopian fiction. I feel like some of the political aspects were more detailed and spot on, even though it is simplified for a YA audience. I didn’t like book 2 so much though.

    As for the love triangle thing? *Rolls eyes*. It annoys me so much when people say they think Katniss should have ended up with Gale and that they were annoyed that their relationship wasn’t really resolved other than a mention that he was ‘off elsewhere’. After everything that Katniss went through their priorities weren’t the same any more. He wanted revolution and change and a fight, and she wanted to slink away from the limelight and live in peace. I’m agreed that if she hadn’t gone in the games they would have ended up together but that’s life. Life intervenes sometimes sending you on a different path. And seriously, you just read a book about the horrors of war and PTSD and death and repression and all you got out of it is that Katniss didn’t get with the guy you wanted her to? Grrrrrrrrrrrr. PEOPLE.

    Lol. Love reading this post, brought back so many memories. I’ve wanted to reread the trilogy for ages but I’m waiting till after the films are out because otherwise I know I’ll just sit there picking out what they’ve changed!

    • It’s so nice to hear that there’s someone out there who liked it!! And now that I’ve got away from my issue with the ending I can definitely agree with your points. I think first time round I was too caught up in the story itself to appreciate the social commentary aspect but a more relaxed reading allowed me to appreciate everything the book had to offer (that makes me feel so grown up haha) and as you say recent events have made it feel so much more relevant.

      What didn’t you like about book 2? I really liked that it showed how much of an impact the games had on everyone involved and I thought the second arena was so inventive and the previous victors were such interesting characters that I really enjoyed it.

      I didn’t even contemplate the love triangle thing the first time I read it, it was only when I started reading other reviews that I realised it was a thing and I definitely felt like people were missing the point. I love your point about life intervening, so accurate!

      I don’t blame you for waiting, I think part of me does the re-read in order to torture myself during the film….

      • Haha yepp, I’m definitely in the minority!

        You know, I’m not really sure. It might not have helped that I read it so close to the first one, but I guessed the ‘twist’ about re-entering the games way before it happened and I think some of Katniss’s internal monologues got to me a bit. I still gave the book 4 stars though and I loved the movie!

        No, agreed. I mean, I never really saw it as a love triangle until everyone named it as one because there isn’t much lovey dovey stuff, it’s more contemplating possibilities but there were always more important things going on.

        Haha, good luck with that!

  3. Pingback: Obligatory end of year post | Books on the Tube

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