Undecided

I started The Hunger Games Trilogy on Friday and finished it Monday night. I’m not sure what to think. I gave them average marks on Goodreads (3, 2, and 2) but that might change because hours later I am still thinking about the series. Books that compel thought deserve marks for that alone, which is one of the reasons why I think the Goodreads ranking system, wonderful though it may be, is flawed.

I gave Bet Me by Jenny Crusie and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco 4 stars. They are not the same.

So when I say I “liked” The Hunger Games and thought Catching Fire and Mockingjay were “okay,” I mean that in a way that says nothing. Because right now, I’m confused.

The pacing of the first book exceeded expectations. Collins impressed me with her ability to maintain tension for well over 60 pages. I stayed up until 2:39am (I checked) to finish the first book. The second book didn’t grab me until a similar climatic event occurred in the second half. Once again, Collins had me on the edge of my seat, and her history of working in television came as no surprise. The third book failed to do the same. There were parts I loved, especially with Peeta. (No spoilers.) But, for the most part, the series ended for me with the gentle slide of a sad trombone.

I’m finding difficultly expressing my dismay–if I can call it that–with the series without giving away major plot points for those who are still reading. I admit that part of it may come from reading over 1,000 pages in four days. You can have too much of a good thing, and that may be the case here. But, what disheartens me most–and what I can talk about since it doesn’t involve plot–is that this is a book for children age 12 and up.

I don’t see it.

I understand the argument that these are book best understood in layers, and that only the older, more mature readers will grasp the larger construct of the novels. Forgive me if I argue that a 12 year old (a child 4 years and 3 months older than Mikey) can pick up elsewhere lessons on friendship, adventure, and love of family. The themes in the third book were so mature, so complex and, ultimately, so depressing, I can’t imagine a 12 year old understanding 25% of the takeaway. Children may very well love these books  because they are too young to understand what they are reading. I understood most of it and finished the series utterly dejected.

I picked up most of the references to the debauchery of the Roman Empire. I felt the way the tributes were treated upon their return harkened back to the treatment of veterans after the Vietnam War, and could easily see commentary on our culture’s obsession with reality TV, 24 hour news, and glamorized, impersonal war. But it’s only in reading about the books elsewhere that I discovered major references to Greek mythology (the myth of minotaurs and Theseus my two major oversights). I consider myself fairly educated, but I feel like I could drag these books with a fine-toothed comb and pull out half a dozen theses on topics ranging from poverty to feminism.

I don’t know. I need to think about this series some more before I make a final decision. I may reread them over the summer. Certainly, I’m in the minority if I conclude this series isn’t all that. On Goodreads one 1-star reviewer (that means “didn’t like it”) received over 700 comments, many questioning her ability to read or think. People, please.

In other news, I need to start reviewing books for the April book club selection. After reading this series and starting The Book Thief next, I’m looking for something funny or at the very least not so damn existential. Any suggestions?

 

Comments
120 Responses to “Undecided”
  1. I’m with you on being undecided. They’re addicting reads, with interesting underlying messages, but I’m not sure I can say I *liked* them. I found it a little irksome and ironic that the author was sending us a message about the horrors of violence and our addiction to violence-as-entertainment simultaneously as she draws us into an addictive, violent story. But perhaps that’s just the point. And I pretty much lost most sympathy with Katniss as a main character halfway through the love triangle thing, and the rest of it with the decisions she makes at the end. And I’m a little annoyed that we really don’t know what kind of society emerges afterward. I’m planning to hold a Hunger Games trilogy discussion forum on my blog on April 25. I’ll post potential discussion questions a week in advance, and hopefully we can talk about some of those deeper issues that came through (classism, feminism, how we each read the ending, whether the books are Christian or agnostic, is Katniss an advocate of democracy or is she really an anarchist?, etc.). I’d love it if you joined in!

    • Jules says:

      Yes, I couldn’t decide if Collins was intentional when she wrote about violence so…violently. Right now, I believe it was intentional. Talk to me next week, and maybe I’ll think differently. Did anyone else think she might have been Coin? She described Coin as logical, cold, and touched upon the irony of Coin fighting Snow when, in reality, they were one and the same. Much like the irony of a violent book that criticizes violence.

      I would love to join in your discussion! Please remind me of it, though. I’ve been so scatter-brained lately!

  2. Juliette says:

    I definitely felt the wind came out of the sails towards the end of the series; disappointing. Yes, I agree that the main themes are probably far over most 12 year olds’ heads. But then, I clearly remember many of my classmates and I reading ‘Lord of the Flies’ in junior high simply because somebody’s sibling in high school had said something about the book being about kids killing kids on a deserted island. None of us were into the macabre in any way, but we were intrigued with the concept: What would we do in the same situation? This, coupled with the hype over the Peeta/Katniss/Gale triangle is sure to rope in more than a few tweens. So then I guess the question is whether it behooves parents to read the books simply to keep pace with pop culture (although I’m well aware how many cans of worms that could open!).

    I also gave it a good review, but not great. I often wish there was some kind of parallel star-rating that would help differentiate a 3 or 4 star review of pop fiction vs. a 3 or 4 star review of critical literature. I also wish the one star reviews on Amazon that were given because of delayed delivery status would be deleted!

    • Jules says:

      I remember reading Lord of the Flies. I was so, so, so disturbed. That wild boar scene will forever be burned in my brain.

      How can I put this…

      I think this book is okay for some 6th graders provided that there is a teacher or librarian there that can add to the experience. I can remember reading some books that I just flat out didn’t get. Meaning, I read them but wasn’t mentally mature enough to pick up the nuances. I missed all the takeaways. I would hate for a 12 year old boy to read this and think, “Whoa! Cool. My favorite part is when the spear went through Rue gut!” and then for him to get to the 3rd book and think, “That’s it? Sucks now that no one’s killing anybody.”

      Stephen King said reading the books was a lot like standing in front of your favorite, violent video game. You’re blindly tossing in quarters and killing people, oblivious to what you are doing because the packaging is so slick and addictive.

      • Juliette says:

        I know, I missed so much from so many books that I just wasn’t ready for (yeah, the wild boar scene is forever etched into my mind). Oddly, my mother always suggested really mature books that were right on for me to process; religious non-fiction that required some processing and analysis…yet the fiction books I had to read in school were almost always lost on me. Grapes of Wrath in 8th grade? Yeah, pointless. Yet a year of Shakespeare in 9th grade was fabulous simply because that year I had an English teacher who could really teach. When I took a Brit Lit class again in 11th grade I got so much more out it, but it built on the 9th grade foundation.

        You’re so right about the need for a dialogue. Especially considering the Stephen King quote. Many times during my read I was thinking, ‘kids are reading this…not sure about that…not sure they notice the issues, however blatant…disturbing’. Even if we haven’t read the books, we can always get somebody to talk about what they’re reading, and I suppose that’s a start.

  3. WittyMermaid says:

    “Something not so damn existential…” Such is the dystopian novel. I’ve not read this series but suggest one light-hearted afternoon full of the real-life, silly “Letters from a Nut” to cure any dystopian crisis. I keep this ridiculous series for days when I really need to laugh.

  4. Ms. Amy says:

    I agree with much of what you said about the series. Superficially, the first book was the best & they declined with each following novel. I swear, sometimes I think books are categorized as YA if there is “love”, but no sex – I think publishers believe it’s as simple as that. All that being said, I DID enjoy the series, and find myself thinking about it to this day. And now I’m going to have to re-read them with fresh insight from your Greek mythology reference.

    • Jules says:

      I really wish I had any working knowledge of Greek mythology. I don’t, obviously, which is why I missed the Theseus and the minotaur similarity–which is pretty big fricking similarity. Funny, because I remember loving Greek mythology in 6th grade. (That’s funny. Hunger Games being targeted for 6th graders and I loving Greek mythology in 6th grade. Hmmm.)

  5. Southern Gal says:

    It took me a couple of weeks to read these since I checked them out at the library. Each book was finished in two days. I did not like the way the series ended. It mainly disturbs me that the series is in the Junior Adult category. My 10-year-old kept asking me about it since some of his friends are going to see the movie??? The whole plot reminded me of the short story we had to read in school called “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. I don’t remember what grade I was in, but I do remember how I almost got sick when I read it. That’s the feeling I had a couple of times while reading this series.

    • selmas granddaughtrr says:

      i thought of the lottery immediately when reading this

      • Phaedra says:

        yep. I thought of The Lottery, too. A story which I loved because of its impact, but certainly not light & airy entertainment.

        • Phaedra says:

          I should also mention here that I also loved Lord of the Flies & have read it several times since HS days. Apparently it’s not surprising that I liked the Hunger Games! I absolutely agree that the series lost momentum and ‘oomph’ the longer it went.

    • Jen says:

      I also thought of the Lottery right away. I probably first read that story in early highschool (?) and it found it so disturbing that I still think of it from time to time (in a bad way). A couple of years ago my niece performed in a play of it in her junior high. I couldn’t believe they are still forcing 11 year olds to read that. And now this.

      • Rachel says:

        Two years ago http://www.audiobookcommunity.com paired Hunger Games with the Lottery. I downloaded both but only listened to Hunger Games to the point Katniss entered the arena. I just restarted listening and wonder if I will be able to listen to through the end this time. In part because I don’t like to wear headphones around my kids and part because somehow listening instead of reading makes it harder to separate from story when the reader is good.

      • Alice says:

        JEN:
        There is a reason why history classes are taught in schools. It is important to understand our history, so that we (hopefully) don’t continue to make the same mistakes. I too read “The Lottery”, and while I felt the same sickness in my stomach, I understood why it was important and vital for young adults to read this story. Stoning was a socially accepted practice, as was racism. Do you think hiding the truth about these horrific realities helps anyone?? The moral here is, learn from your mistakes.

  6. Amy says:

    I don’t know. I haven’t picked them up yet. It’s the whole dystopian thing that gets me–I don’t really love it. This is, however, the first I’ve read of the Greek mythology references. Do you think they’re really there; or better yet, really intended? I was constantly amazed at what my peers would read into works in college. “The green curtains symbolized the sickness of his soul.” When, in reality, the author was probably just telling us there were green curtains. Of course, on the flip side, you do have authors that like to stuff everything imaginable in their works! So. Who knows. :)

    • Actually I saw an interview with the author that said she was heavily influenced by Greek myth. That being said, I TOTALLY agree with you about wondering if some of the things people drag out of books were really what the author intended. :) I was constantly stupefied in school.

      • Jules says:

        I think it can be taken to extremes, and I’ll touch upon that a bit more in my reply to Andrea’s comment below. Certain books are for entertainment and, with all due respect to Stephenie Meyer, I don’t believe there is much allegory, symbolism, or social commentary to much of what she wrote. She wrote to entertain, not edify. Collins, though, I think was a mission.

        • Amy says:

          Oh, I think she was definitely on a mission–at least that’s how it seems. I skimmed an interview with her that mentioned war, reality television, and violence of video games. She probably mentioned the Greek mythology influence as well–and I skimmed right over it. Whoops! :)

          • Ms. Amy says:

            I was an Art major in college, and HATED it when people would make all kinds of weird inferences into a painting. Sometimes a door is just door, and not an allegory on the passage of time through one’s life as a young White male in America. Barf.

  7. I really enjoyed this review, Jules. I am in the minority as I read multiple reviews of them and decided to skip this “must read” set. I was disturbed by the fact that they were touted as young adult novels, based simply on the reviews that I had read – so I was glad to see your review backed up that feeling. I’ve never been one to jump on board the popular book train, and I’m usually in the minority in my book reviews – it’s not such a bad place to be. I mean, wouldn’t it be boring if we all liked the same thing??

    • Jules says:

      Yes, it would be boring.

      Had this trilogy not been so popular I would have skipped it. Likewise with Twilight. But, they were popular to the point they attracted an entire country (and later, world). When a book has that kind of power, I make a point to read it. I think it speaks to the thoughts and feelings of society at large. It’s like an anthropological study or something.

  8. Lauren says:

    Yes! Thank you! I felt the first book was definitely the best and the sequels just kind of dragged a bit at times. And so agree about the ending of the last book – it left me depressed and dissatisfied. I felt like I’d just worked really hard to read all those books and was not rewarded with a triumphant finale. The slide of a sad trombone is certainly how I would describe it….. like even though there were “happy” parts, all the characters had been so internally destroyed by the events leading up to the end that they couldn’t experience true joy anymore. Hence it being depressing. Glad I’m not the only one who felt that way. And I AM a fan of the books. But not a fanatic.

    • Jules says:

      I like that you said you are a fan, but not a fanatic.

      I think the ending was more appropriate than a neatly wrapped happily ever after given what they experienced. However…there is still something off and I can’t figure out what it is! To get to the bottom of it I really am going to have to read them again. Not any time soon, though.

  9. Kathryn Humphreys says:

    I can’t imagine wanting to let my daughter read these in two years. Or even four years. They’re fine as quick reads for adults and older teens, but I heard a discussion on NPR yesterday where someone expressed the opinion that they’d eventually become a part of the canon and I was shocked. They are certainly above the Twilight phenomenon, but they are not on my list of must reads for a complete education. I am also apparently in the minority that doesn’t have any interest in seeing the movie. I felt this way about Girl with a Dragon Tattoo as well, there are plenty of scenes in each that I’m just not interesting in actually seeing. Not entirely surprising, I’m not a big action movie fan anyway and always prefer books to movies.

    • Susan G says:

      Kathryn – I really liked the Dragon Tattoo books, but I absolutely can’t imagine seeing the movie either. I could hardly read some of those violent scenes – I know I can’t watch them.

      • Jules says:

        Interesting to think of these books as part of the canon. I don’t know what to say about that. I read the first two Dragon Tattoo books (as those of you on FB already know) and saw the movies in Swedish and English. The violence was tamped down a bit in the English production.

  10. Theresa says:

    Well, I can’t comment on ‘The Hunger Games’ as I’ve not read them – nor have the YA’s in my household although many of their friends are consuming them. But, for a totally different topic and a slice of reality that is not glamorized, I recommend ‘The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love’ by Kristen Kimball. I picked it up in an airport bookstore, read half of it en route to Houston, finished the other half headed home. (I am a notoriously fast reader, but it is only 288 pages.) There are some very funny moments as well as some poignant, touching ones. Caveat emptor: you will want a garden, a hen house, and all manner of other earthy things when you finish the book.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I think mature 12 yo’s will get it – not all of it, but alot of it. Do you remember what you were reading at 12 in school? We were reading Across 5 Aprils (Civil War, depressing), Where the Red Fern Grows (death etc) Fahrenheit 451 (dystopic future and depressing). Lord of the Rings (8th grade – and damn dense). The Outsiders (lots of interpersonal stuff). Go Ask Alice (talk about dark – but this wasn’t in school – too much drug use). The stuff that requires further research just makes it an EXCELLENT book for a literature class – you get to dig in and unspool and come up with meanings that may or may not have been intended but resonate. Kids rise to the occasion.

    • Susan G says:

      Jennifer – some of my favorite books! And tame by some of today’s standards, but certainly not when I was reading them.

      • Jules says:

        I agree. All great books that were controversial at the time. Rather tame when compared to Hunger Games. I completely agree with you that books like HG make for an excellent literature discussion. It’s why I said about that I feel like I could comb the book and never run out of things to talk about. In the right hands, these books could be wonderful for 6th graders. I hope those kids who read it at that impressionable age have a mentor or teacher who can pull apart the layers of the books for them. Otherwise, it might just be another addictive, violent story.

        • WittyMermaid says:

          This reader’s comment seems very savvy to me. I am not a fan of dystopian novels, won’t read this, nor will I encourage my daughter. Something about it just seems unseemly–as if it’s the Brave New World of this century. I hated that book.
          Having said that, when I was 12, I was reading The Diary of Ann Frank. Now if that’s now some kind of dystopia, then I don’t know what is… Yet I was engrossed and mystified and horrified and electrified by the content. (I also recall having some weird fascination with the devil at 12 and looked for books that would explain “evil.”. Perhaps this was just me.). Or maybe as a Tween, we begin seriously to look at the world around is with some sense of awareness. In some cultures, “women” become mothers at 14. Perhaps we underestimate the thinking that our kids re capable of?

  12. Ris says:

    I haven’t read them but I don’t know that I have the desire to. I think sometimes super popular books get too played up (at least in my head) and then once I do read them, they’re almost always a let down. Also, the cult-following and attitude of “If you don’t like these you’re dead inside” really bothers me. What if I don’t like them? Will everyone be mean to me? No thanks.

  13. Susan G says:

    I have a 14yo daughter who read these probably when she was 13. She also reads some of the same books I do (‘adult” fiction but not the dirty way that always sounds!). Honestly, I don’t monitor her reading as much as perhaps I should, and I didn’t really know what they were about 2 years ago. When her 22yo sister read them a few months ago, she was horrified that young kids were reading them. Although I am a scaredy cat (read The Exorcist when I was 12 and didn’t sleep for weeks – still can’t watch the movie), my daughter is not. She completely manages to divorce fiction from reality – even as a young child she could watch scary things and reassure me that “it isn’t real”. But she has always been a wise old soul, so I think it really depends on the child and how much he ir she can see that what is in fiction might be merely an escape or a tool to provoke thoughtful discussion.

    Other commenters mentioned Lord of the Flies and The Lottery. I read The Lottery when I was 15 and it’s horrifying, in my opinion. So, I haven’t read these, but probably will. Will not see the movie because I practically cry at the commercial (the beginning, when they first try to take the little girl), but I know Rachel can’t wait and will be there this weekend.

    • Jules says:

      I’m so passionate about reading that I don’t anticipate I will be too restrictive when it comes to Mikey and Nico’s more adult reading. My only hope is that I will be there for them to discuss the main issues. That’s where I see potential for disappointment.

      • Susan G says:

        Well – thanks to you :) Rachel and I have spent a half hour or so talking about HG and books generally. She said they really are (to her) fantasy and adventure and society and politics – and we discussed some of that. So thank you!! And when I said I don’t monitor, I’m fortunate that both girls have never ready stuff way out on the fringe. I’d worry if they read all about sexual sadist serial killers, or suicidal girls on drugs all the time. Rachel says, BTW, that books like Crank (part of a popular series about crystal meth addiction) are very dark and make her “stomach feel funny” .

  14. melanie says:

    Even though I enjoyed the books (esp the first) I agree with much of what you said. I would not let my kids read any books currently classified as YA without previewing. My 13 yo son had to wait while all his friends read the series, even though he had good preparation (learning about Roman history and warfare, etc). But like a lot of things these days, many people seem happy to let some arbitrary category dictate what is fitting for their children. That is more disturbing than book content to me. And don’t get me started on 8 year olds with iphones.
    Anyhoo…I think it is also important to consider timing and hype factor – you are reading them having heard nothing but hype and in one giant readathon. Many readers had the “benefit” of waiting a year in between each book. I have started to hold off a week before attempting to rate or review my reads as I need to let them simmer (does this make me old?) . And am laughing as my goodreads ratings make me look schizo, I’m still waiting for half stars which will only remedy half the problem.
    I enjoy MyFriend Amy’s book blog and she loved Mockingjay…here is one of here posts http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/2010/08/mockingjay-one-week-later.html

    • Jules says:

      I agree with everything you said. Thanks for the links, too. I was up late last night reading reviews and stuck mainly to popular media. I didn’t even know where to begin with the general population.

  15. Samma says:

    I have to say I really enjoyed the whole series. It’s been 3 months or so since I finished the series, and I still find my thoughts going back to them — I know I will re-read them at some point and I’m 47! As a voracious reader when I was a young girl, of really whatever books I could get my hands on, I can tell you that I didn’t typically pick up on the deeper themes. But I did read and re-read the same books, especially those that captured my imagination, and in the re-reading, I learned how to better unearth those layers.
    I’m grateful my parents didn’t edit my reading material at any age, and I think I am a more complex, and well-rounded adult for it.

    • Susie says:

      Samma – This perfectly encapsulates what I intended to say, so I’ll just say ditto!

    • Susan G says:

      My mother always said (and practiced) that she would never tell a child to stop reading anything – even if she thought it was trash. :) And I don’t at all criticize or judge parents who do monitor – I really don’t mean to sound like I do – but your comment explains exactly how I was raised and how my daughters’ reading has been (non) managed. Thank you for putting it so well!

      • melanie says:

        If I could explain my comments further (not that I think you were necessarily talking to me) – I grew up with no reading restrictions either (in retrospect, I would have appreciated some guidance) and my intention was not to come off like a control freak. However, just like I wouldn’t give my kids an empty cart to grocery shop, or free reign over the tv remote, I reserve the right to examine the library bag. Words and images are as powerful and addicting as sugar (don’t get me wrong we like dessert around here). And having read a fair share of contemporary ya fiction, while it is very entertaining (to me), I am not ready for my 10 year old son to read the f-bomb every other sentence or be fixated on boobs like a teenage character, or kids killing one another for sport.
        I am a chronic dissociative reader….things that are deal breakers for some rarely linger in my thoughts, although I found Girl with a Dragon Tattoo to be unbelievably disturbing. I was able to caution my gentler reading friends that they may not be able to stomach it – and I feel like I do that for my kids too.

        • Susan G says:

          I completely understand!! This is just what worked for us – or at least I think it’s worked, since the younger isn’t grown yet I don’t know for sure! And I freely admit in some ways I am the laziest parent in the world – my first is so head-strong and fought me on so many things that I always say she broke my spirit. :) And ALWAYS I think good parenting is what works for you and for your child, so what you say makes perfect sense and sounds like good parenting to me. (Not that you were asking for my approval.)

          OK – I hope I haven’t overdone trying to appreciate all views. :) I love talking about things like this (and books – witness my numerous comments on this post) and hearing other points of view.

          • melanie says:

            No worries – I am sure I agree with 98% of everyone on most issues – but communicating in comments leaves very little nuance. ;) I too am a lazy parent in many areas – my 3rd is my spirit crusher! And I wonder if I have a double standard – in this case thinking that girls are sometimes ready (more mature) for stories that boys are not. My daughter is only 2 so I have some time…but I’m curious to know what you think.
            Also I am reeling from a lack of parental oversight with a reading program I help with in the 2nd grade….as in do you really think your child read 30 100 page books in the last 3 days…why would you sign off on that? urgh.

          • Susan G says:

            We must have reached the maximum number of “branching off” replies so I have to reply to myself. :) I do somewhat think there are gender differences but hesitated to bring that up because of the limitations of this kind of discussion and the possibility of being misunderstood. I think girls are (generally – speaking very generally) more sensitive to/aware of/willing to engage in social interactions and the undercurrents of power and other hierarchical concepts. [Did that make ANY sense outside of my brain???] So whereas a boy (GENERALLY) might focus on the actual conflict and the killing, the girl might be thinking more about whether she would stand in for a sister and otherwise be a part of some system or try to change it. (I haven’t read the books so my details are non-existent.) And OK – the love interest too. Just a different focus that might, for girls, concentrate on the themes rather than the actions. At least at these “young adult” ages.

      • Samma says:

        Not to be contrary, but
        Ya, as a kid, I did. Probably more pages than that, actually. My best friend in elementary school was the Librarian (Thanks Ms Lyons) and I worked my way through the shelves every recess, plus took books home with me, read what was on the shelves, and checked out whatever I could from the Bookmobile.
        My mom loves to tell how I tried to do my book report in the 2nd grade on The Hobbit. I tried to ‘summarize’ the story for the class, and the teacher had to finally pull me off the ‘stage’!

        • SusanG says:

          LOL Samma – Ms. Lyons sounds like the best friend ever! When I was in 3rd grade (I’m 54 now and I comepletely remember this) we had some book that was a “read at your own speed”. When I took it to the teacher to say I was done, she called me a liar – out loud in front of the entire class. Lovely…but if I were to sign off on something like melanie mentioned I might at least write a note saying – I know this is hard to believe but it’s really true. Or something like that. Now I have to stop commenting or I WILL be lying when I check the not-a-spammer box. :)

          • melanie says:

            Well, there is obviously more to the story than I included in the comment because it wouldn’t have crossed my mind with a bookish kid. Know what I mean? And there is no way you can read 4 whole books on the bus on the way to school….because I would have.

          • Susan G says:

            “And there is no way you can read 4 whole books on the bus on the way to school….because I would have.”

            Yay for kindred spirits!!! :) :) :)

    • Jules says:

      1. I’m really liking this discussion.

      2. I’ll say it: I’d be more lenient with a girl reading HG than I would a boy in my mind, if not in practice. As horrible as this sounds, I would be less worried that a girl wouldn’t catch the nuances of the trilogy. Boys already respond so differently to exposure to violence that I’m afraid–whether or not this is a valid concern–that they would skim over what is important in the story. I said as much, somewhat vaguely, up above in a different comment. Gender bias at it’s best/worst.

      • Samma says:

        The gender angle is so interesting to me (all sisters and nieces in my world) so boys are especially alien critters. But given the societal exposure to violence and the whole alpha male need to prove themselves, I wonder if it’s not MORE important to expose them to this kind of material. Have you read any of the Ender’s Game stuff? Hunger Games reminded me a bit of it, in that children are engaged in training for war, and the protagonist is the small, smart kid who has to stratagize around how to take care of himself and succeed against the bigger, more aggressive kids.

  16. Jen says:

    I read the series awhile back without realizing that they were the next great thing. So, I didn’t give them much thought (although I distinctly remember thinking, “this is for children?” But who am I to talk, I read “It” in 7th grade then proceeded through the whole Stephen King library. I thought the HG books were pretty mediocre, although obviously good enough that I kept reading. I am getting very annoyed by this love triangle thing that seems to be in every book now. And the multi-book series thing too. (have these always been around and I just missed it?) Although I must admit that I love Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Meyer (sp?) even though those are also multi-book series with love triangles (not so much in the True Blood books, but definiately in the HBO series). Perhaps it is because those books don’t pretend to be more than what they are — a good, quick, fun read. Any references to Greek mythology or the decay of modern civilization purely coincidental.

    • Jules says:

      I think you meant Charlaine Harris/Sookie Stackhouse series.

      Yes, you bring up a good point that I’m addressing below. I love that you acknowledge there are some books that are good, quick, fun reads and nothing more.

  17. elissa c says:

    I just re-read the novels and I enjoy them as an easy read (over 2 nights). I’m biased because I love a dystopian novel. I read them for the first time aged 30 so I’m definitely far beyond the young adult category. I think their value for the younger readership is that the relationship between the Capitol and the Districts parallels the relationship between the First and Third Worlds – we in the First World consume and waste while the poor (including children) face unsafe working conditions in factories, sweat shops and commercial farms; we turn a blind eye while the disempowered are killed due to their direct and indirect interactions with corporations (such as the Ogoni people after Shell withdrew). I think it is valuable if kids begin to question where this season’s $20 t-shirt was made or how the cotton was grown.

    • Jules says:

      I love this. I wasn’t thinking first world/third world but now it seems obvious. I love talking about books.

    • Amy says:

      You know, I read an article that stated teachers are beginning to add the books to their curriculum, specifically for themes such as this (and others mentioned in this discussion). Since it is such a popular series, the value of such themes may otherwise be overshadowed for the “story” . . .

  18. ib says:

    Yes! Finally!
    I have to admit I kinda liked the first book. I thought the second book was “maaah.. okey I guess” and the third book “rubbish”. They just didn’t do it for me.
    I concluded that they are not meant for me (I am 30).

    If you want a fun trilogy to read I recommend The First Law books by Joe Abercrombie.

  19. Missie says:

    I finished the series a week ago. I’m in agreement, thought the first one was by far the best. The others were good, but not great. Lauren said it perfectly. The characters were destroyed by the end & couldn’t feel any joy. It left me feeling so down. There is so much violence that I can’t imagine how they’d be able to stay true to the books and still have the last 2 made into movies with a PG-13 rating. I too, cannot get the story or characters out of my head. It was the first time in a long time that when I finished, I thought I needed to read them again.

  20. Jessica says:

    A note on age ranges: 12 & up is pretty generic range for YA. If it’s got sex, it will probably get a 14 & up, but I’m not even sure there any other distinction there. From a publishing standpoint, they want the books read by the most people, so the 12 & up gives them two extra years! I really doubt that anyone considered the reading level/content comprehension bit, and I really REALLY doubt Suzanne Collins was thinking “hmm I will write a book for 12 year olds!”

    Well, maybe she did a little. She is a seasoned author for younger readers – it’s a different genre, almost, YA vs. Middle Grade. But most authors – kidlit or not – just write, ya know? Let the publishers decide who to market for…

    I like the Hunger Games series for the reasons you laid out – the tension, the plot twists – and the dystopian premise is spot on. I thought both Hunger Games & Catching Fire started slow, but after 50 pages or so they whipped by. I haven’t re-read Mockingjay since it came out, and I read it in a day, but I didn’t like it. It felt like the final book of a 6 book series. Too much action. Too much warfare.

    I like the series, as a whole, despite not liking all the books 100%. I think that’s a valid position, no?

    • Jules says:

      Interesting that sex is the great divide of two years.

      • Jessica says:

        Tis the same for movies, right? Violence, who cares. Swears and sex – Rated R!

        • Jules says:

          Yeah, and that reminds me of Neal McDonough, the Catholic actor who considers himself a family man and won’t do sex scenes. It’s cost him key parts in movies and television series. He’s an amazing actor, too. That said, I don’t get it. You won’t act out a love scene with someone other than your wife (I’m impressed) but you will fake kill people all day long and play insane, possessive husbands on TV (I’m confused).

          • WittyMermaid says:

            I confused why people who pretend to be other people for a living are paid so well–and somehow get the green light for their every opinion in our society–and on all the events of the earth. I realize this has nothing to do with the HG, but I never miss an opportunity to rant. (and on another note, I’m impressed with the obviously wide spectrum of people that your blog attracts–cool.)

            Pardon all my mobile punctuation/grammar errors…

  21. Andrea Howe says:

    And this is why I think I never really partake in book clubs. Yours was the first I have really ever participated in, and it was a weak participation at that beyond reading the book. I over think everything, but with books I don’t, which is exactly why I’m not a very good book club participant/critique. I loved the books in that they were entertaining and smartly written. In a world where the Twilight series was seen by many women (and moms) as the best thing since sliced bread, I thought this trilogy far surpassed it. But beyond looking at themes and references to Greek mythology, I don’t tend to really analyze books that way, and certainly didn’t with this one. Sure now that you reference Greek mythology I can of course see the similarities, but I’m not digging around for themes while reading. I read to get lost and enjoy myself and keep my synapses firing. I don’t read to debate about the characters and plot twists. I guess books to me are very much like wine. I choose them and enjoy them if they are approachable and smooth to the finish. I don’t get caught up into notes of leather versus velvet. With this I am a terrible book and wine critic, but a good fan :) All this to say, don’t over think it too much Jules. did you enjoy it? I would say so since you finished it in 3 days (as did I). Is it appropriate for young adults? hell no! Neither was Twilight in my opinion…so just don’t let the boys read them at 12, or even 15…

    • Jules says:

      There are books that entertain and books that edify. I do a pretty good job at reading a little bit of everything. Darkfever…you can’t read that and think Karen Moning is making a commentary on social justice. At least I can’t! But I loved the series nonetheless. Collins, though, I DO think she was making a statement and would be disappointed if we didn’t unravel the sweater a bit.

      I’m a book person, you’re a fashion person. Remember that quote you like from the Devil Wears Prada? You see fashion as something so much more, but can appreciate when a t-shirt is just a t-shirt. Most of the time I don’t care about labels or fashion so long as it looks cute on me. That’s how I am with books. Because I’m far more into “literature as art” than you are, the analysis of a book is just as fun as reading a book. I might be over thinking it, but I’m having a good time doing it. :)

      • Jeen-Marie says:

        Jules Well said. Or- well written.
        I’ve haven’t read the HG books just because of the phenomena AND I don’t like violence.
        I like a book to keep me thinking even when I finish the last page, intentional or not. As for rating books- I kinda have stopped because there are no half stars and color coding for the different genres. ;) There are books that I LOVE and then there are those that are just a good read. Thought provoking, entertaining or just a great escape. For me, mood and circumstance factor in my enjoyment or satisfaction of a ‘good book’.
        Also to add, I do a agree in general that there is a maturity rate difference between boys and girls. Violence is viewed differently. My son is 3’ish and is sensitive. I will continue to monitor his reading thru whenever I guess it is no longer an issue.
        Thanks for a great discussion! I love reading everyone’s comments and side conversations-especially about books I would not normally choose to read.
        xoxo

      • WittyMermaid says:

        I loved this reply. For some of us introverts, discussing these things may be the closest we get to big expressions of ourselves. It’s sorta like a musician playing his instrument.

        I love Elizabeth George for a great mystery that is well-constructed. I don’t consider its many layers…but, The Help begs for it–and, it seems to me, one is missing a perfect opportunity for introspection if she fails to pick up that book’s opening statement…

  22. I think you’ve brought up a good point about YA fiction in general. I think the categorization for YA fiction is somewhat flawed and/or misleading.

    YA stands for “young adult” right? In our world, a 12 yr old is not a “young adult”. Maybe 500 yrs ago they might be considered as such, but not in today’s world. I think of lot of what is deemed YA fiction is really just regular ol’ adult fiction, but with younger-aged protagonists. And that most YA fiction is not appropriate for kids/teens unless they are aged 15 plus.

    I liked the books. The last was the weakest, just in terms of tone and plot, for me.

    • Jules says:

      The third just seemed like a different novel to me. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what the other two were in plot, tone, or pacing.

  23. Olivia B says:

    I completely agree with your review. To me this was like The DaVinci Code or Twilight. There was so much hype about it and then so many people who bashed it that I was curious and read it in one day. In the end, i thought it was an immensely fun book, not a literary masterpiece or really anything profound, but I have SO many half read books and to finish a book so quickly must mean that their writing kept me entertained. It has been one of the biggest selling books series ever so there were a few others who enjoyed it too. I also finished the whole series of the Hunger Games within a week meaning the writing must have been compelling. I really enjoyed the first and second book and thought the third was just plain messy and a bit boring really. I too enjoy mixing it up in my reading:
    Some of my faves:
    Jane Eyre – All time fave
    The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – For Children
    A wrinkle in time, Madeleine L’Engle, Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt for YA
    I know why the caged bird sings – Maya Angelou, Adult

    I really love that you don’t just stick to one type of genre. I get a bit upset b/c there are those book snobs who feel they are better than you b/c they have not read Twilight or DaVinci code it is still reading in the end which is an activity far better than many others I can list.

    Here are is my fun book reccomendation:
    The worst date ever by Jane Bussmann. Hilarious and very smartly written.
    http://www.amazon.com/Worst-Date-Ever/dp/0330457659

    Ha! I didn’t mean to write this essay of a comment but there it is :p

    • Jules says:

      Thanks for the recommendation! I will check it out. :)

      Yes, I love to read a little bit of everything. I like to be exposed to new ideas, new concepts, etc. I hate to think I’m missing something.

  24. Dorothy says:

    That’s kind of why I suggested letting it sit a few days. I am rereading it now, after my disappointment with the end wore off – or, at least the rough edges of my disappointment. I definitely don’t put the series in with the group of books I wish I hadn’t read. I guess I wanted to love Katniss… But I don’t.

    • Jules says:

      I didn’t like Katniss either, and every time I went to complain about her I had to remind myself that she is really just a little girl.

  25. melanie says:

    I am motivated to re-read Mockingjay, remembering only that I was disappointed but unable to articulate anything specific. As for an April suggestion – memoirs are good – I would heartily recommend The Kitchen Counter Cooking School since it is a fascinating look into our eating habits, in a very approachable way.

  26. gabbie says:

    I agree the third book ended with a whimper. There was a distinct part in the book (near the end at the flag pole) when I felt the author must have been just done and wanted to finish the triology, because after that I was just like “eh” still i am excited to see the movie this weekend. And I think a relatively savvy middle-schooler could handle the mature themes of the book, but I say this as the parent of an 8 yr old. I recall reading books that were on this sort of mature-concept level 1984, Watership Down, Of Mice and Men, and Lord of the Flies come to mind, all of which we read between 6th and 9th grade

  27. Bethany says:

    Just picked up ( and quickly devoured all 3) in January. I had a lot of fun with this series. And I’m looking forward to the movie, just to see where they take it. But, I gotta say, I agree about the age thing. I was really surprised it was recommended 12 and up. I don’t think it would have been good for me to read these books at 12. 16 or 17 yes, but not so young as 12. Of course I thought I was quite grown at 12, but in hindsight they would have really gotten to me.

  28. Samma says:

    Speaking of possible YA Bookclub options, I’ve been hearing a lot about this guy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Green_(author) and in particular “Looking for Alaska”. If this group thought the Hunger Games series was too mature for young adults, though, it may also be considered too intense from the bits I’ve read.
    But, it also sounds kind of like the underground book teens are reading and passing on to each other behind their parent’s backs. Especially the loner/nerd/I’m not like everyone else kids. So might be all the more reason TO read it.

    • Jules says:

      I’ve read Looking for Alaska. Great novel by a talented young adult author. It’s not too intense, and I think that book (grade 9 and up) is in line with the demographic. Because there is sexual content, they bump it to grade 9. Killing people, for some reason, doesn’t merit those two additional years of maturity.

  29. Kelly says:

    Haven’t read the Hunger Games series; there’s nothing about the descriptions I find compelling. But, I totally agree with your assessment on the intended readers of the books. I flipped through the first one, and cannot fathom my 10-year-old bookworm understanding them, or enjoying them fully. And she is reading at at least a couple grades above her intended 4th grade level, and some of her peers have moved on from Harry Potter to Hunger Games. I don’t see it!!

    I’m reading The Book Thief now, and feel the same about kids reading it…can’t imagine. (And its grade level is lower than for Hunger Games, which I also don’t see.) But I do think, just a few chapters in, that I’m definitely going to be in the mood for something lighter than Death and the Holocaust for the next book…but hopefully not YA. (I guess that makes it easy…what isn’t lighter than Death & the Holocaust?!)

  30. Okay, so you know I loved them.

    I’ll be honest and admit that I never even considered the YA part of the equation (maybe because I don’t have kids?). But I will say that I think there is a benefit for children to read and enjoy books even when they don’t “get” a significant amount of the references or aren’t really adult enough to understand the nuances. Maybe it’s because I’m a chronic re-reader, but I always assume that there will be another chance to pass through it and gain more.

    I read anything and everything as a kid and I know that a good amount was passing over my head. As long as it doesn’t end up feeling like a slog, I think there are ways for those nuances to be absorbed and then later revisited. I love it when I re-read something I loved as a child and realize there was so much more going on (Chronicles of Narnia!).

    • Jules says:

      See, I wasn’t a rereader as a kid. I must be coming at it from this perspective. Even now, I’m not a rereader. Only lately have I realized there is an amazing benefit to reading novels you have loved again and again. I guess, as a non rereader, I’m worried (not the right word, but you know) that kids will read this, put it down, and then never again return to tackle all that is great about the books.

      • Samma says:

        oh wow, yes. There were certain books I read EVERY summer, sometimes even 3-4 times in a year. Watership Down, Lord of the Rigns, Foundation and Empire, Stranger in a Strange Land, and more. And those books are still comforting for me to read; I still pick them up every 2 – 3 years to revisit them. There are still things I pick up, or start to see with new perspectives, and find value as well as comfort in them.
        I wonder, now, if I read as fast as I do because of the frequent re-readings.

  31. stef says:

    I think disappointment is inevitable when you read a book a bit late in the game. I felt it with DaVinci Code (as another poster said) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo especially. It’s hard for The Book of the moment to ever live up to the hype. I still don’t “get” the fascination with the Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo phenomenon, but that’s not to say the book was bad.

    As for The Hunger Games, I think I mentally automatically separate books in to proper literature and trash reads. Hunger Games is absolutely in the latter. I classify it as vacation/weekend/secret reading, something I keep on my Kindle because I don’t want people to see the cover, no different than Twilight or Pretty Little Liars. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, I certainly do… but among those I know, no one really wants to admit they’ve read them. Because of that, I expected nothing other than amusement, and I was amused. I also love The Running Man (80s movie, similar premise) though, so I’m hardly the pinnacle of excellent taste.

    My immediate reaction is to think the books are absolutely inappropriate for 12 year olds, but I recall reading The Lord of The Rings trilogy at the same age. In 9th grade we read The Good Earth and Of Mice and Men, by 10th we were on to Camus. By comparison, The Hunger Games seems fine, I suppose.

    • Jules says:

      Very good points.

      Funny that you would place HG in the entertainment reading pile when I feel that Collins was trying SO HARD for it to be anywhere but that. And anytime someone told me about HG I always asked if it was The Running Man with kids. Funny that you described it as such, too. I also hear lots of comparisons to Battle Royale, too.

    • Tana says:

      I agree with Steph in that I mentally assigned these books to the ‘quick trashy beach read’ category. I only read these books to see what my 15 year old daughter was reading (she got the set two Christmases ago), same as I did for “Twilight” (ugh, don’t even get me started).

      They were a quick skim for me and I honestly did not give them too much thought (keep in mind I read them over a year ago). What I came away with is that I’m ever more disappointed with today’s YA literature. The writing in YA lit seems a bit dumbed down, and I feel that’s unfortunate. We’re not giving credit where credit is due. The writing itself was not great, and the plots and actions of the characters did not ring true to me in a lot of places. And am I ever tired of love triangles, can’t a writer think of another romance angle than the tired out love triangle?

      I dunno, it’s hard for me to give serious thought to something that seemed hastily written. As the others have all said, book one was the best, book two was ok, book three was a sad, tired out afterthought that lost what little steam it had. It’s as if it was solely written to either quickly meet a deadline or for the sake of making the series into a trilogy. I sometimes wonder too if we read much more into it than the author herself ever intended.

      All that said, they were a fun, entertaining read.

  32. Janine says:

    Well, if you’re looking for a funny book, I would choose Lamb by Christopher Moore (I found it to be laugh out loud funny) or his book Fool, which has immense amounts of sex and swearing and skullduggery, because of course it’s based on King Lear.

    But for something very different, I would buy The Fencepost Chronicles, if you haven’t already read them. An older book. Frank Fencepost has to be one of the most madcap, hilarious characters ever written, but this collection of short stories by W.P. Kinsella also has so much depth.

    As for the Hunger Games, I think many people were surprised that books two and three were so serious and basically bled out. But I felt it was a realistic end. Big traumas happen to people, and ultimately, some people live through it and are changed. Their scars last forever, and they go on to build lives with the scars included. I suppose it’s my History degree coming through here, but there are no bright shiny days after war. Modern warfare and revolution does not end well for the winner OR the loser.

    I suppose I would give the ending a 10 out of 10, because it matches what I expected and wanted to hear from a war story. I don’t believe in “TRA LA! It’s over now and the world is full of hope and promise!” endings.

    I also rather enjoyed the challenge presented to the reader by the second book and its changed focus (away from war games and into revolutions). Yes, to make a bold gesture that foments revolution is one thing, but be aware of what typically happens with revolutions. HEY, I think I managed to say all that without spoilers! LE WIN SAUCE.

    • Jules says:

      I don’t have a problem with the way it ended. To me, it seemed obvious that two children like Katniss and Peeta had to (1) end up together and (2) had to be irrevocably damaged and broken. I could not see a possible happy ending without it…no. I just couldn’t see it happening at all. My problem is that if, in fact, Collins was making a commentary on the devastation of war, why devote so little time to the devastation and so much time to the war itself?

      Thank you so much for the recommendations. LE WIN SAUCE is a keeper, btw. I’ll have to take that one for myself. :)

  33. this suggestion is VERY fluffy: I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. I was laughing out loud so much that my husband got annoyed. It might be a bad book club book though, because the discussion would be all about similar things happening to people or why Brits call sweaters jumpers. :)

  34. Nicole says:

    I’m fairly late in finding these books as well. Like you, I read them, one after the other, without the length of time of time it takes to write and publish the next book in the series. Hunger Games gripped me. Catching Fire surprised me. I did not expect the second half of the book. Mockingjay disappointed me. I felt it slogged along, trying to tie everything up.
    When I finished Hunger Games, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut, slightly sick and definitely disturbed. I had a similar reaction when I read Brave New World. It’s been about a month since I read it and I’m still grappling with everything that was revealed in the story, and I haven’t done any of the digging that you have. I guess what disturbs me about the book is how human nature is revealed through the story. How we can be led to allow something so horrendous to continue even though we dread it. Definitely food for thought.

  35. Kirsten says:

    love all the branches of this discussion – just finished re-reading Dragon Tattoo Trilogy and watched the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish version) last night. Felt like I had a hangover this morning. Currently reading Little Chapel on the River (G. Bounds) – finding community after escaping from 9-11 events in NYC. For crazy fun with classic English Lit, I recommend The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

  36. Tracey says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments, but if you need just a little more to ponder on the trilogy, there is this: http://www.amazon.com/The-Girl-Who-Was-Fire/dp/1935618040/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1332297445&sr=8-14

    My husband bought it for me for my birthday (right after I finished the books) I’ve only read a bit of it so far so no opinion on it yet :)

    It’s funny because before this, I hadn’t given much thought to monitoring the books my kids read. My mom who is NOT a reader at all, paid no attention to what I was reading. Flowers in the Attic anyone? Egads, I don’t know how old I was when I read it, but I wasn’t old enough!

    • Samma says:

      oh wow, were those books ever twisted! Flowers in the Attic. And yet, I read a ton of them, and I guess I turned out OK.

  37. I am also having trouble with The Book Thief – actually, trouble picking it up for the second time once I discovered that it was *depressing* to read the first few chapters. I am doing a lot of non-fiction reading at the moment that is also depressing, but necessary, so I loved Rules Of Civility for giving me a break. The Book Thief doesn’t feel like a break!

  38. Annie says:

    First off, Jules, props to you for starting such a wonderful discussion on books and the power of the written word. I love a good book chat! :)

    I really enjoyed The Hunger Games series; I think I read the three books in about three or four days. I’d waited a long time to pick them up — my friends had tried to convince me to read them, but I’ve successfully avoided Twilight like the plague, and I’ve just never been into these kind of post-apocolyptic themes. Once I finally decided to give them a try, though, I was hooked. Still to this day, though, when I recommend them, I find myself primarily recommending The Hunger Games… the latter two books were certainly engaging (I finished them, and quickly), but they felt a little bit like a let down (though I don’t think I could put my finger on why). A couple of things I noticed: Several of my friends kept commenting on the violence (how can they make this into a PG-13 movie, etc., etc.), and you know what? I thought they were violent, but I guess I kind of — and this might be a scary thought — skimmed over the violence. It was necessary to the plot, so I kind of “forgave” it. A friend of mine read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (another trilogy in which I primarily enjoyed the first novel) and commented on the same thing: She typically avoids books/films with violent themes (she told me she has gotten sick sometimes reading explicit passages), yet Girl with the Dragon Tattoo didn’t phase her. I guess I’m kind of concerned, looking back, on why I wasn’t more shocked at the graphic nature.

    Another thing: My husband read The Hunger Games (just the first book) in about a week — he hasn’t read much fiction since law school ended, so this was huge. :) As he was reading, he commented a lot on the Greek/Roman mythology… stuff I hadn’t even considered! When I read the books (and maybe this is my journalism background), I picked up on political themes and entertainment vs. “real life” themes… you know, that reality TV phenomenon were all still living through. He didn’t really notice that at all. I give props to Collins for that fact alone: That two pretty similar people — as my husband and I are — could read the books and take away such different themes and plot points.

    As far as the YA rating: A friend of mine (actually a fellow blogger) is a middle school librarian, and I noticed that she started a book club — I think one for guys and one for girls — to read and discuss the books together. I absolutely LOVE that idea. As a pre-teen and teen, I was a very “individualistic reader” (still kind of am, with the exception of my book club); there are books, though, I wish I’d been able to discuss with other teens who’d read the same thing. Sometimes, I think avid readers just read, read, read, read, but never quite get to discuss or get out in the open what they thought and why. (I know I’m that way.) I like the idea that middle schoolers might be reading these books, but with the help of a kind and knowledgable librarian (and — how I hope! — with kind and knowledgable parents).

    Great discussion, Jules! (And this wasn’t even your book club pick!)

  39. shannon says:

    you have exactly summed up my feelings regarding the hunger games (so far, the only one i’ve read of the trilogy). i’m….undecided. on one hand–no, i don’t think they were the pinnacles of literary fiction many have made them out to be. on the other hand–like you, i keep turning it over and over in my mind–asking all my reader friends “Have you read the hunger games?” because i feel the need to DISCUSS. which says something. and then, on my mythical third hand–i read this to preview for my 11 and 9 year olds (both excellent readers and smart kids, so this is well within their grasp) and said NO WAY. the themes and situations were much to mature in my opinion. call me overprotective–but i feel the need to shelter my children from the mental images that the closing portions of the hunger games will certainly evoke. (wow, it’s hard to write all this without leaving spoilers!)
    i’m definitely intrigued enough to go read #2 & #3 myself…and i guess that says something.

  40. Susan G says:

    [I meant to put this way up above in response to Witty Mermaid but got it in the wrong place.] I know I have talked WAY too much on this thread, but I wanted to respond to this because I absolutely was thinking of Anne Frank and this discussion last night. I was fascinated/obsessed with the Holocaust when I was a in that 12-17 age group. We are Jewish and so there was an added element of personal tragedy and drama. I read MANY books on the topic, fiction and historical – many of them quite graphic. (The only one I have refused to read is Sophie’s Choice as the topic is simply too heartbreaking.) I also read The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby in those years (I only wish my mother had censored those out – WAY too scary!) So I wonder if some of this isn’t an age issue – wanting to approach the darkness. At least with HG there is the moment of being able to say “It’s not real.” With Anne Frank and the others we can’t pull away.

    • Jules says:

      I was similarly obsessed. Our Catholic school taught Jewish history/traditional quite heavily (for natural reasons, I suppose, since our two faiths are the “originals” in a sense) so I remember spending a lot of time in class on Anne Frank, The Holocaust, etc. Also, during our senior year in high school we spent a day at the local Temple speaking with Rabbis about the differences in our faiths. ANYWAY…that was a bit of a tangent. What I intended to say was that I agree there might be something with the attraction 6th graders have to death and darkness. Funny (sad?) that it appears to be getting younger and younger. Most of the boys in Mikey’s class are obsessed with Goosebumps. I told Mikey he could no longer read them because he was terrifying himself and just last night came to our bed with another nightmare.

      He says he doesn’t know what to do because he feels peer pressure to read the books. We had a long talk about it the other night at dinner.

  41. Weird–I just finished these three, then read The Book Thief. And I just read “Looking for Alaska” in two days, which was a very good read, but man do I need a pick-me-up.

    One thing I’ll say about all three books: They reminded me how I’m not particularly comfortable with how Young Adult novels are classed. These are *at least* high-school level reading in my opinion. At least. The only common denominator in all is the protagonists are tweens and teens.

    I actually loved all three (actually, five) books, but I absolutely felt dismay, horror, dejection, hopelessness, etc., while reading all of them. I was able to take more than that away from them–but I’m also nearly 30 years old, have a strong marriage and a child of my own. In other words, I have a solid framework of life experience and a sense of self with which to approach challenging literature.

    While I think some young adults may certainly be ready to deal with these kinds of themes, many might not. It’s a question of maturity. Although far too many adolescents don’t experience an idyllic childhood, I would not lightly expose a young person who *has* had a relatively calm, nurturing life to such mature material. Let them stay innocent for as long as possible, I say. But what do I know. Maybe 12 is the new 14.

  42. Laura says:

    Thank you so much for an honest review and even saying you are still thinking about it. If one more person tells me I *have* to read this series I’m going to scream. That alone will keep me from reading the books for quite some time. I have trouble explaining to folks that mostly….Hunger Games simply isn’t a genre that attracts me. I just don’t know if I need that story in my head.

  43. Shaina says:

    I haven’t watched tv the same since reading this series. Are we (America) the Capitol? Are the “superstars” and reality tv characters people who choose to be there or just portrayed as such? I know it was a fictional series but it crosses so easily into our current reality.

    I agree that Mockingjay seemed to fall flat. To me, it seemed she was trying to either get the series to last to 3 books, or keep the series from going on longer. I’m fading on memory, but I think I remember feeling like Katniss lost some of the independent & strong girl vibe she had in the first two books – and that’s always a disappointment to me.

    I, along with every other adult in my circle who was reading it, couldn’t believe it was intended for 12 yr olds. It’s hard for us as adults to really know how much a child understands at any age. It was such a harrowing and depressing story to us, but maybe less developed/experienced readers (ie: children), wouldn’t understand why we felt that way. Maybe to them, it sounds glamorous to hunt secretly for food and have battles and such. In the end, only the parents who encourage active dialogue of their children will understand how they interpret that sort of subject matter. At which point, another situation presents itself – let the child read it or attempt to keep them from it without glorifying it?

  44. Theresa says:

    Jules! I completely forgot, and perhaps someone else has mentioned them, but the ‘100 Cupboards’ series by N.D. Wilson were a great read. They are geared for the upper elementary/middle school age group, but the adults I know who’ve read them, myself included, have enjoyed them immensely. His next series, ‘The Ashdown Burials’, is being written. The first book is out – ‘The Dragon’s Tooth’. Wonderful book and I’m waiting impatiently for the next one!

  45. Lisa says:

    I realize I’m a week late to this thread, but still felt compelled to leave a few thoughts as I just finished these books earlier this week, and find I too am still thinking about them. [For those of you who might not be finished, and don’t want to have anything given away – please don’t read anything I’ve put in brackets … I’ll try not to completely spoil it.]

    I felt the first book was by for the strongest, and was disappointed with the writing quality in the later books, especially Mockingjay. It felt rushed and some scenes too contrived. But I devoured these books, reading them in 2 1/2 days, so I give Collins credit for creating such an addictive read. I share the sentiments of many of the other commenters about the amount of cruelty and violence in the books leaving me depressed at the end of the series, but I also feel unsatisfied that the story didn’t resolve itself with the amount of depth I expected it to. I think this is a big part of why it still lingers in my mind – I’m trying to make the conclusions that were lacking.

    I’d hoped to see more growth in Katniss, and the lack of introspection [especially given the loss of some of the main characters near the end of Mockingjay] really surprised me. I felt Collins tried to get by only describing her actions, her final collapse and break down, without allowing any explanation of her deeper thoughts, where as more insight into her actions was given in the first two books. [I found the moment between Peeta and Katniss with the primrose trees incredibly touching and a perfect example of Peeta’s empathy before all the loose ends were quickly tied up. I was relieved to see an Epilogue, and then immediately disappointed when the voice didn’t sound like a grown woman, but the same child fighting to maintain a level of stubborn independence mixed with a resigned view of the world. It felt like a missed opportunity, although I think it was Collin’s attempt to put some semblance of a “happy ending” on the series.]

    I hadn’t even thought of this as a YA read, and found the previous comments great food for thought. As I’m currently pregnant with my first child, these are things I realize I’ll be considering the future, and agree that if and when my children do read this book, I’ll want to be there to discuss it with them. This is in no way my experience growing up, where my parents paid little attention to what I read simply because they weren’t reader themselves.

    Thanks Jules for creating such a great conversation!

  46. Catherine says:

    Sorry if this is a repeat comment, I didn’t read through all of them before posting. If you still haven’t re-read the books, I suggest that you do. I too felt very sad and confused after finishing Mockingjay (so did my husband), but we re-read the series before seeing the movie and our whole outlook changed. It’s like, once you’ve read them, the shock and confusion wears off, and then you can read them with clarity. My husband and I have discussed this at length, and we believe Mockingjay is just Collins’ way of showing us reality. Most people don’t immediately bounce back or make the right decisions. PTSD is a real thing, and as much as it was unexpected in the third book, I think that is one of the things she was trying to explain.

    • Jules says:

      Hi, Catherine! Thanks for commenting. :) I understood what book three was about and what she was trying to communicate. In fact, that was my whole issue. I knew it was about PTSD and I feel the trilogy ended as it should. My concern was if this was something a 12 year old would be even remotely ready to understand. If a pair of adults need a second reading and a movie for it to come together, what can we expect from a 6th grader?

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.