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.
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?