A month ago, I wrote a blog about the first book in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Now, at long last, I have finished the second and third books in that series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and have decided to blog about them simultaneously.
I did enjoy the first book, but found the plot almost relentless, with everything happening so fast that as a reader you barely had time to digest what had happened before something else would occur. But that novel did a good job of setting the scene and atmosphere for the next two books, and possibly made it easier to confront the horrors that await the characters in these later parts of the trilogy.
The simple truth is, both CF (Catching Fire) and MJ (Mockingjay) are, in my opinion, considerably better than HG (The Hunger Games…I probably don’t need to be explaining these abbreviations, but oh well). In CF, the pace of the story slows down, allowing time for development of both the characters themselves and also the relationships between the characters, particularly the relationships between Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Gale. At the same time, the brutality of the governing powers is ramped up almost immediately, with some deaths actually causing my eyes to widen in shock (I very rarely react to the point of showing it on my face to a book). But despite what might seem like shock value, I found the themes of political tyranny, abuse of power and repression of basic living standards were actually given their due attention in this book, in a way which fits the young adult genre quite convincingly.
Many people have attacked CF for being slower at the start, but I think I preferred this part in a lot of ways, because once they got into the arena again at the end of the book, it was starting to feel a little repetitive. If I was to name a key flaw for CF, it would have to be the predictability of the plot. Without spoiling anything for those yet to read it, I found the events of the final few chapters I had guessed almost exactly at about the halfway point in the book. Despite this, though, I was rather impressed by how my predictions about the plot came to fruition, and it was this that led to the stunning cliffhanger this book ends on.
Just as CF was an improvement upon HG, MJ was that much of an improvement upon CF. The final book in the series is by far the most shocking and horrific, but also the most realistic. The true colours of all the characters are revealed in this book; as we start to sympathise with characters like Haymitch, respect for other characters (I won’t mention who) quickly disappears. Many characters’ lives are not spared during the violent revolution that takes place across Panem, which, as sadistic of me as this might sound, I liked – it would have hardly been believable if all the most loved characters magically survived (I also won some cookies from a bet with a friend over who in particular died – aren’t I lovely?).
The themes of political and social revolution, alongside warfare, are examined thoroughly throughout this book, as Katniss and several other characters constantly question whether what they are doing is right, and who the enemy really is in all of this when so many lives are lost amongst both the governing powers and the rebels. Again, I have read books that drive deeper into such philosophies, but I think this is more than thought-provoking enough for a young adult book – enough to stir their imaginations without smothering them.
Lastly, the ending. Did I like it? Yes, yes I did. Many people have complained about the ending of this series, and I don’t really know why. I don’t really think Katniss becomes any more or less admirable – she is a convincing portrayal of a teenager who has gone through the atrocities she goes through in these books, and we see her change from an awkward, emotionally closed off adolescent to a traumatised young adult who will never really recover from her experiences. And though the ending isn’t all doom and gloom, it isn’t super-happy either, and so it shouldn’t be – this is a dystopian story after all, and if anything the story is supposed to serve as a warning, so ending with “and they lived happily ever after” doesn’t quite seem fitting. I think this ending is the only logical and realistic way it could end, and if people want a fairytale ending, well, they’re reading the wrong books.
At the end of the day, I have to confess that this series is well worth the hype, and is a rollicking good read. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a try, because chances are you’ll like it more than you think. I would give the series a 4 out of 5, as a whole!
Have you read this series yet? Did you enjoy it?
If you have read it, do you think the ending of the final book was a worthy ending, or were you disappointed?