I realized that I’ve never weighed in on the Hunger Games yet, so here goes. First, let me give two disclaimers.
1) This post is going to be chock full of spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t finished the series. For real, I warned you. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s experience.
2) Don’t try to read this series unless you can put your entire life on hold for a few days. Once you open the front cover, that’s essentially what you’re committing to do.
Ok, disclaimers. Check.
I nearly passed over the Hunger Games trilogy. I’m don’t track the bestseller lists all that intently, so I missed the craze at first. Then, I dismissed them because I have other books (literally at least 200) waiting for me to read them. Plus, I just lumped the trilogy into a category with Twilight and Harry Potter…young adult fad literature. But, then, friends of mine who don’t voluntarily watch the Disney channel on a regular basis started to say that they couldn’t put the books down, and my sister conveniently had just bought and finished the series. Thus, I took them from her and took the plunge.
It took me 10 days to read the series. I lost so much sleep. And, after considering why I liked them so much, I’ve landed on three reasons.
First, I like that they didn’t end ridiculously happy. Sure, Katniss has her children and Peeta in the end, but really, she isn’t settled about life. A world where children fight to the death on reality shows and where there have been two massive world-altering wars in a span of 75 years is going to feel unsettled, and I like that the books don’t try to dodge that fact. I like a book that recognizes that bad events breed less than ideal circumstances. I don’t know if I’ve admitted it any previous posts yet, but I’m a sucker for books that end “badly.” Give me some Thomas Hardy. He makes me so mad with the way his protagonist’s life ends in most of the stories that I’m about ready to fling the book across the room. I wasn’t quite there with the Hunger Games, but I gave a pretty hearty sigh at the end.
Second, I like that in spite of the badness of the world, the books elevated self-sacrificing love as a force that could triumph over corruption and emotional damage. I guess in the end that Katniss is presented as a heroine who decides to shoot President Coin independent of the advice of any of her supporters, but she never would have arrived at that moment without her supporters, people who in some cases literally died for her. I like that the books don’t present love as simple. The characters struggle to both give and receive it, but in the end, this love contributes to a change in the world.
Finally, I liked that I couldn’t decide. Both my sister and another friend told me when I started reading that they couldn’t decide whether Peeta or Gale should “win,” and I really wanted to decide by the end of the trilogy as a result. But, I couldn’t. And, that indecision made the books that much richer. I couldn’t simplify the story to rooting for just one character. Instead, I was caught up to the very end in the horror that each character had to endure, a horror made worse for the tension between them. And, when Peeta did win, I could buy the reason why. I felt like the love triangle resolved as it should when Katniss was able to recognize that Gale was just too much fire and passion for her. She needed something else. But, I liked that I had to wait for the book to bring that answer to me.
So, I’m interested to hear, what kept other people reading to the end of the trilogy (or caused you to quit before you got there)?