Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book 1: The Hunger Games
Book 2: Catching Fire
Book 3: Mockingjay

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.  Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love. –

Wow.  This review is going to be absolutely fangirly.  I can’t help myself.  Sometimes you run across a book, or series of books, that just hit you right between the eyes.  The kind that grabs you and won’t let go, and then touches you emotionally in so many places.  This was one of them for me.

I can’t gush enough over how much I enjoyed this series, but I can tell you I didn’t get a lot of sleep during that three days.  Yes, it took me only three days to read through all three books.  I couldn’t help it.  I finished one and then had to go on to the other.  I’m doing another combo review here and will talk about the entire series as a whole.

First thing I loved about this book?  Katniss Everdeen.  What a heroine.  I don’t know when I’ve loved a female lead quite as much as I did Katniss.  She’s self-sufficient, smart, brave, courageous, sarcastic, gutsy, and about a million other things that all bring me to the same conclusion… she’s just awesome.  Does she change during the course of these books?  Of course she did… and the change was both beautiful and heartbreaking, even while she maintained this underlying strength that was all her and never would change.

Peeta was my second favorite character.  When I first realized this was going to be a possible love interest for Katniss, with a triangle between them and Gale, I wasn’t sure about him.  He didn’t seem to be Katniss’ equal.  But he too grew and changed over the course of the story and began to spring out with inner strengths that I didn’t think he possessed.

This author’s strong suit, one among so many, was her gift for characterization.  Suzanne Collins knows how to make a good character and make you really love them or really hate them.  Even some characters introduced toward the end of the story, who you think will be unimportant but end up dying on you, are great losses to you anyway.  I nearly cried when two such characters died.  I cared so much for them already, I couldn’t help it. 

Aside from characters, the pacing in these books was perfect.  I didn’t skip a word.  Couldn’t!  The writing verged on the lyrical and poetic at times, and then gritty and raw at others.  Collins changed her approach to be exactly what each scene and situation demanded.  I was amazed.

I know some people have said they were disappointed in the ending of Mockingjay.  I was not.  It ended the only way it could end.  After everything that had happened to these characters, this was as perfect an ending as things were going to get for these characters and still be realistic.  If the author had ended it any differently, I think she would have been cheating, and she would have been belittling the tragedies that her characters had fought and come through so bravely on the other side.  I felt emotionally wrung out when I finished, but I was sad, sad, sad that it was over.  I wanted to read them again immediately.

This author has an enormous talent.  Please, please, please, Ms. Collins, write us another brilliant series! I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.  She’s on my auto-buy list henceforth!!

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