It’s been about a week and a half since I tore my way through all three books in The Hunger Games trilogy, and I think I’ve finally calmed down enough to view them slightly more objectively.
It’s been a long, long time since there was a book series that both amazed and disturbed me in this way. The Book Thief currently holds the title for the stand alone novel that kept me awake at night, but Suzanne Collins really stuck to her guns to make The Hunger Games series both awful and awesome. When I first dug into these books, I totally thought that it would be one of those things where the author gives the impression that she’s going to do some really awful stuff, but then ends up making the heroine save everyone from disaster. A book that I thought would end with Katniss leading a bunch of teenagers to safety from the arena (after breaking out somehow) actually ended with 22 of the 24 kids dead. When Collins says it’s a fight to the death, she is not shitting you.
The Hunger Games series was recommended to me by my 13 year old brother, Zach. After I finished Mockingjay, I asked him how the hell he had been able to read these without getting nightmares. He answered “I dunno,” in that annoying way that only 13 year old boys can.
These books are cheese-less, fluff-less, and completely unrelenting. The fact that anyone is alive at the end seems like a miracle. You might think that in a series where almost everyone dies, the death would get boring or lose impact. Not so; not the way Collins does it. The characterization in these books is so good that you become attached to everyone you meet. Deaths matter, and that’s part of what kept me awake at night, burning the midnight oil to get through these books and back to my cushy, happy life.
The world that Collins creates is, while miserable for most of the characters, a great addition to dystopia classics. The fact that she wrote this particular dystopia series, with all it’s blood and violence, to the YA crowd just proves that young adult readers are ready for anything that’s well written. (Well, some stuff that’s not.)
I could go on about these books forever, about how I’m so happy that Katniss and Peeta can be together and how sad it is that Finnick and Annie have a son and the bittersweet victory of losing almost everything for a cause…but I think these books really speak for themselves.
So, go read them.