I have a thing for trilogies lately. As you may remember, the last book I reviewed was the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. That was over a month ago and by now I’ve moved on to the Hunger Games. I finished reading it this weekend and enjoyed it a lot. It is a young adult novel telling the story of Katniss Everdeen who is drafted to take part in a lethal game where 24 youngsters fight till only one remains in the annual Hunger Games.
The three part story is set some time in the near future, when life as we now know it has ceased to exist. Instead there is Panem, which is divided between the Capitol (the place where the ruling classes live) and 12 districts (which provide everything needed by the Capitol). This set up is the result of a period, known as The Dark Days, which pretty much marked the end of days. The Capitol won the resulting war and therefore now rules over the 12 districts which are pretty much subject to a life of slavery to serve the Capitol as it pleases. One of the activities that the 12 districts are subjected to are The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games aren’t much like our Olympics as the name might suggest. The Games are about the Capitol reminding the districts of its power over them. That’s why the Capitol takes 2 tributes, a boy and a girl between the age of 12 – 18 per district, who have to compete in the ultimate game of survival. The tributes are to survive, or fight, until only one of them remains, as in: is still alive. In the mean time, the Games are televised across Panem for all to see. It’s like Survivor (Expeditie Robinson) meets Orwell’s 1984, meets Battle Royale.
Our unfortunate and unlikely heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl who lives in district 12. She is stubborn and dislikes the Capitol (of course voicing those feeling out loud is a bad idea) and ends up in the Hunger Games after filling in for her sister during the selection ceremony (known as the Reaping). In the first book, her adventures during the Games form the central theme. In books 2 & 3 it’s all about rebellion against the Capitol. Obviously Katniss survives the first Hunger Games, but is thrown in a loop in book 2 and 3, apparently because of her own acts and decisions.
However, how much she really plays a role in any of it is questionable. Even though she is the main character she spends a lot of time out of the main action because she gets shot, burned or is injured in one way or another. When she finally does step up and decides she refuses to be a pawn in any of the political games that she is made a part of, the books are pretty much done and come to an end a bit too quickly.
Because that’s the problem with this book. Even though the Games, and the description of the rebellion, this new, unknown world, is interesting, that isn’t the point of the book. It’s about choices: having them, making them, or not, and what the consequences are when you do. The scenes that actually depict action play out very fast, sometimes too fast, leaving you wondering what actually happened and your having to reread parts. The rest of the time is spent in Katniss’ mind: what shall I do? If I do a), then this will happen. If I do b), then this will happen. And then in the end, none of it seems to matter.
It makes for quite some repetition. Both in the book, but also because you sometimes have to go back and reread a paragraph or two because you go like: did I read this correctly? And that can leave you frustrated and puzzled. Especially book 3 is much more about the psychological effects of life on Katniss rather than her doing much of anything. Therefore, the first two books are slightly more exciting. When book 3 finally gets going, it is all over a bit too soon and the actual ending is very meagre. Yes, most questions and loose ends are rounded up, but it is anything but satisfactory.
The Hunger Games is a breeze to read though and the first book could definitely be read as a book on its own. What is very clever about these books though, is that books 1 and 2 aren’t exactly finished when they do and that leaves you wanting more. You always want to know what happens to Katniss next. It’s such a pity that book 3 is a jumble of a whole lot of nothing. Only about 100 pages are worth reading with the last 50 leaving you more confused than before.