I rarely trust people who urge me to run out and by a whole series of books because I’ll not only be unable to put them down once I start reading, but I’ll be desperate to keep reading as soon as I finish these books. Today, however, I am going to be that person. Suzanne Collins has created one of the most engaging and though-provoking worlds that I have ever encountered. Add to this the incredibly interesting, somewhat unlikeable, and at times tragic characters that react so believably and yet often unexpectedly to the plot and the The Hunger Games series is among literary giants in the top tier of fiction that I have read.
Suzanne Collins has said repeatedly in interviews that the concept for these novels was born out of flipping channels between reality shows and news reports of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Add in a dash of mythology (Theseus) and viola, we have a spark that rekindled my ability to and love of getting completely absorbed in a series. I think the idea of merging and/or juxtaposing reality tv and war reports, two very socially complicated things, would create an interesting and challenging discussion in and of itself, but Collins takes it to a new level. She has created this dystopian future in which there are, essentially, twelve towns (districts) completely isolated from each other and one all-powerful capitol that create the country of Panem. Once a year, during the harvest festivals, the capitol unites the country by collecting two “tributes” from each town to compete in the Hunger Games which are televised and required viewing for every citizen. I will not explain the many questions that the above sentence probably raises, because to say more is to detract from the phenomenal, moving experience of reading the novels.
That said, however, be prepared for a far-from-perfect, old-for-her-age yet still growing up teenage, female narrator/lead character that is frustrating and indecisive, but compassionate and inspiring at the same time. I know, it sounds like an impossible accomplishment of writing, especially in such short novels, but I take my hat off to Suzanne Collins for having such tremendous talent as to accomplish this feat and more. I have recently had some down time at work, and I started reading the first book and had such a hard time putting it down when I had to go to work, that I purchased the entire collection as audiobooks. I wanted to stay late at work just to keep listening to them and found it impossible to pick up other books to read in the evenings because they simply couldn’t compare to the compelling story of Katniss Everdeen and her struggle to become a morally sound surviver in the midst of corruption and misinformation.
The true beauty of the series lies in Collins complete dedication to following through with the implications of the plot even when they result in unhappy and occasionally unsatisfying ends. In the Hunger Games’ world of competition, greed, destruction, and retribution, as in reality television and war, there is rarely a satisfying and/or happy ending. Do not let this deter you from picking up the books though; believe me, they end in the way that they needed to end. As one of my friends recently said, “it was strangely satisfying that there wasn’t the happy ending [she had] predicted.” I had more faith in Collins though, that she would end it in a way that was provocative, thoughtful, and balanced with the rest of the plot, and she definitely did this.
All in all, I recommend that you move these books to the very top of your “must read” and “must buy asap” list if you have not already had the delight of reading them. Also, seriously consider them as excellent holiday/birthday gifts!
Even days after I’ve finished the series, my head is still swimming with the characters and the plot twists. I truly applaud Suzanne Collins and I hope that beyond enjoying these books you will find yourself thinking about the story as well as the things that inspired the story.