People have raved to me about Suzanne Collins' the Hunger Games trilogy for the past four years. At first I stayed away from it because I was deep in trenches of The Wheel of Time series, a 15-novel epic that consumed 2 years of my literary life. Upon finishing WoT, I jumped immediately into A Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) and just last month I was finally able to see what all the fuss is about.
The Hunger Games is a three-novel dystopian fantasy series that follows teenage protagonist Katniss Everdeen as she is unintentionally drawn into a rebellion against her fascist government, a rebellion for which she becomes the poster child.
The first novel, The Hunger Games, opens the story with showing Katniss' life in District 12 (one of twelve districts), which borders on squaller. Citizens of District 12 are destined to work in coal mines, and many families go without food and adequate healthcare. Once per year, two teenagers (a boy and a girl) are reaped from each of the twelve districts to fight to the death in what are called the Hunger Games. The fascist government, lead by the villainous President Snow, and the citizens of the Capitol watch the games as a sort of reality television show. In the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Malark are selected as tributes from District 12. The rest of the novel shows Katniss' battle against the other tributes from Districts 1-11. Only one tribute will survive.
I saw the movie before I read the book, so I knew what I was getting myself into. Though the book has a little more detail than the film, I have to say that I enjoyed the film more. The entire series is written just from Katniss' point of view. In the film, we get to see scenes that are only alluded to in the books (because Katniss can't be everywhere at once). About the point of view, it was really hard for me to swallow. Writing in the first person can be great for storytelling, but I had a hard time with the present tense. As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I've become accustomed to stories being told in the past tense. My mind just follows it better.
Novel #2, Catching Fire, picks up several months after the events of the first book. Most this book follows the formula of the first: pre-hunger games story, the hunger games, post-games whirlwind. There is a twist toward the end. I enjoyed this book more than the first. Collins spent less time focusing on building Katniss' character, and more time getting her into the action of the book. The stakes are also higher, which always makes for better reading.
I also saw the film for this movie before reading the books, and I enjoy them both pretty much equally. The book did some things better and the film did some things better. All in all, this is the best book of the series and well worth the read.
The final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy is Mockingjay. I liked this novel the least out of the three. The story itself (plot points, scenery, action/suspense) was spot on, but by book three I was tired of our heroine. Now, I know that Katniss is a 17 year old girl put into some pretty impossible situations, but she seems to always make the same mistakes. She's even aware of her misdeeds as she's doing them, but she doesn't seem to care. By the end, I'm just happy to be done with her.
I am excited to see how they translate this story to screen (in two movies). The filmmakers have done a great job with Hunger Games and Catching Fire, so I hope that they can deliver with the Mockingjay two-parter. Maybe they'll even make me like Katniss again?
All in all, I have to say that I'm not impressed with The Hunger Games trilogy. Possibly I would have enjoyed it more without all of the hype surrounding it. It caught fire in the middle, but then it fizzled out. Out of 5, I'd give it 3.5 stars.