Thank God. Thank GOD I did not read these until all of them were out. This trilogy, this gripping, fantastic, realistic and horrifying trilogy, by Suzanne Collins is the first series of books since Harry Potter that would have been able to whip me up into a frenzy of near-panic with every release. I am so glad that I ignored the hype and waited until all three books were available, because if I had had to wait I would've been just as sick with anticipation as I am for every Wheel of Time book release and as I was with every Harry Potter book release.
I was reminded of so many things reading these books. A little bit Lord of the Flies. A little bit of the Greek mythology tale about Theseus, one of 24 youths sent as a tribute to a distant King, sacrifice of a conquered people to their conquerer who uses them to feed his Minotaur. A little bit of Tamora Pierce's books, which feature strong and independent young women who fight against the boundaries of their societies and often fight for the protection of the weak.
Before I read these books though, mostly they reminded me of Twilight. I would like to formally apologize, even though I'm sure Suzanne Collins doesn't care, for every thinking that just because this trilogy was a huge fad, that it might be even close to the drivel that is Twilight.
This is fantastic writing. It sucks you in with its horror, with its beauty, with its horror and its hope. We see the best of humans and the worst of humans. Reality TV at its most grand and its most repulsive. And as I read this book, I could see it. I could see people watching these horrible, horrible games.
The basic story line is that, as punishment for a past revolution, every year two tributes are chosen from each of the 12 poorer Districts to compete in the gaudy and triumphant Capitol. The two tributes are children, one boy and one girl, between the ages of twelve and eighteen. The winner is the last one left alive, and their district is showered with prizes and food, enough for everyone to eat, while the other districts continue to starve. This tribute is supposed to be a reminder to the Districts of the price of rebellion, the complete control the Capitol has over their lives and also a show to keep those in the Capitol entertained - similar to the Gladiator arenas of Ancient Rome or the brutal ball games culminating in the execution of the losers played by the Mayans. If anyone has any doubt that games like this could ever happen, we have only to look at our bloody past to know that they already have.
But the writing... Thank you, thank you for a book filled with fantastic writing! It's nice to know that many of the same children and young adults who love the atrocious writing that is Twilight (and don't get me wrong, I read the books and they're entertaining in their own way but the writing is just downright terrible) have also found a much better example of good authorship as they flock to read The Hunger Games. More than that, I love the main character Katniss.
Forget Bella, weak useless Bella who always needs a man to save the day - maybe two. Katniss Everdeen, the main character of The Hunger Games, has been providing for and taking care of her family since her father died when she was 11. She's a fighter, she's independent, she's strong, and even though she becomes a ruthless killer she also maintains her own sense of morals and humanity. Even if it's the wrong thing to do, she always speaks up for what she thinks is the right thing, no matter whether she's arguing with an enemy or her best friend. Sure, there's some romance mixed in, some actually complex relationships and emotions that made my heart hurt for her because there are no easy choices in life.
That might be my favorite thing about these books. The reality that I feel lurking behind it. None of this is made easy. Characters I loved, died. Often horribly. Kat is constantly injured, badly. Emotionally she's twisted around, by love, by friendship, by the manipulations of the people in power. There is nothing about her story that is easy. She works for every good moment she gets, for every 'power' or ability she has. Nothing just comes to her, she's had to fight for it.
Kat, you certainly get my three-fingered salute.
(And if you've read the books, you know what I'm talking about =) And if you haven't, YOU SHOULD!)