Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Considering that ninety-percent of young adult fiction these days is hardly worth the cost of the paper it’s printed on, I was thoroughly shocked when I finished The Hunger Games Trilogy and found myself concluding that it was one of the best things I’d ever read.

Stephen E. Ambrose – author of such classics as Band Of Brothers and Undaunted Courage – once observed that reading for pleasure usually gave him an escape from work and on rare occasions something to remember and on a very few occasions a book that he couldn’t put down until he’d finished it and one that he could never forget. And without a doubt, The Hunger Games Trilogy falls into the latter category. Well-conceived and written, gripping, poignant, and sometimes downright brutal, it offered me one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in a while.

Among the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. 74 years before the narrative begins, there were thirteen districts. These districts rose in rebellion against the Capitol, but were crushed. District 13 was completely obliterated; the other twelve were forced back into servitude. And to make sure that no such rebellion happens again, the Capitol requires that each district contribute one boy and one girl to the yearly Hunger Games, a type of futuristic gladiatorial contest, where the combatants fight each other on live TV. Only one of them will make it out alive.

In the first book of the trilogy, The Hunger Games, 16-year old Katniss Everdeen, an inhabitant of District 12, volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the Games. She regards it as a death sentence. Then again, Katniss has had near-death experiences before. For her, survival, is second-nature, and soon she becomes a serious contender. But to win, she’ll have to start making decisions that pit survival against humanity, and life against love.

Catching Fire is the second installment, and Collins dutifully ratchets things up a notch, creating one of the most intense atmospheres I’ve ever had encountered. And the final book, Mockingjay, is simply phenomenal. To call it a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy is an understatement. I won’t spoil these for you. You can read them for yourself and see what I mean.

Collins’ achievement is no small matter. She has succeeded in creating a true trilogy, one where the books mesh flawlessly with each other to form a cohesive, breathtaking whole. Her writing style is entirely lucid and engaging, her pacing is perfect, and she has an astounding knack for unleashing twists and turns that her readers never see coming. Reading the final half of Mockingjay was probably one of the most jarring experiences I’ve had while reading a book. The sheer emotional impact of it was nearly overwhelming.

As far as content goes, these books are pretty clean, though I wouldn’t recommend them for audiences under 15. The themes are dark, intense, and very mature. The violence, though not gratuitous, is quite brutal at times (particularly in Mockingjay), and there are some disturbing scenes of torture, mutilation, and death. There is also some incidental nudity (related to the Games) in the first two books, as well as some mildly suggestive dialogue. And though a love story is woven throughout the trilogy, Collins doesn’t go overboard with it; it actually adds an interesting facet to the story.

Collins, to my knowledge, does not profess to be a Christian, but there’s plenty for Christians to think about as they read The Hunger Games Trilogy. Just how far would you go to survive? Is it right to meet brutality with brutality? How does society glorify violence and death in its entertainment? Is murdering children in an arena really any different from killing them in the womb? In what ways is the depraved President Snow – the one who smells of “blood and roses” – like Satan? How do his tactics against the people of Panem resemble Satan’s tactics against our souls? And how often do the very safeguards designed to protect liberty only endanger it?

Do yourself a favor and read these books. Collins’ blend of thoughtful science fiction, suspense, romance and political intrigue won’t disappoint you. Like another critic said, “Whereas Katniss kills with finesse, Collins writes with raw power.”

 

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy”

  1. Quite the convincing review, son. Very well written. Since you and Daddy both like this trilogy so much, I might just have to break down and read it. I guess it won’t be much like Austen. :)

  2. Hi Scribe, What a great post. You sure put a lot of thought in this post. I’ve
    never heard of those books, but you’ve almost convinced me that I need to read
    these books. I wonder how long it took you to read the whole series. I’m very
    proud of you, grandson. Thanks for all the time you spent in reading the series and
    posting it on your blog.love U.
    hugs, MEMAW

  3. I second Mary’s comment; you definitely put a lot f thought into this review. I have heard recommendations of the books before, but I’ve held off reading them because of the content issues which you mentioned. Still, I may eventually read these books , based on your recommendation.

    Andrew from Into the Book (http://www.intothebook.net)

  4. I’m glad I read this ;)

    I totally get your point of view- and do agree with it on most points. (I however, know too many people that were shaken and upset by reading HG to recommend it, even if to mature teens and older.)

    I came to a conclusion on a car ride with a friend- that for a mature audience they’re great and can spark some serious conversation and thought- but for the audience they were marketed to- kids age 12- they are totally unacceptable.

    In fact, if they were originally placed in the adult section, I think they would have upset far less people and benefitted more.

    But that’s just me ;)

    1. I agree about the intended audience – HG is not kid’s stuff, which is why it’s definitely only something I’d recommend for older, mature readers (at least 15+).

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it! :)

  5. What an excellent review…
    I’ve been wanting to read this triology…to be honest, I think once I get into it…I’m not going to want to put it down.
    I so appreciate finding a young-teen/adult with this much wisdom and discernment–
    (gives me hope for our crew of kiddos :)
    Thanks for the great review!

  6. Just finished the first one, and I decided to come back here to re-read your thoughts on it. Very interesting, I like the way you sum up the whole trilogy in one go, and though I haven’t read the other two yet (but alas, that shall soon be remedied!) I think you gave them a fair and balanced review without spoiling anything. Excellent work.

  7. Hi Ink, I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for this review. One of the little girls that I mentor (she’s in 6th grade) just finished telling me all about this book. Never having read it or taken the time to find out what it’s about, I remembered seeing a few posts on it here. You see, though I live in NYC, the largest metropolis in the US, in many ways, I reside under a rock! Long story short, my heart palpitated as she told me about this book but I am vastly relieved to read your review and hear your thoughts.Your last paragraph, in which you offer some questions for Christians to consider, is also very helpful. Thanks so much for facing this culture and the world we live in, head on! You are a true gem!

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