The Sunday Salon: The Hunger Games Trilogy

by Kim on September 5, 2010 · 18 comments

The Sunday Salon.com The second half of this post is chock full of spoilers for the entire Hunger Games Trilogy, so be warned. I’ll do a spoiler warning again, but just wanted to cover my bases. What’s the statue of limitations on spoilers, anyway?

This week I made the decision that I was going to re-read both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins before I jumped into Mockingjay. I made the decision sort of last minute – the day Mockingjay came out – so I ended up having to wait a few days for my books to get delivered, but once they arrived I read though all three books in three days.

I’ve always wanted to re-read a series before starting the next book, but rarely have time make time to do it. The last time I wanted to do it was Harry Potter, but it always seemed like a lot to do all the books before the next one so I ended up just reading a previous volume (#6 before #7).

But the Hunger Games Trilogy is pretty short, I read these books fast, and, frankly, I didn’t remember much from the first two books before going into Mockingjay. Hence, an epic re-read.

Before I go on to the “review” part of this post, I’m curious though, are any of your series re-readers? What’s the best/worst parts of doing that? Any series that were your favorites?

SPOILERS ABOUND FROM HERE. For realz. You have been warned.

The Hunger Games was just as good as I remembered it being. The entire idea of the Games in the first place was just as horrifying as I remembered, and the entire experience of the games was really good. It’s a book that I still didn’t want to put down, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen.

In some ways, I wish this had been the only book because I think it stands so well on its own. It’s not epic literature or anything, but it’s a good story and Katniss is pretty kick-ass through all of it.

It bothers me the way Katniss lost a little of her kick-assness in Catching Fire, although not as much as it did the first time I read the book. The first time I read Catching Fire I didn’t like it much – Katniss’s total lack of brains was really frustrating to me. On a second read, I didn’t feel that way as much. I was more aware of the ways people were actively keeping her in the dark, I think, which makes her easier to understand.

And now to Mockingjay. When I finished the book, the only thing that came to my mind was, “Wow, that was bleak.” I didn’t get the satisfied end of a series feeling when I got done; I just felt dark.

What I liked about re-reading the first two books before this one is that a lot of the character decisions didn’t seem as out of line to me as I think they did for other people. For example, I read some reviews where people really objected to the way Gale turned into this crazy rebellion guy, but I think there were some pretty clear hints about his motives and extremism in the first two books – the hunting, being whipped, his family, strong talk about doing whatever it takes. I didn’t like the way he disappeared to District 2 at the end of the book, but the rest of it didn’t seem out of character to me.

I also think Gale is a great example of one of Collins’s messages about how it’s easy to lose sight of what’s right when you’re in the midst of a war. His allegiance to Coin and his feelings about blowing up the mine made it crystal clear.

Katniss, despite being pretty useless for most of this book, at least kept her priorities straight, except for the vote to do another Hunger Games, which I’m still not sure about.

But really, the way Katniss is almost totally out-of-the-loop in Mockingjay was frustrating to me. It bothered me that her progression over the series wasn’t to be more powerful, but instead to be less powerful, less confident, less important. I get that her two times in the arena for the Games started to break her, but I guess I just didn’t want that to be the story, you know?

Despite being on the fence about Team Peeta/Team Gale for the entire series, I was happy with the way this worked out. I didn’t think Katniss could really be with Peeta unless they got some serious therapy and could try their romance without the eyes of Panem on them. But I never really got enough Gale in the first couple books to be convinced he’d be The One either. I was curious how Collins would work this out, and hoped she just wouldn’t kill one of them off and eliminate the choice for Katniss.

In that sense, I thought the whole brainwashing Peeta thing was sort of brilliant. It was almost like a “reset” button for Peeta, one that effectively broke him and Katniss up, and then gave them the space to get back together if it was what both of them wanted at the end of the experience. I felt like it was what needed to happen for them for the romance to have a real chance.

Even after writing like 1,000 words and reading reviews and pondering, I’m still not sure what I thought of Mockingjay. I liked lots of parts, but the way Katniss just got less and less powerful wasn’t what I was expecting and didn’t leave me feeling satisfied. And although satisfaction isn’t a requirement in books I read, it’s something I must have been expecting for this series that I just didn’t get.

And My Next Book

Also, for those who voted in what my next book should be, here’s how the votes worked out:

Zoo Story – 2
Proust and the Squid – 6
Emerging Adulthood – 2
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky – 9

So, there you have it – The Woman Who Fell from the Sky took the votes this time. I started it this morning, and despite the alarmingly pink cover underneath the dust jacket, I’m enjoying it so far. It’s so interesting for me to read about journalism in other countries, particularly the Middle East.

And that’s all I’ve got this Sunday. Hope you’re having a great holiday weekend so far!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda September 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Rereading CF also made me dislike it less, and I could see more how Katniss’ wasn’t just losing her brains, which is what I felt the first time. Reading CF a third time, after reading Mockingjay twice, is an even more interesting experience because there’s a lot of foreshadowing that it was impossible to see before the third book. There is something that I DID see before hand (like I knew that Gale would turn into exactly the person he became – I thought it was perfectly in character for him), but there was a lot I couldn’t. I do like rereading this series and I do think it gets very in depth. And the more I think about it, the more I understand Katniss’ decision to say Yes there at the end – I really think she was just trying to get Coin to let her guard down so that she could kill her. The first time I read the book, though, that really bothered me. Mostly, though, I really loved Mockingjay and it exceeded my expectations on almost every level.

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Kim September 6, 2010 at 9:45 am

Amanda: Catching Fire was a lot better the second time. The first read, it just bugged me so much. I suspect Mockingjay will be sort of the same way — knowing what’s coming makes reading the book a different experience. And I read all of them really fast this time, despite trying to slow down, and I imagine a more careful read helps too.

I’ve read quite a few people say the “Yes” was part of a bigger plan to get Coin, which makes sense, I just didn’t see it the first time at all.

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Trisha September 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Every time a new Harry Potter came out, I would re-read the entire series before picking up the new one. It’s a bit crazy, I know, but I love it. Most of the series I read, I don’t get to until at least the first few have already been published – which is nice I must admit, despite being behind the times a bit.

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Kim September 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

Trisha: I would have loved to do that with HP, I just never managed to make it happen. I’ve reread a few of the books a couple of times, but never the entire series in a row. There aren’t a lot of series that I get into, so rereading chances like this one don’t come along very often.

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Jenny September 6, 2010 at 7:02 am

When I reread a series (or any book really), I frequently find that the things I remember objecting to tend to occupy a far less significant place in the book than I remember their having. Which is nice. :)

I just finished Mockingjay yesterday, and I found it pretty satisfying. I kind of liked it that Katniss was being kept out of the loop. It would have felt a bit weird to me if she were constantly on the front lines–I thought it made sense that the rebels wanted to keep her safe as much as possible, given her condition.

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Kim September 6, 2010 at 9:50 am

Jenny: Yes, I think that’s true. I tend to magnify what I didn’t like (in this case, Katniss being a total dolt in CF) until I can’t remember much else.

When I think about the role Katniss had in this book, it makes sense to me, even if it’s not exactly what I hoped for. I mean, she’s a 17-year-old girl, badly damaged by her life experiences — of course she isn’t going to be the star of the show all the time. But her not being there also doesn’t leave a lot of exciting things to happen, I guess. I’m still mixed :)

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Sheila (Bookjourney) September 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I am writing this comment in answer to your questions before I continue your post. You asked if we were re-readers and I am. I like to remind myself of series, but I did not have the time to do it with the Hunger Games Trilogy although I know someday I will read them all together.

Favorite series – I have to admit it – to this day it is the Harry Potter Books.

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Kim September 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Sheila: I LOVE the Harry Potter series. It might be my favorite too, although I was partial to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

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rhapsodyinbooks September 6, 2010 at 5:08 pm

That is so funny because I did the exact same thing but my conclusions came out almost totally differently! My summary of the three is posting tomorrow so you could see that, for example, by rereading them I thought Gale was not at all what he turned out to be in Mocking jay! And I wasn’t too thrilled with who Peeta was or seemed to be. How interesting!!! :–)

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Kim September 9, 2010 at 7:40 pm

rhapsodyinbooks: That is interesting! I will have to go read your post and compare. I think Gale got a little more pedantic than I might have expected, but not so far that I didn’t believe it.

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softdrink September 6, 2010 at 8:54 pm

It’s times like this that make me wish I was a re-reader. I wonder if I would’ve been happier with the outcome of the series had I re-read the other two books. Or remembered more.

Or maybe I’d be like Other Jill and still be an unhappy camper.

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Kim September 9, 2010 at 7:42 pm

softdrink: I’m not sure if the re-reading helped me be happier with the series or not. I did like seeing the progression of the story, especially since I read them so far the first time I barely remembered anything.

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Ash September 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I was actually really pleased with the way the series ended, although I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about it. I agree Katniss got less powerful, but I think the way she Collins ended the series was very realistic.

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Kim September 13, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Ash: And I do agree that Katniss’ descent was realistic, but it still didn’t feel satisfying initially. I think with time, and maybe a re-read, I’ll start to like the ending better.

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