Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins includes The Hunger Games (Book 1), Catching Fire (Book 2), and Mockingjay (Book 3)
I'd heard a lot about these books and wanted to read them for myself. I really enjoyed the first book, so much so I actually purchased the second and third to read on my Kindle (and forced myself to wait a week and a half to do so because I knew I needed to be a little productive before I bought the books or nothing would get done until I finished reading them).
I am going to try to talk a little about these books without revealing too many spoilers, for those who want to read for themselves. Therefore, please forgive my vagueness. I'd be happy to give more information over email to those who are interested in more details. I'm also not trying to start a big conversation in the comments about the appropriateness of these books. I just read them myself and wanted to state what I thought.
Katniss Everdeen find herself a tribute in the Hunger Games, an annual battle of one girl and one boy from each of twelve districts who fight to the death in an arena filled with traps and horrors to entertain the people of the Capital and remind everyone else of their subjugation. The Games are horrific and Katniss actually participates, killing other tributes. Kansas Dad has read a bit about the series, though not yet the series itself, and says many people criticize the series because Katniss participates at all in something that is obviously immoral. I personally thought the first book gave a lot of room for understanding and compassion for Katniss who really doesn't have any choice but to participate and does so as well as she can. (She doesn't kill everyone she can. She protects other tributes.) The people in these districts know nothing of ethics or faith, though they sense the natural law that makes the Hunger Games and the behavior of the government as a whole obviously wrong.
As I started reading the second book, I hoped very much to see Katniss grow as a young woman to understand how to place herself in a moral world and to fight for that which is right rather than just to keep herself or those she loves alive. Though the second and third books were just as exciting (and even more horrific, if you can believe it), I was disappointed to see no such growth. In fact, no character shows that kind of transformation. Only a few main characters are consistently good and all but two (I think) perpetrate acts of extreme violence.
Overall, I enjoyed reading these books. They were entertaining, but they were not instructive. While parents could find some interesting themes and aspects to discuss with teenagers about morality, just government, justice, truth, and manipulation, the books themselves do not provide adequate responses or answers. I would put them above the level of twaddle, but below the level of anything we would read for lessons.
This is definitely a series for mature readers only (high school and above). I would even encourage my children to read the Harry Potter series first. As dark as it is at times, it is not nearly so violent. The third book of the Hunger Games series in particular repeatedly contains acts of senseless violence against the most innocent and defenseless. As a small part of a well-rounded and extensive pool of books, these would be fine. If this series were the best books my teenagers were reading, I would be greatly concerned.