Friends had been talking up Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy for quite some time so I decided to read them for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, The Hunger Games, but did not think that it lived up to its excessive hype. The second and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay were just interesting enough to cause me to finish the series.
The story is presented through first person narration which completely stifled character development. Also, when your narrator is the protagonist, it’s a pretty clear giveaway that the narrator is not going to die, and any action that takes place away from her will obviously have to be relayed secondhand.
Character development is almost non-existent throughout the series. We learn very little about the background of any character, or reasons why they act and think the way they do. Over 20 child tributes die in the 74th annual Hunger Games and I hardly care about any of them, let alone know all of their names. The characters lack any personality or redeeming qualities, even the main female character, Katniss Everdeen, is sorely underdeveloped. She loves her little sister and is very independent and resourceful—that’s all I got from three books that feature her as the narrator. Katniss started as a very promising female character but ended up slipping into cliché love triangle fodder.
The one character that redeemed the series for me was Peeta—I genuinely enjoyed his character. However, the first person present tense delivery prohibited Collins from exploring Peeta’s character the way she should have. During a part that is paramount to his development, he is relegated to an image on a screen and the reader begins to forget that he even exists.
In each book there are extended boring parts. Collins writes her books in thirds, 9 chapters at a time. For the most part, the first third consists of lengthy plot dumps, which while necessary, were horribly executed. These dumps effectively kill off any momentum generated from the previous installment.
For a book with such immense promise, The Hunger Games trilogy lacked true heart and soul. The writing is not bad—it is simple and straight forward, but Collins lacks the innate story-telling ability that someone like JK Rowling has. Catching Fire and Mockingjay seemed like the were thrown together as money-making sequels rather than a well thought out conclusion to the original story. There was no WOW moment, no jaw-dropping turn of events that makes you go back and re-read the book to see how everything ended up happening.
Overall, an easy read of a series that just lacks the intrigue that makes a great book great. The book is characterized as young adult novels and I suppose that is accurate. The writing style definitely is more enjoyable for teenagers, while there is some adult-level violence and themes. Four out of five stars for The Hunger Games, two stars for both Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The book has a handful of redeeming qualities, but by no means is it a drop-everything-to-finish-it story.