Friday, August 19, 2011

Catching Fire and Mockingjay

I tried to try to write this post without any huge spoilers, but it might be safest (if you’re a paranoid reader like myself) to hold off reading this one until you've finished the series. I’m lumping my thoughts about two and three together, mostly because I read them so fast that they’re hard to distinguish from each other, except for the escalating violence.

My reviews for books two and three of The Hunger Games (isn’t it confusing when a series is named after the first book?) aren’t quite as glowing as the first book’s review. First off though, a couple things about the series overall. For starters, amazing cover art- props to Scholastic for creating simple and iconic designs. There were also some great themes carried throughout the series that tied them together more than just a progressive storyline- the build-up of what “games” are for example.

I still love the writing and how Collins really draws you in and doesn’t let go. However, these books were much heavier than the first book. If The Hunger Games was dark, the books that follow are moon-behind-the-clouds-at-midnight-pitch-black. The violence wasn’t just present, it was jarringly real. I’m really curious to see how they portray this in the movies and what kind of rating they’ll get.

Speaking of the movies, I saw the pictures and I like the casting- it helps me visualize the characters better, and it doesn’t hurt that the guys are pretty adorable ( In the books, the reader gets Katniss’s point of view, but she keeps the other characters at a distance because she thinks they’re safer there (and I would have to agree with her- the closer you are, the more painful your life and/or death). Unfortunately, this leaves the reader distanced from all other characters.

Which leads me to the next big debate: Gale vs. Peeta. I was a Gale fan all the way through until the end when I wondered if I could be a fan of neither. Peeta was the guy I should like but didn’t and Gale was distant but always lurking in the background. Who are these guys outside of their unconditional love for Katniss?

Most of my friends were solidly Team Peeta, but many of them still agreed with me, disliking the love triangle completely. Josh, my friend lured into the books by their violence said he might not read the second book: “I’m not going to like it if it’s full of this love triangle crap. That story line has been done way too many times before.” Brittany, who commented on my first post, agreed, saying that the triangle seemed forced. Gale never had a chance and Katniss doesn’t have a realistic view of her feelings. But would I like these books without the love triangle? Probably not. It’s a huge plot-mover/character-motivator. And a good YA book always has some sort of relationship drama.

What I really want to know is if there’s a correlation between who you pick Peeta/Gale and Edward/Jacob. Leave your picks in the comments and I’ll reveal mine!

Finally, the ending: it wasn’t satisfying. It was way too pessimistic, you don’t know leave knowing the truth, and what exactly does this tell us about our world now?? Collins seems to say: life isn’t perfect, some things you can’t control, deal with it by knowing that occasionally people are compassionate, even if society isn’t. This may be true, but the message isn’t great enough to overcome all the violence we went through to get there! I saw this quote from a YA author, Ilsa J. Bick, today and thought it was appropriate: “Writing for this age group is quite a bit different than writing for adults. It’s not that you can’t be dark or gritty, but with YA there has to be some sort of redemption. Otherwise it just doesn’t work.”

Is there redemption here? How could the ending be better? Let me know if you have any ideas!


  1. Great review! I agree with you on almost all counts. I did like the love triangle to a certain extent...I'm a sucker for fake drama like that :P I do think you're right, though; it made the male leads feel less developed as characters than they should have been, because there was so much focus on who they were as Katniss-admirers.

    I'm with you on the opinion that the first book was better than the last two - they didn't seem to have the same sort of depth that made the first one so great. They run together for me too, since for the most part they're just one violent or shocking scene after another, and it starts to become pretty overwhelming.

    I also thought the end was largely unsatisfying. I was happy that Katniss ended up with the one she did, but beyond that, the ending just felt empty. They all went through horror after unspeakable horror, and for what? The world still looked pretty bleak afterward, and a lot of people seemed to have sacrificed themselves for nothing, which was terrible to see and made it hard to figure out what the final message is supposed to be. I think you're right that YA dystopian novels need some sort of redemptive aspect - nihilistic outlooks have their place, but feeding kids hopeless messages feels wrong somehow.I think kids need to feel that, even when things are darkest, there's still hope and they still have the power to change their surroundings. Adolescence is hard enough without making them feel like adulthood will be worse!

    Whew, sorry for the very long comment! But I wrote about The Hunger Games in my blog, too, so I still have a lot of thoughts about the books ;)

  2. Kristen- thanks for the comment! I like what you have to say about the ending- fitting thoughts for a YA blog. Can you send me a link to your blog? I'm always interested in what other people have to say about books.

  3. Emily - I read the first book of the series but didn't find myself as drawn into it as many other readers. Usually I am a big fan of YA lit, but Hunger Games just didn't captivate me. I'll admit: the only thing that might get me to read the next couple books is finding answers to the questions I left the first book with. (Why did Cinna ask for D12? and What are these games???? being two of them.)

    Your post makes me think I might get some answers from them, so I might dig in if I can get them from the library in a reasonable time frame. I don't really like to leave things unfinished when I can help it. I'll try to give these two books their fair dues when I read and not judge based on anything prior. That's really the best thing you can do for a book, I think.

    P.S. I'm working on a review for "Shine" by Lauren Myracle, a YA book, over at my blog. It came out this May, so it's a recent book, and I think it's definitely worth a read. You can come on over to WordPress and check it out at :)

  4. I'd love to send you a link! :D My blog is Not all of my posts are book-related, but most of them are :)