So I started the first book because I had an exam the next morning, and I couldn’t sleep. Figured half an hour of reading would make me sleepy. It didn’t. I wound up finishing the first book at 6:30 am, and immediately starting the second.
I knew about the books from a vlogbrothers video, and actually googled them around the time Mockingjay came out, thinking that anything that has Hank so excited must be good. It’s written in first person, from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl living in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed. The country is divided in 12 Districts, with the city of Capitol, where the government holds power, in the middle. Katniss volunteers to be the female tribute in the Hunger Games for her District to save her twelve-year old sister from going.
Before you reach the Hunger Games, you get a full view of the world Katniss lives in: people starving, a few resorting to illegal hunting outside the fence designed to both keep them safe and keep them hostage. You meet Katniss, her family and her friend Gale, who talks about running away from the District to live in the woods. It’s a moot point, though: they are both the pillars of their families, bringing food on the table after their fathers died in the same mining accident. The day of the reaping, Katniss is worried about Gale: how is name is written forty times on the list for the Hunger Games, in return for a monthly supply of grain and oil, and how her name is on there twenty times. The moment her sister’s name is called out, she can’t believe it at first, because her sister’s name has been there only once, so she literally spent no time stressing about that possibility.
I’m tempted to go on, but I really don’t want to spoil this for anyone. Suffice to say, she isn’t satisfied with the male tribute (even though she clearly states they are not friends, they didn’t even talk before that, until she remembers how she feels in his debt for something that happened years before). It’s interesting to see Katniss go through the Games, how she operates alone at first, and how she picks up an ally. How she and Peeta, the other tribute, develop a sort of friendship, but how she always reminds herself to not get too close to him, because only one person will survive, and she promised her sister she would be that person.
In the second book, Katniss has to deal with being perceived as a threat by the president, because her actions in the Hunger Games have started the spark of rebellion in the Districts. She receives an ultimatum from the president: fan out the flames, or else… and she tries, she really does, but it seems like everything she does is like adding timber to the flame. Everything she says and does seem to encourage people towards rebellion even more. Now what you have to bear in mind is that the actual Hunger Games started as a reminder to the Districts of the Capitol’s absolute power, after District 13 rebelled and was consequently blown off the map for it. You don’t really know how many years these people have spent under a totalitarian rule. Collins said the number of years it took for North America to become Panem is in the three digits. There is a reference to democracy being in a history book, and someone reflects that maybe it’s in there for a reason: it didn’t work, and they are still trying to bring it back. But still, the fact that these people are fighting against the regime is not a stretch by any means, and Katniss is actually enraged that she is the one who has to fix things.
In the third book she lives in District 13, which turns out has an understanding with the Capitol: they are left alone, and in exchange they don’t blow nuclear missiles on Panem. Everybody wants Katniss to become the Mockingjay, the mascot of the revolution. She resists, at first, and has mostly just selfish thoughts about it. She is nothing but a seventeen-year-old girl, somewhat mentally incapacitated after a concussion, a survivor of the Hunger Games, yeah, but that’s hardly something that makes her qualified for war. And the only way they want her to actually take part in the fighting is by posing for a camera, so they can transmit her image to the citizens of the Districts, so that they don’t give up their rebellion. It works, after they realize they can’t do it from a studio, the preferred choice, but by letting Katniss take a small part in the fighting. There she becomes an inspiration, giving heartfelt speeches, and painting this perfect picture of a rebel leader. So much so that when she’s supposedly killed and isolated from her allies, the Capitol airs the news of her death, and is quick to announce that the rebel movement is now paralyzed without its leader. In truth, it had been made clear to her that her use actually came to an end, seeing as the only one left standing was the Capitol, and they didn’t need her to take it down.
It didn’t strike me until somewhere in the third book how heart wrenching these books actually are. (I cried at the end, and I have to tell you, I rarely cry) Because up until a point I was thinking of it like some action story, a thriller, with kids slaughtering each other in an arena for mass entertainment, and a heroine that can’t really seem to make up her own mind between two desirable guys, when I clearly know who she should end up with (and she doesn’t actually end up with that one). But, wait a minute. She’s seventeen years old, and has already been through an incredibly traumatic ordeal. Even before that she knew that she didn’t want to start her own family, because she never wanted her own child to go through the fear of being legible for the Hunger Games. And even at her ‘weakest’ all she really wants is to protect her family to the best of her abilities, and how can you possibly begrudge her that?
I think I didn’t really soak up the story, seeing as I’m a good two hours until I can say I started reading the first book two days ago. So I’m sure I will reread them, and see them better for what they are. And anticipate some things better; understand why some characters do what they do, actually notice episodic appearances. But for a first impression, right after I finished reading: I loved the trilogy so much, and I’m actually a little bit sad that I got such a continuous read.