Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trilogy Goes Up in Flame

30. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

31. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I read The Hunger Games, the first book in the trilogy, a few months ago and have been eager ever since to read the remaining two books. This weekend, I went on a binge and read them both in a couple of days.

The best thing about this series, which did not disappoint in either of the sequels, is the protagonist's perspective. While I don't think a different perspective would have hurt and might have livened things up at points, Katniss Everdeen continues to be her cranky, fearful, dangerous, and unyielding self and I can imagine her having written every word. Collins has created a strong female character who is neither a bitch nor a Mary Sue, and that's an accomplishment in my book, besides damn entertaining. I'm not at all like her, but I can still relate to her.

I had a lot of guesses about how this series would go and I was right on most of them. There were a few twists I didn't see coming, one because it was awful and another because it was brilliant. Catching Fire was a disappointment in that its plot essentially repeats the same plot as the first book, which from my view was simply lazy plotting. I guess Collins decided not to mess with a good thing, but I think it dulled the impact and was unnecessary if not boring. Mockingjay is where the good stuff kicks in, and I saw the plot elements that I'd been dreaming of from the beginning. I couldn't wait for Katniss to find out that District Thirteen really exists and is mounting a rebellion against the Capitol. I saw that coming from a mile away, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good plot. It's exciting, a way to get Katniss out of her element, let us see her struggle with a new situation. And it's her reactions that the readers really care about.

The aforementioned brilliant twist occurs in Mockingjay, and it fit in so well, so amazingly with all the themes and messages of the book, it was the perfect trial for Katniss, that's all I'll say. But this is a book that is profoundly about manipulation and betrayal and its effects, and I love the celebration of rebellious nature that it encourages.

What you won't find in the Hunger Games series is a great deal of world-building. As an LOTR and Dune fan, this was disappointing. There are a few futuristic elements, like genetically mutated animals, and of course the political organization of Panem, and hints at the cultures of the different districts, but this is a plot-driven novel, missing the fine details that would make it a classic, for adults anyway. On the same note, while Collins does strive to color in some minor characters, we only really get to know and feel for the main characters, as opposed to other more detailed fantasy series. Overall, I would deem Collins' trilogy a fun, exciting read, but definitely YA.

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