Quick Review: The Hunger Games series

The Hunger Games trilogy by author Suzanne Collins is popular. Hollywood is currently searching for a starlet to play the main character, Katniss Everdeen. And I too have recently read these books and have some thoughts:

1. I like the premise of the Hunger Games. The story is set in a dystopian world where the Capitol controls all 13 surrounding districts. As part of the control, each year the districts submit two teenagers, one male and one female, to compete in a reality TV contest where the winner must be the last one alive. Katniss is selected to compete in the Hunger Games and that is where the fun begins.

2. If I had to sum up the tone of the books in one phrase: this is like the young adult fiction version of a Jerry Bruckheimer film. Lots of action, little else. The characters have little emotional depth and don’t spend much time dwelling on what is happening. The real story is the action which includes two sets of Hunger Games and a war. Reading scenes where Katniss is in pain or disoriented is like watching jittery hand-held movie scenes.

3. I did not find the main character, Katniss, to be likable. Granted, she has had a difficult life but she is often caustic and unpleasant. She has good reason to be irritated – she ends up being a pawn for more powerful people throughout much of the three books – but I would think it is difficult for readers to make a connection with her. If there any connection to be made, it would be with her action-hero side as she shows determination and courage.

4. While it isn’t really explored in the books, this could be a devastating critique of reality television. Throughout the three books, Katniss is on display, first for entertainment and then later for propaganda. She chafes at this role but in this future version of society, people seem to be easily manipulated by what they see on their television screens. The power struggle in the books is often about who gets to control the overall narrative in the land.

5. Who is on the side of good or evil is muddied in the final book. While much of the action is taken against the oppressive Capitol, Katniss struggles with the idea that the rebels may be just as bad. This is not a typical good vs. evil outcome – the main outcome centers on the consequences of Katniss’ final actions.

Overall, I rated this series 2.5 out of 5 stars. The premise was interesting but I wasn’t fond of the execution or the outcome. This trilogy fits in with the dystopian turn in young adult fiction and will likely be a movie hit in the near future.