I’m a little late to this party, and probably the last person I know to read these books. My husband has had the first movie uploaded to our Tivo for awhile, and we haven’t watched it because I wanted to read the books first!
Anyway, in the future, after the oceans rise and North American continent has been reshaped, the former United States is now called Panem. Split into 12 districts, they are ruled over by the Capitol. There had been 13 districts, but 75 years before the 13th district led a rebellion against the Capitol. The rebellion was crushed, and the 13th District was detroyed. As a lesson to the rest, every year the Capitol puts on the Hunger Games. Two young people from each district are chosen to compete in a fight to the death. The people are forced to watch, and the winner gets food and shelter for themselves and their families for the rest of their lives.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl living in District 12 (what is currently Appalachia). She hunts illegally with a bow to feed her mother and sister. She’s a tough cookie, but she has to be to survive. When her little sister’s lot is chosen in the Hunger Games, Katniss takes her place.
She is sent to the Capitol to prepare for the games with Peeta Mellark, a baker’s son and the other “tribute” from District 12. There they are trained and sent into the arena to meet and try to kill the tributes from the other districts.
The first book, The Hunger Games, tells of this first competition. It’s harsh. I’ve heard these books described as the “anti-Twilight”, and while they are more than that, I can’t think of two more opposite characters than Katniss and Bella. Katniss is smart, resourceful, but also vulnerable in a way that feels genuine. She’s not supergirl, but she’s pretty awesome. Young girls need more characters like her. The Hunger Games ends with the end of the competition and announcing of the winner.
Catching Fire starts where the first book left off. We find Katniss dealing with the consequences of her decisions in the arena. The Capitol is not happy with her. I won’t spoil it, but she has to go back and compete again, this time against new characters. This book felt the shortest, and I read through it pretty quickly. Where the first spent time setting up the Hunger Games universe, this just rolled right out of the gate and was fast paced.
Mockingjay, like Catching Fire, begins exactly where the second book ends. In this book, Katniss finds herself the unwilling symbol of rebellion against the Capitol. I think while good, (and a fitting end to the trilogy), I enjoyed this book the least. The pacing is necessarily slower – there is a great deal of soul-searching and we do see growth from all of the characters.
There is a quote that runs through all 3 books, from Haymitch, former champion and mentor to the tributes from 12: “Always remember who the real enemy is.” In the end, Katniss does.
Read more reviews at Cannonball Read 5: http://cannonballread5.wordpress.com/