Harry Potter and Bella Swan have made young adult literature hot again. Over the past decade, many books for this age group have attempted to replicate those series’ success. With film versions on the horizon, and the ultimate book, Mockingjay, topping the bestseller lists, the Hunger Games trilogy may be close.
The Hunger Games debuted in 2008 to little fanfare, as many books do, but the word-of-mouth marketing machine of bookstores and libraries turned it into a sensation. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is sixteen years old. She lives in a post-apocalyptic society called Panem, in which the United States as we know it has collapsed, and a controlling government rules from the Capitol. The country has been divided into Districts, and in those Districts, the citizens struggle to survive. Each year, to show the government’s power, the rulers of Panem stage a competition called The Hunger Games. Two children from each district, called tributes, fight to the death in a televised, all-too-real version of Survivor.
I realized that I could not review Mockingjay without revealing spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the second book in the trilogy. However, I can give an overview of the series as a whole. The first book’s strengths lie in the character development of Katniss and her struggle to survive in the arena of the Games. The suspense comes from wondering if she will live or die. By the second and third book, it is clear that Katniss will live – but we must derive what we think she will do from what we know of her character. I wasn’t surprised by the wrap-up, although I felt that it was a tad rushed. There was so much more we could have learned from Katniss and her friends, so many things we could have seen that just weren’t shown.
All three books are gripping reads. The grief that permeates the series, the constant sadness that haunts all the characters, the violence, the death – these are the realities of life during war. And yet, we still have Katniss, the strong, likable female hero: the one who brings us hope that life goes on, even during bad times. I look forward to seeing how these books are portrayed onscreen, and re-living the story with our characters again.