Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Hunger Games Series.

A review...or rather, a ramble.

I just finished reading MockingJay. It was the third and final book in the "Hunger Games" series. One very fast and simple way to give you an idea as to how the series progressed, would be to share with you how long it took me to complete each book.

The Hunger Games - One day. Not even a full 24 hours. It sucked me in and never let me go. Totally riveting. I loved everything about it. It remains my favorite book in the series.

Catching Fire - Three days. It lagged a little at the start, so I spent the first two days trying to get "into" it and the last day devouring all of the rest because it got so good.

MockingJay - Six weeks. Yup. Not so good. It didn't help that I had read a LOT of reviews and had even more conversations saying everything from "I hated it." to "It was disappointing." to "I didn't think it was so bad..." (And for me, none of those are terribly promising when compared to how I felt about the earlier books in the series.)

I have to say, though, that I thought it was perfect. Slow to start, (as both of the last two books are) but I think that Suzanne Collins hit the nail on the head with pretty much all of it. My biggest complaint is the whiny/wishy-washiness of the main character at times. (Okay, MOST times). Collins makes the same mistake that I believe Stephenie Meyer made with the Twilight series. W.u.s.s.y, victim-y protagonists. I mean, I understand that a lot of people are insecure. Okay, pretty much everyone is to some degree, but honestly? "Beat to death" doesn't even begin to define the approach both Collins and Meyer take in "character development." It's exhausting. I know these characters are technically girls, but sheesh, I find myself wanting to scream "Grow a pair!" more often than not.

Beyond that, I think the story (while disappointing, violent, and often heartbreaking) plays out in way that is far more honest than one could normally hope to expect of young adult series. While Stephenie Meyer finds a way to make absolutely everyone happy happy happy - even down to Jacob's oh so convenient imprinting upon someone who will tie him to Bella forever while simultaneously stripping away his previous love-torn obsession with her, (Well played, Meyer, well played indeed.) Suzanne Collins tells it like it is. And that is as it should be. War doesn't play favorites. It doesn't considerately select it's victims from a pool of faceless, nameless, childless, cowardly, and otherwise uninteresting "soldier-extras." On the contrary, it takes the best, brightest, and bravest from us every day. That is the reality of war. And as much as I hated to read about it, I knew that, if nothing else, it was an honest approach.

I loved that the protagonist didn't go on to live a perfectly happy life. She was scarred, and damaged by the lasting effects of war and violence. Honest again. So are our veterans. Did I love reading about it? No. But should we turn and run from everything that makes us sad or uncomfortable? I certainly don't think so. How is that fair to the people who are forced to face it? Should they face it alone just because we have been blessed to avoid such pain... and now opt not to dabble in it because we find it depressing and hard to face?

I'm not saying that we should wallow in sorrow and despair. Not saying that at all. People fight and die for our right to the pursuit of happiness, and we shouldn't allow that sacrifice to be made in vain. But I think a nice wake up call to the realities of the the world in which we live is important from time to time. I also think that a permanent (rather than occasional or fleeting) appreciation of those sacrifices is in order.

Upon turning the final page of the final book, I wanted to cry. Not for the characters in the book, but for the real people they represent. The fathers that won't be coming home to their children in this life. The fathers who don't get to see their children come into the world because they are half a world away when the blessed event occurs. The fathers who bury their sons. The mothers who fight. The mothers who mourn.

This isn't a political rant about whether or not we should be in a war so much as a far more simple, unarguable statement that war is ugly. It's ugly and it stinks.

I loved this series.
It forced me to ask hard questions...and then forced me to answer them.
Not much more I could ask from a book, really.