It’s been about a month since I actually read the books, but they were on my shelf and I read them, so I might as well.
So let me just start by saying that to me, these are one story in three parts, not three separate story lines, so I will be treating them like one work.
There isn’t much about these books that hasn’t been said already, but at their most basic, they are responsible for a recent surge in post-apocalyptic young adult fiction, much like Harry Potter with fantasy and Twilight with vampires. Which is to say, they are popular. This has no bearing on whether or not they are well written, but it is significant.
Katniss Everdeen, a big sister whose instinct for survival is only trumps by her sense of self-sacrifice when it comes to family, is in a moment sent careening down a path that ends with her being the face of rebellion against the oppressive central government. But her fight with the government and her choice between two potential romantic partners does not interest me nearly as much as how she deals with the damage to her psyche. Or rather, how she doesn’t.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these books is their unabashed treatment of topics nobody wants to talk about, or even think about. War, social injustice, abject poverty, and communal apathy/sadism are laid out in gory detail for all to see. Collins does not sugar-coat anything. Rather, at times it seems like she deliberately thinks up the most horrific ways to kill her characters (and many, MANY of them do die) simply to shock her readers. In fact, I am positive that most of the worst scenes are specifically written to stay with you, like literary PTSD.
I’ll be honest here: I did not like this series. I respect it as a well-written work. It is undoubtedly going to be on many school required reading lists in the future. I’d even put money on it being declared a classic in a few decades. But I like my stories to come with some measure of hope, because that’s how I view the world. It’s a crappy place that deals out pain to everyone who sets foot here, but life has lots of little things that make the struggles worth it. There is no hope in The Hunger Games. Collins ensures that there is nothing left for you to cling to and sets you loose, adrift on your anomy. So I don’t like it. At all. But I will still give it the rating it deserves.
Worth rereading (8 of 10), because I’m sure I will, eventually.