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I Read the Hunger Games Trilogy in 2 Days

October 1, 2011

I started reading The Hunger Games yesterday morning. And read, and read, and read. Shook myself free of the book to do what was necessary. Phone calls, quick conversations with people. Lunch.I got my to-do list done. And then I read some more. And I finished the first book, and started the second, Catching Fire. Sometimes, I caught myself forgetting to breathe as I read. Because some scenes were tense, and I was just that into it.

And then last night, I came home, and I finished Catching Fire and dug into Mockingjay, before heading out to a friend’s birthday party.

Time spent not-reading felt kind of unreal. I was functional. But in quiet moments, I was back in Panem, with Katniss and company, wondering what could possibly happen next.

I finished Mockingjay today.

I am still digesting what I think.  I’m impressed that the series grabbed me that much. The story was absolutely a tragedy in the classical sense. Inevitability, unrelenting sorrow, terrible, tragic surprises that happen to the main characters.

On the face of it, there’s nothing there for me to love. Dystopian books are not my thing at all. Post-apocalyptic settings terrify me, and usually guarantee nightmares, because they give me a sense that the end of the world as I know it might not be far off. (Even Planet of the Apes spooked me.) One of the things that worked, here was that there was a separateness from any world I know. Panem is only loosely set up as a far-future America, created in the wake of widespread destruction. But the level of detail that creates Panem’s society, numbered districts, the Capitol, the Games, even the names for people and things, set their world enough apart from my own that it made me feel better.

Also, the reality TV element helped dampen the edges of a reading experience that was plenty terrifying. Television broadcast and viewers, and government agendas, were key players in the games. On one hand, that made the Games a little absurd, blunting the violence. On the other hand… diabolically cruel, to televise something that relied on violent death, staging attacks on the players when things went too calmly.

A lot of people who read The Hunger Games will have an opinion about the love triangle between Katniss and Gale and Peeta. Who Katniss should have ended up with. I’m going to say: neither. Because both of them were so enmeshed in the layers of alliances and loyalty that got twisted around and used to traumatize Katniss. Part of the tension and the tragedy of the story came from the relentless building pressure on Katniss, so much so that affection became a bargaining chip. Heartbreaking.

Maybe I did the series a disservice, barreling through it. I know, reading that fast, I missed details. I”m not sure, though, how or when I could go back for a reread. It was an intense book. Violent, sometimes gruesome. Some passages, I wanted to hold my Kindle as far away as possible, just so I could escape what Katniss was having to go through. And it was written so evocatively. I used to think I liked the smell of roses. Not so sure now!

I might want to reread these, because they were so good. But… it might be a while before I can handle a series I know is so intense.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2011 2:16 pm

    Just finished the first book, and unsure whether I’ll continue, for different reasons than you cite. The setup is terrific, though. I do wonder about all the bows and arrows in books about to be turned into major motion pictures. (I actually did have nightmares after the other one I read, “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

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