For What It's Worth

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)The Hunger Games

GUEST REVIEW BY MY HUBBY - Kevin..............


Let me start by saying:

Karen has been trying…no, begging …me to read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. I had to finally relent if not for her sanity but mine, but then she became worried that - as she said “I think I might have oversold it”. She didn’t.
I’m not going to bother writing a regular review. I’m assuming I’m the last person on the planet to read this series and that you already know what happened (if you haven’t read them….shame on you. I know, who am I to talk ..*hangs head in shame*). Instead I’ll just give my overall view of the books so far and what I think it all means. DO NOT read ahead if you don’t want spoilers!

This story is about love, uncertainty, deception and hope.

I don’t think I have ever read a story this well put together in a long time, particularly in YA. The symbolism, foreshadowing, imagery and, of course, the plot is just brilliant. Every character is developed in such a way that you can’t help but be pulled into this world.
The thing that really stands out in my mind though is the aforementioned symbolism and foreshadowing. I’m a bit of a nerd and get quite obsessive when I like something and I ended up filling both books with post-it’s and writing pages of notes. Karen seemed pleased by this development!
Here are a few things that really stood out in my mind that I believe will have something to do with the conclusion of this series. What they mean, if anything, I don’t know – only reading Mockingjay will tell, but I DO think it all means something…….Please excuse the random nature of these thoughts. It’s just what stood out in my brain as I was reading. So many themes are repeated at pivotal points throughout the series.

Commence randomness........

*One of the recurring symbols is that of bread. Katniss makes a point of this on pg 32, of The Hunger Games when Peeta brings her a loaf of bread at a time when she was about to give up. She says that bread brought her hope. Peeta is the source of hope, the baker’s son. Another instance of ‘bread’ giving hope is in the cabin by the lake when Katniss gives Bonnie and Twill rolls. The bread theme keeps cropping up throughout the books whenever things seem at their bleakest.

*Another recurring symbol are flowers, in particular dandelions. Again with Peeta, after she catches him looking at her in the schoolyard – she drops her gaze and sees the first dandelion of the season and knows now how she will survive. She also sees dandelions again after she throws out the cookies that Peeta’s father had given her. Other references include the flowers she places on Rue, the book of plants and flowers that she & Peeta work on, a mention of Peeta’s child playing in a field of flowers. Most of the characters were named after flowers/plants.

*Rue’s death was a turning point for Katniss; she sees the death of Rue as the death of innocence. It was then she realized that just surviving the game was not enough. She had to make a difference just as Peeta told her before the games. Katniss sings the song she would sing to Prim when she was sick. Just as the time she sang in school and Peeta fell in love with her, the birds went quiet. After Katniss finished her lullaby, the Mockigjays, took up the song. This is when she realizes that this wasn’t just a game.

“Then I remember Peeta’s words on the roof. “Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.” And for the first time, I understand what he means.”

*As for Peeta you can think of him as just a boy trying to win the affection of Katniss, but in my opinion he is so much more. Yes Katniss is the main character and is the symbol of the rebellion but I think everyone is overlooking the importance of Peeta, not just to Katniss but to the rebellion itself. Yes you can be team Peeta or Gale but what I’m talking about here is more than a simple love triangle. This series is a story of rebirth and redemption. Peeta is not the strongest person physically in the games but when he speaks, people listen and he knows how to lie & manipulate the crowds. Whether he even realizes it or not, Peeta’s words are causing a simmering nation to be reborn. Katniss has become the face for this rebirth, but without his actions and words (painting the picture of Rue’s body covered in flowers in front of the Gamekeepers, gave up a portion of his rations to District 11 after Rue’s death, and his kindness to the morhpling as she was dying….. ) none of this would have happened. If Katniss is the fire then Peeta is the spark that transforms her into the Mockinjay. Even Haymitch says that you don't have to worry about Peeta - he knows what has to be done.

*Then there is the ultimate symbol; The Mockingjay. I can’t help but compare it to the rise of the phoenix. Not that from the ashes rises the phoenix; could this be Katniss rising from the ashes (coal) of District 12?

*I also wanted to mention how much I love the book covers and how the color goes from black (darkness, coal, desperation), to red (fire, birth, anger) and finally blue (hope, blue sky). The Mockingjay on the cover goes from first being a symbol, to coming to life and finally to freedom.

There is so much foreshadowing in the first two books that I can’t even begin to get into that without making this post a mile long. A few things I would keep my eye on are Madge, Cinna, pregnancy (could be either with Gale or Peeta - both are mentioned in this context), the pearl, Peeta’s father, Katniss’s song.

Yes, yes…..but what team are you on??

Now on to the love story. Both Gale and Peeta are perfect choices for Katniss but for different reasons. I’m team Peeta but to tell you the truth I don’t think Katniss deserves him, at least, not yet. Peeta has always loved Katniss and would do ANYTHING for her. At one point, and I think this is THE moment that convinced me that Peeta is the one is when he is trying to convince Katniss that she should win the Quell because she has people that need her. He shows her pictures of her mother, Prim and even Gale - his main competitor for her love. This is the point when you realize the depth of his feelings for her because he throws away all selfishness and just wants Katniss to live and be happy. Thankfully Katniss rebuffs his proposal in one of most poignant scenes in the book.

“Peeta pulls the chain with the gold disk from around his neck. He holds it in the moonlight so I can clearly see the mockingjay. Then his thumb slides along the catch I didn’t notice before and the disk pops ope. It’s not solid, as I had thought, but a locket. And within the locket are photos. On the right side, my mother and Prim, laughing. And on the left, Gale. Actually smiling.

There is nothing in the world that could break me faster at this moment than these three faces. After what I heard this afternoon…it is the perfect weapon.

“Your family needs you. Katniss” Peeta says.

My family. My mother. My sister. And my pretend cousin Gale. But Peeta’s intention is clear. That Gale really is family, or will be one day, if I live. That I’ll marry him. So Peeta’s giving me his life and Gale at the same time. To let me know I shouldn’t ever have doubts about it. Everything. That’s what Peeta wants me to take from him.

I wait for him to mention the baby, to play to the cameras, but he doesn’t. And that’s how I know that none of this is part of the game.

“No one really needs me,” he says, and there is no self-pity in his voice. It’s true his family doesn’t need him. They will mourn him, as will a handful of friends. But they will get on. Even Haymitch, with the help of a lot of white liquor, will get on. I realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me.

“I do,” I say. “I need you.”…………………”

That my friends, is true love. Sacrifice. Go to page 352 of Catching Fire to read how this is sealed with a kiss.

What is great about this series is that no matter what any of us think we have read or how we have interpreted things, it is written in a way that really – it could go anywhere. She could take the bleak route and end it in tragedy or give us all a happy ending. (I’m guessing it falls somewhere in between).

This leads to my one criticism of the series, especially in Catching Fire. Collins has created 3 dimensional characters that are so well developed that you can’t help but root for everyone but the one chink to me is Katniss. I realize she’s been through a lot and her distrust runs deep – with good reason but her constant questioning and over analyzing of almost every situation grated on me in the end. She feels conflicting emotions about almost every single thing that happens to her and is completely contradictory from just one page to the next. Her gut instinct and first impressions are almost always wrong (as Haymitch understands and points out frequently). She’s a fantastic female character and role model but I don’t think she would ever make it in the world without the Cinna’s, Peeta’s, Gale’s, Haymitch’s…… of the world to help her.

It’s my greatest hope that all the layers mean something. That I wasn’t sent on a wild goose chase of clues.

So what do you think? Am I reading too much into every detail? Did this post even make sense? Please share your thoughts.

31 comments:

  1. Wow. That is one long post. Anyway, I only read the top because I am now the last person to not have read these books. lol.

    I guess I need to now :)

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  3. Wow. Thank you for that. The symbolism stuff is definitely there, and I'm shocked I didn't see the flowers, bread, etc before now. And I agree 100% with everything you said about Peeta. He's not just an option in a love triangle, he's the very reason that Katniss can be the symbol of the rebellion.

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  4. wow what a great review and I remember some of those items mentioned but seeing all the points made it very clear. Great review.

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  5. Hey Kevin! That's a great analysis of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire - reading through everything you wrote, I'm starting to think some of us ladies might be missing the point of the series, LOL - we're so focused on the love triangle, probably because we all seem to read so many love stories, I guess, that we don't even pay attention to the big picture. What you wrote about the covers - WOW - you make such good points! All I've been doing is obsessing over how Katniss should pick Gale, because if she really was in love with Peeta, she'd have known after being forced into a *relationship* with him for so long. All the stuff you wrote about the symbolism of the flowers, the songs, the bread ... reading it was kind of a light-bulb moment for me, lol ... you make so many good points and I don't think you're over-thinking things at all. These books have evolved into a total CRAZE and I think it's because, subconsciously, we pick up on all of these elements that Ms. Collins has woven so well throughout the story, even though we don't pay attention to much other than whether Peeta or Gale should make baby Rue with Katniss :P

    So - thanks - your refreshing perspective really has been interesting :) I think that guys see things in a different way and it's a shame that there aren't more of you blogging book reviews out there.

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  6. Not the last - I have them on the Kindle to be next up so I only read the first paragraph of your guest post! I better hurry up and get reading or someone will not warn me about spoilers and I will be sad!

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  7. Awesome take on the series! Thank you for pointing out the symbolism and the more important things than just a love triangle. :)

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  8. This love triangle breaks my heart...it's like a multiple choice question with no wrong answer...:( When Peeta tells Katniss there's nothing/no one waiting for him at home and gives her the necklace with the photos I felt my windpipe tighten...I wanted to cry,really...and I'm team Gale..but at this point I think I don't really care with who she ends up with, although I'm really afraid both Peeta and Gale could die at some point of the uprising, and that's just wroooong x_x
    You mentioned the pregnancy...I keep imagining this lame plot where one of them gets her pregnant (in a omg-we're-going-to-die-tomorrow-so-lets-have-sex type of scene) and really dies the day after, and she ends up with/marries the other...this is going to be tragic, I think I'll go out tomorrow to buy a super-mega package of tissues for when my Mockingjay arrives.

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  9. Jen - Karen here .....that is TOTALLY my scenario. That's what I think is going to happen too.

    Glad you guys liked his review - SOO excited after he read the books, I have endless debates ever since :-)

    bella - I love the cover comment too! that's when I made him write the review. He's not caught up in the hoopla of the whole thing and saw more than we did.

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  10. Oh my gosh, I loved this post. I agree with so many things here. I love the covers of the books as well and that how in Mockingjay, the circle around said mockingjay is broken and it is flying free. It's so beautiful. You're right--Peeta and Gale are both great options for Katniss. I either think that Katniss will end up with no one (either through death of one or herself) or that Madge will end up with the one Katniss does not end up with. Madge would be a good selection for either Gale or Peeta as well. I could talk for ages about these books. Thanks so much for the fabulous post!

    CONTEST

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  11. Thanks for all the comments and kudos for being able to decipher my review. New theory....District 13 is the Lost City of Atlantis. Madge may be the real mockingjay.
    Kevin

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  12. *stands up and starts a slow clap*

    SOOOOOOOOO Good! Really. I agree completely.

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  13. Well Kevin, you thought you were the last person not to have read any of the series, I make 3 more who haven't read it yet. So I didn't read the middle of your post either. I have them on me to get list, hopefully I can get them next. Can't wait to start them!

    Contest

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  14. EXACTLY!

    Excellent analysis. You are absolutely right, the symbolism and foreshadowing is impeccable!

    Thank you so much for sharing with us!

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  15. This was an excellent review. All of the points you mentioned were exactly right.

    contest

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  16. Great review! I'm not the kind of person that looks for the symbolism in books unless I'm being forced to by an English Prof so it was nice to have everything pointed out to me that I missed. Thanks!

    contest

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  17. This review in excellent and the details are very interesting: I didn't think about the symbols in the books while now, reading your words, I understood they are really important and made me think about the main characters. You're right, Suzanne Collins is great in creating characters!

    **contest

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  18. Wow! This was definitely an interesting analysis of the books. I agree that the symbolism used in the books are brilliant!
    CONTEST

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  19. @Karen Oh nooo! 2 people thinking the same way raises the odds for it to happen!! nooo!

    Oh, I can't wait to know stuff about District 13 *.*

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  20. You are not overanalysing! I thought your review was brilliant!

    I cannot wait to find out how it ends.

    Contest

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  21. Huh, I hadn't thought of the covers as being a representation of the mockingjay's flight from captivity to freedom. again, i kmiss the point completely! I need to reread these books RIGHT NOW! I'm in complete agreement with Charis, you haven't overanalyzed a thing, girl! You've read what most of us have missed and I think Collins would be pleased. :)

    Contest!

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  22. Great Post!! This really picked out the very important details. Things I never would have thought of . You are very perceptive. And its really funny both you and Karen picked out the same passage!
    (Contest)
    gbubookreviews(at)gmail(dot)com

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  23. “I do,” I say. “I need you.”…………………”

    That my friends, is true love. Sacrifice. Go to page 352 of Catching Fire to read how this is sealed with a kiss.

    ^ I'm re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire before Mockingjay is released and I just read that line about 5 minutes ago. Talk about a coincidence! Anyways, great review; I'm glad you finally read them. They're just mindblowingly fantastic!!! Is mindblowingly a word? Haha, well, Suzanne Collins has written a masterpiece that I believe everyone should read!

    Contest

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  24. I discovered the series not too long ago and I have to say it has become one of my favorite series. I am so glad that the last book is out!

    behapppppppy(at)hotmail(dot)com

    CONTEST

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  25. Great post! All of the symbolism you pointed out were things that real stuck with me as well when reading it. And the passage you took from Catching Fire is one of my favorite scenes in the series.

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  26. Great post and a AMAZING review of both of the books! I'm really glad you liked this book a lot! And I totally loved everything you said about Peeta!

    contest

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  27. You did a marvelous job capturing the intricacies of these books. I have enjoyed your Team Peeta posts very much and am now following you and have added you to our blog roll. I want to be sure to come back here again!

    Found you through the Book Blogger hop.
    http://ourstack.blogspot.com/2010/09/our-favorite-book-review-in-last-three.html

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  28. I do like this post. for once I see a review by a guy, which is rare for this book. finally someone else that doesn't concern them self with petty worries of whole she'll end up with in the end and more often looks at the bigger picture.

    I feel peeta and gale both have significant roles in this story and each one is necessary for the outcome.

    frankly I dont care about the whole team gale team peeta thing. I just don't find that important. thanks to the tween adolescent girls that have their heart throbbing over a fictional character. it blocks out any other theme from there minds. social commentary, action adventure, political intrigue, good vs evil, and the battle they wage. those are the things that I focused most on.

    Yeah I can say at some point katniss can really rub me the wrong way. yet, at least she's a person of depth. she's a fighter, and she has passion.

    I really cant wait to finish mockingjay.

    oh and another symbol on the cover on catching fire is the circle around the mockingjay. "tick tok its a clock". haha I love that line. the lines in the circle are a clue to the arena itself.

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  29. ABOUT THE BREAD- when Katniss puts the flowers on Rue after her death and sings her a song, District 11 sends her bread. This may also be a sign that bread is very significant in this novel, and symbolises life!

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  30. This is such a great analysis!
    i completly agree with what you are saying about this book meaning something, is it trying to point out this materialistic world? are the people of today so align with the people of the captiol? do we use the smaller/poor countries for our own selfish benifit
    i believe this novel is an eye opener for the many stuck in a materialistic mind set.

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