Sunday, August 22, 2010
Review: The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
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.
*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.