"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping."
From the first sentence of this book, there is not one feeling of safety or calm for the entirety of its 374 pages. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year or so, you'll be familiar with those first few lines of the book that has swept across the world like an epidemic. Everyone has Hunger Games fever, including me.
This is my second time reading this book and to be honest, I loved it even more the second time around. Part of that definitely had to do with the fact that I wasn't steamrolling through it so I could finish the series in two days. Part of it is also that this time around, I really wanted to pay attention to how these characters were reacting to their surroundings and to what is happening to them.
Now would be the time for the SPOILER ALERT.
I've read all three books and like a lot of people I've talked to, I did NOT enjoy the third book in the least. The climax was built to so perfectly, only to let us be left with a husk of the former glorious Katniss, no final words from Gale, and an unsettling feeling about the future of Panem. I'll save my opinions for the third book for a later post. For now, let's focus on the beginning of the games.
This book really was, and still is a huge game changer in fiction, young adult fiction in particular. Dystopian books have always been around (1984, anyone?) but this book really brought that genre into popular culture, I feel. This book kind of did what Twilight did for the paranormal romance genre by making it mainstream. After The Hunger Games came out, it seemed like a gazillion dystopian books came out. As of now we have the Matched series, the Divergent series, The Maze Runner series, and all are strikingly similar to The Hunger Games. I'm in no way saying this is wrong, I'm a huge fan of Dystopian lit, but the Games started it all. And what a perfect way to begin the craze than with such an amazing, well written book.
Ooooooh Katniss Everdeen. I don't know about you all but I would love to be Katniss. Sort of. Partly. Maybe. Ok. Well, maybe I just want to be the best at archery like she is. (Side note, for all of you who have read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.. is Katniss not a less bitchy and cooler version of Felicity? I digress.) And I wouldn't mind having the boys she's surrounded by. Peeta, sweet Peeta and sex panther Gale. I'll take both, please!
Katniss is such a great character and her character takes such an interesting journey. This time reading through, now with the knowledge of who Katniss becomes in the second and third books, I was dreading getting to know her character again, the image of the apathetic spazz from the later books fresh in my mind. But, I discovered that maybe her apathy from the later books isn't truly apathetic. Katniss has seen a lot of (for lack of a better word) shit in her lifetime, from her father being blown up, to her mother completely losing it, to watching the Games every year. She has no time for feelings and in her head, she can't allow herself to grow attached to anything or feel anything. The weight of the world was sort of thrust onto her shoulders and she has to take care of everyone in that world. She's not apathetic or unfeeling, she's determined and guarded. I related to her a lot more now that I'm rereading her character.
Suzanne Collins is really such a brilliant author and, I think, a master of foreshadowing. Notice how the first lines of the book are Katniss reaching for someone's hand, only to feel emptiness. Now let's take a gander at the last lines:
"Out of the corner of my eye, I see Peeta extend his hand. I look at him, unsure. "One more time? For the audience?" he says. His voice isn't angry. It's hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me. I take his hand, holding on tightly, preparing for the cameras, dreading the moment when I finally have to let go."
You begin with Katniss searching for a hand to hold, and end with her holding a hand but knowing she will soon have to let go and be lost and alone again. It's puzzling because I can't decide whether Katniss was more alone before the games began when she was with her family and Gale but choosing to stick to herself or NOW that the games are over and she's losing Peeta while she is also unsure about whether she has lost Gale and whether the Capitol will kill her or her family because of her actions in the games. Poor Katniss, the world was on her side and now it's crumbling around her.
As for the Peeta/ Katniss/ Gale triangle, here's the situation as I'm seeing it now. I... still don't freaking know. The first time I read the book, I thought Peeta made up his crush for the games but now... I feel like he's loved her the whole time, which is very precious. Gale as a character is robbed air time in all three of the books, which is sad because of his sex pantherness. Katniss, I still feel, is unsure of who she truly likes. I see a more raw animal magnetism between her and Gale, but I mean, look at that last paragraph. I think she falls for Peeta as the games press on. Caring for someone like that in a cave has to mean something to her, as unfeeling and determined as she is.
As far as who's team I'm on in the boy category... I was a die hard team Gale my first time through but now... Gah, Peeta is just so cute, right? I imagine him as a cute, kinda sexy Pillsbury Dough Boy. Play with that thought for a minute and tell me that's not the most delightful thing you've ever envisioned. But Gale is just so.... grrrr. Right?
Back to serious book talk. *adjusts glasses*
This book came out at the perfect time. A dystopian future isn't too unusual of a thought, is it? Especially not in the world of Panem. I feel like we are about 2 steps away from having our own Hunger Games. It's like Survivor meets Saw meets The Bachelor, something that I think would be pretty awesome, but also terrible. We have a weird obsession with gore as a society nowadays, don't we? And an even greater obsession with technology. I find it interesting that in Panem, a television is in every single home and everyone watches this reality TV program while they are also starving and scrounging for food. Seems pretty similar to a lot of people I know. I know a few people personally who are on welfare and when they got their huge refund check back from taxes, they bought four iPads and a new TV. (How perfect, Happy new iPad day today!) That really would be a perfect way to control the masses, give everyone at least fifteen minutes of fame, even if it means certain death!
I find it amazing also that Collins was able to really give personalities to the other tributes for the most part. Even though you only see them all briefly, you feel connected to them. Personally, I'm a big Thresh fan. Good for him for caring so much for Rue and letting Katniss go. (I'm not even going to get into Rue... too sad and beautiful) Also, how cool to just kill Glimmer with a rock. Can't wait to see that int he movie. Foxface also holds a special place in my heart. She's a pretty tragic death I think and I love how easily I can see her in my mind. She's a character I remember the most.
All in all, this is without a doubt my favorite book in the series and it gets even better the second time through. If you have read it, read it again. If you haven't, buckle up for a crazy ride in this book.
Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!