Wow! There is a lot going on in this book - both moving and disturbing. To help me sort my thoughts on it, I'm not going to keep my "review" spoiler-free. So if you haven't yet read the book but you plan to someday, this is my warning that the following post will give away major plot twists. For those of you who have read the book, I'd love to make this a discussion and hear your thoughts on the book, too!
My Thoughts (with spoilers):
I consider myself a rather sensitive person, so The Hunger Games is a bit out of my normal reading fare with its violence and cruelty and other disturbing elements. The book left me with a foggy feeling and numerous ideas swarming around in my mind, forcing me to take the time to try and dissect all those thoughts. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing!
The premise of this book is extremely intriguing, and the writing is very engaging. The heroine is excellent for a story told in first-person, as she is loyal to family, strong, spunky, and yet conflicted - basically, she's "the girl who was on fire" in more ways than one. She's on fire for her family and those she loves. She's on fire for survival and freedom. And she's on fire with emotions and uncertainties that threaten to consume her.
And speaking of "the girl who was on fire," those costume and setting descriptions are fabulous! They sparkle and paint a terrifying and yet irresistible word picture. There is a great balance between the recognizable and the futuristic, especially in the arena. From the tracker jackers to the mockingjays, and from the cameras everywhere to the amazing, super-expensive medicines, there seems to be just the right touch of inventiveness and possible future technology. The whole world of the story is so clever and creative!
That cleverness bleeds into the plot, forcing Katniss to hide her emotions from the unseen cameras even while dealing with extreme pain and duress. In this case survival isn't just about physical endurance and strength - it's about making yourself look like a winner even when you feel like you can't make even one more step. That definitely adds a whole new level to the games...
...not to mention the love story. I'm probably just as confused as Katniss when it comes to Peeta and Gale. Peeta really seems to have a great heart, but appearances are certainly deceiving in this book. I think it's safe to say that he really does care for Katniss, and his loyalty to her is quite endearing. But I can't help but get snagged on the scene with the girl who started the fire not far from where Katniss was sleeping. While it doesn't seem clear who first attempted to kill the girl, it is suggested that Peeta is the one who finishes her off. It is noted that Peeta joined the group to save Katniss in a round-about way, and he is almost killed by Cato later on when he demonstrates his devotion to her. Yet...if he didn't have a crush on Katniss, would Peeta have joined the group anyway? Or would he have gone solo? And would he have as little remorse for killing Katniss as he seems to have for sharing the responsibility in killing that girl? I'd also like to know if he ever gave a second thought to young Rue in the arena. I could ask "What if?" all day, but I guess I'm just curious about this baker's son who shows such tenderness and care to Katniss, as well as jealousy for her feelings toward Gale. I admire him in some ways, and I think he can be very sweet. But he's a puzzle.
While I do really like some of those scenes between Peeta and Katniss, my favorite part of the book is the interaction between Rue and Katniss in the arena. This is the part that really shows that love and beauty remain despite the horrific circumstances. Even though Rue and Katniss are supposed to be enemies, they bond and work together. I suppose a similar argument for Katniss' attachment to Rue in comparison with Peeta's attachment to Katniss can be made, because there's always the question of whether or not Katniss would still care about Rue if Rue didn't remind Katniss of her sister. But there's hope in Rue's innocence, her trust, and her passion for music. That mockingjay pin that Katniss wears is like a symbol of a free spirit that man couldn't destroy - of something beautiful like music coming out of something that was used for evil purposes. The song Katniss sings to Rue...the flowers she surrounds her with in her death...the bread that District 11 gave in gratefulness to Katniss - all of that provides a powerful image. Even the muttations that come in later - probably my least favorite part of the book - couldn't be made of or destroy the souls, only the bodies.
I know The Hunger Games isn't Christian fiction, and I realize that there is more that could be dissected in terms of political and social agendas (perhaps commentary on class divisions or the source of power in a nation). But these are some of the thoughts of a girl who believes that God is more powerful than man and that there is always hope in Him who works for the good of those who love Him. I am deeply thankful that God has not abandoned us, and no matter what the present or the future look like, He will never leave me.
Well, I have Catching Fire and Mockingjay yet to read, so we'll see what I think of the series as a whole! And again, please feel free to share your thoughts here, as well! (Although I'd appreciate it if you don't mention books two or three just yet!)
(Cover image from the author's website.)