The Hunger Games & Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games cover
Oof. Just when you think this story has gotten as fucked up as it can possibly get… it gets worse. Over and over. And I do mean that in the best possible way: The Hunger Games is one of the most intense, intelligent books I’ve read in a long time, and I liked Catching Fire even more. Absolutely read them — just don’t expect the feel-good novels of the year.

In a post-apocalyptic U.S., now called Panem, the merciless Capitol rules the twelve Districts. The Capitol gets all the good food, all the advanced technology, all the comforts; all most District people get is work and hunger. To remind the Districts who’s in charge, every year the Capitol forces each District to choose at random a boy and a girl as tributes. The twenty-four lucky kids are contestants in the Hunger Games: a fight to the death, broadcast throughout Panem as the ultimate reality show entertainment.

Catching Fire cover
Catching Fire – SPOILERS for Hunger Games, of course (and you don’t want to be spoiled)

Why do they go back to the Games? At first I thought it was a lame choice — this is what the readers want, so back we go. The same reason you can’t have Harry without Hogwarts.

But I think it sets up a necessary parallel. In the 74th Games, each contestant is out for him or herself, and just trying to get home — until Katniss and Peeta subvert that by becoming the first pair of victors. In the 75th Games, the contestants from a number of Districts work together, and people from the Capitol are helping as part of the underground resistance. The Games are a microcosm of what’s going on in Panem at large. The Games are what the book is about, so that’s how we have to see the change in the world, and the beginning of the rebellion that presumably we’ll follow in book 3.

I love, by the way, seeing a rebellion built over such a period of time in YA SF. Usually these rebellions feel wrapped up too quickly — ta da, the world is changed, thanks to some scrappy kids with good luck! Now I want to re-read the Uglies series, which I remember as having a similar slow progress of the rebellion, with a similar broad-scale feel implying heroes we don’t know in cities we never see.

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7 Responses to The Hunger Games & Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

  1. Sam says:

    Yay! So glad you read it and loved it, Kate!

    Honestly? I kind of hope neither. To me that’s not what this series is about, and it’s not what Katniss is about. She loves them both enough for their safety to matter to her, and that’s what keeps the stakes high.

    (Since you know I’ve read Catching Fire, you can probably guess from my response that there isn’t an answer to this question yet. But as a romance novelist, your probably knew that anyway: save it for the big finale!)

  2. Kate Diamond says:

    I finally just read The Hunger Games and I HAVE to stop obsessing because I need to get my grading done. But being a romance novelist, I am trying to figure out who she ends up with–Peeta or Gale. What do you think?

  3. Kirsten says:

    I finally read The Hunger Games because Sigrid happened to wander into that part of the library and I had a chance to check it out. I read the thing in a day, while dutifully ignoring the children. Awesome. It’s been a while since I read a book and just COULDN’T WAIT to see what would happen next.

  4. Miriam says:

    Just read the “Hunger Games.” SO GOOD. The society was so realistically sick. I loved Katniss, too – she’s kind of the anti-Bella, isn’t she?

  5. Maureen says:

    I had the same reaction: “What, again? Laaaaame!” But it worked because she twisted the whole nature of the game inside out.

  6. Greg says:

    This is mostly unrelated, but the title alone reminded me of Kafka’s The Hunger Artist. Very disturbing.

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