The Hunger Games

 

Panem rose from the ashes of what was once known as North America. It is a country of twelve districts ruled by the Capitol. And by the Hunger Games.

Every year, two tributes, one boy and one girl, from each district are reaped and sent to the Capitol to fight in the Hunger Games; a brutal competition where the only way to survive is too kill off the rest of the tributes.

Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the poorest of the twelve districts. She keeps her family alive by hunting illegally in the woods beyond the district. But when her younger sister, Prim, is chosen for the Hunger Games, Katniss does something unexpected. She volunteers to take her place.

Soon, Katniss finds herself trapped in an arena full of enemies. And one ally. Her district partner, Peeta Mellark. A boy who is desperately in love her.

As the field of tributes continues to fall, Katniss and Peeta must stave off starvation, sickness, and countless enemies if they wish to return home.

But winning the Hunger Games has a deadly price.

 

 

 

/*** THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***\

**/** SPOILERS ARE PRESENT **\**

 

 

I have never been one for dystopian society novels, but The Hunger Games is one of the greatest books and book series ever written on the face of the planet. Its exciting and full of action, the twists keep it interesting, and the constant, imminent danger keeps the reader engaged throughout its entirety. Overall, this book individually ranks among my Top Ten All Time and the series ranks third on the Greatest Series Ever Written list.

 

Now onto the book…

 

We're just going to jump right in at the reaping, because the short conversation between Katniss and Gale prior to it isn't really important other than giving the reader a sense of foreboding. So; the reaping. What kind of deranged society decides it’s a good idea to draw children's names out of a box and have them fight each other in mega slaughter? All for amusement!! What kind of society does that? Of all of the odd books and series I have read before and since, I have yet to find a society so fundamentally messed up as Panem. I mean really. What's the point of having them all fight each other?? Isn't that expensive and gives the 'tributes' ways to outsmart the capitol? Isn't both safer and faster and easier and cheaper to publicly slaughter the tributes? If they did that, the capitol would never fall in the first place.

But, this reaping in particular was even more exciting for everyone involved. Its not every year that a twelve-year old with a single ballot gets selected for The Hunger Games. And its even less often that her older sister volunteers to take her place. This is our first hint at Katniss's actual character. Before this point all we really know about Katniss is that she hunts illegally with her friend, is poorer than the dirt that she walks on, and has a severe dislike of the capitol. But this single action shows us the most important aspect of her character: her love for her friends and family. She shows in this one act, that she will do whatever it takes to save those she loves, she shows that she will willingly and knowingly die for them. That's not something that a lot of literary characters show twenty pages into their novel. But for Katniss, this becomes her defining character trait.

And then we get the male tribute, the only one that Katniss wished didn't get picked. The only one that could cause her to incite a rebellion against the capitol. The only one that could cause her to change her entire life. Peeta Mellark. Son of a breadbaker. The person who has kept her and her family alive for one more day so many years ago. I find it kind of odd that a memory of a boy throwing bread to her, haunts Katniss so much. But its probably good thing that it does, or she would never have formed the bond she does with Peeta.

 

With the reaping's behind us, lets talk about the goodbye's. The last time we see District 12 characters until the beginning of the second book. We get the expected response from Prim and Katniss's mother, who goes unnamed throughout the series. We do get some unexpected visits though. Like from Peeta's father. That must have been interesting. 'Lets go talk to the girl who will be trying to kill my son in a few weeks. That would be a good idea.'. Of course the actual meaning behind the meeting was better than that, but I still kind of found it odd. Then Madge gives Katniss the pin.

THE PIN. THE MOCKINGJAY PIN. The most important symbol in the entire book series. That pin, and the concept of a mockingjay comes to mean so much throughout this series. They start off as birds. As a memory of home. They become a way to communicate. And soon, they become the very symbol of the rebellion. Soon, Katniss finds herself to be THE Mockingjay. And that’s all inspired by this insignificant pin.

And then Gale. I didn't expect anyone to openly say what they all thought; that Katniss was as good as dead already; but Gale's reaction surprised me. He seemed to genuinely believe that she could win. All she would need was a bow. But this also brings up a very important idea behind this book: is there a difference between hunting game and slaughtering humans? This is constantly brought up and never really clarified. We see that Katniss does have a problem with actually killing people unless they present an immediate threat to herself or someone she cares for (ie. Rue and Peeta). But in the end, I have to agree that its not really that different. The only difference is the prey. When its game, that animals poses no direct threat to you but it also has no real thought pattern or human characteristics. A person on the other hand may have very human characteristics but poses a direct threat to your survival. And thus I believe that, in all essence, the difference between hunting game and killing people is not that different. It might be psychologically different to the killer, but its not that different at all.

 

So about Haymitch. I find this guy kind of peculiar. He is introduced to us as being an alcoholic with little thought capacity and little concern for the survival of district 12's tributes. But he swiftly becomes a very important character. He shows that he can be focused on Katniss's and Peeta's survival when sober (which increases as the books goes on) and that he is actually quite intelligent. But most importantly, he understands what the Games actually are. When you a tribute you see only what you are presented with, which are meager chances of survival. But when you have won, when you are safe, you see what the games actually are. They are controlling and unending. No matter if you die or win, the games never stop. If you win, you just become part of the next games as mentors. And just as important as his understanding of the games, he understands the capitol. And President Snow. He knows what will make them happy. What will make them rebellious. And what you can do to stop any rebellion that may occur (*hint**hint**hint**hint*).

 

And we finally get to see this Capitol everyone is talking about. For those few of you who have not seen the movie, a) watch the movie; what's wrong with you … b) the Capitol is essentially a high tech version of a modern city. Remember, the series takes place in the future, but everyone lives in poverty. The only "city" is the Capitol, and even the more urbanized districts like 1 and 2 are not cities. More like small towns. So this is the only real "city" we see. And I have to admit, its pretty nice. Sweet elevators. Windows that display whatever you want. Food on command buttons. Super showers. Its seems pretty sweet. Of course, Katniss only get to enjoy its luxuries for a few days and even fewer chapters, but it seems pretty damn nice considering what District 12 was presented as.

 

Now, with all of this hype leading up to the killing spree we all know is going to happen, I was starting to get kind of bored with this book. Like, why do we need all of these pre-festivities? Can't we just pick them, fly them to the arena, and let them hack away at each other for a week or two? Is that too much to ask? But NO! The Capitol has devote a whole week to festivities before the games even begin. They are the games before the games. And they actually prove to be pretty important.

Speaking of important, lets discuss Cinna. Because, while he may not be a major character, and is not seen at all in Mockingjay, he is one of the more important figures throughout the first two books. He is one of the few Capitol people that Katniss genuinely like, and for Katniss, that's pretty impressive, because she doesn't like anyone. And his costumes and dresses for Katniss are probably some of the only reasons she won her Hunger Games. Cinna made her noticeable. He made her stand out among the eleven other female tributes. And most of all, when it came down to it, he made her look a way that that would guaranteed her the most amount of success. Whether in getting sponsors or crushing the flames of rebellion that were beginning to ignite at the end of the book. He turned her into whatever she needed to be, when she needed to be it. And he did an amazing job of it.

Yah; so about those costumes….How precisely do you get fabric to light on fire but not burn?? That’s not possible right? I didn't think so. I don't know what type of new fabric or textile innovations Panem has come up with since America fell, but it’s a hell of a lot more advanced than anything we have. And doesn't this mean Cinna and Portia are at least partially chemists or engaged in some other science field? They obviously had to know how to make the flames not burn through clothing or skin. And yes they were real flames.

With the completion of that…we at least get towards some battle or killing related things. Its called training. And this is where Haymitch shows some intelligence. The advice to not show the other tributes what you're good at was actually pretty genius. If they don't know what you're actually good at, than they assumed you aren't good at anything. And in the case of Katniss, they would be dead wrong. Literally DEAD. Because I think Katniss could shoot them full of arrows before they register the fact that she could actually shoot a bow with deadly accuracy. Emphasis on deadly.

Speaking of deadly accuracy, that poor apple that Katniss shot. The one that was in the pig's mouth. That poor apple. It had never done anything wrong, but it happened to be in the wrong pig at the wrong time. And so it got an arrow shot through. RIP apple :'(. So that was a fun scene. I'm actually kind of surprised that the GameMakers didn't have her arrested, but I guess they legitimately needed a female tribute from District 12. If that had been anyone else, they probably would have been publicly hung.

But I guess it made quite an impression on them, because that Training Score of 11 was certainly helpful for Katniss. I'm sure she got a fair few sponsors after that.

And lastly, before the Games begin, interviews. I have to admit, Katniss's interview went about as well as expected. She answered her questions, didn't elaborate much, didn't let onto any secrets. Just your average District 12 girl ready to get killed in the Hunger Games. Peeta was a different matter all together though. His declaration of love for Katniss threw off a bunch of plans. Of tributes. Of sponsors. Of the Capitols. Of everyones. Peeta singlehandedly turned this Hunger Games into something more than games. They would become a brutal murder of two young lovers for entertainment. But that still didn’t stop anyone from trying to stop it did it.

 

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Readers…let the Seventy-Fourth Annual Hunger Games Begin!!!

 

So, now that the games have started, the book actually gets good. First question. Should Katniss have gone after the bow? YES!! Both we and She knew that the bow was in there for her to use. And since that's the only weapon that could give her any hope of surviving and winning the Games, it would have been well worth the risk to try and get it. And if she had succeeded, she could have killed every single tribute in the arena in a matter of hours. The careers wouldn't have even been able to get away from the Cornucopia before they were shot full of arrows. And then anyone who happened to survive, wouldn't have many supplies and would have to go after Katniss, who has her primary weapon. The games would have been over before they started. But Katniss doesn't get that bow. And it just about leads to her undoing.

Next. Katniss mentions early on that stupid could be dangerous, after a tribute started a fire the first night. So, are stupid people dangerous? In this situation, absolutely. They are danger to themselves. The first rule of the games is not to attract the attention of the career pack. The second rule is to not send up a signal telling every tribute in the arena where you are. This tribute violated both those rules. And she ended up dead because of it. Good.

And her death gives us the greatest betrayal in literary history: Peeta has joined the careers. WHAT IS HE DOING? WAS HIS LOVE A LIE? WHY DO THE CAREERS WANT HIM? All of those questions went through everyone's mind right around then. And I had no answers for any of them until they were explicitly stated. Of course, it all turns out OK, because Peeta was doing to try and keep the Career Pack away from Katniss. But no one knew that until the end.

Katniss learns some lessons in the next couple of chapters. Like never believe that finding water means your safe. Because it means the opposite. After a day and half of no water, Katniss finally finds some and then gets attacked by Game Maker produced fireballs. Those fireballs were excellent. Destructive, dangerous, and killing inspiring. It’s a damn good thing that Katniss some burn salve later on in the book, or this fire attack definitely would have proved to be bad. And yes Katniss, I am fairly sure that the Game Makers were having a good chuckle about sending fire after the Girl on Fire.

And since we have spent some time discussing the Career alliance, why doesn't Katniss form one. She could find someone surely that would partner with her. And then Rue appears in the arena. And she essentially proves to be the demise of the Career Pack. She alerts Katniss to the ever important trackerjackers that are a resident in her tree. Or she is a resident in their tree.

Anyway, those wasps prove to be some fun. They freaking attack the careers, killing the one with the bow, and give Katniss her chance at escape. And not to mention, a chance to gain control over the only bow and arrows in the arena. The weapons of her success are open for the taking thanks to those dangerous wasps. And who's idea was it to make genetically altered wasps that cause hallucinations. That seems like a horrible idea. They are still wild, uncontrollable animals; couldn't they go ahead and attack their creators.

And with that pretty death, we get the Katniss - Rue alliance that means everything to the overall fate of Katniss and Panem. This one little girl from District 11, was what kept Katniss going throughout these games and throughout the rest of the series. This girl's death proves to be the most important on in the history of the nation of Panem. And this alliance proves to be the death of approximately five tributes three of them Careers. This alliance is what wins District 12 the seventy-fourth Hunger Games.

Speaking of destroying the careers; lets talk about the destruction of that food. This was among Katniss's smarter plans of this book. Since the careers had probably never gone hungry, destroying their source of food could become very problematic to them. And, according to Katniss, the years that the careers don't have food and supplies are the years that worse districts win the games. But the destruction of the food raised a question for me. How good is Katniss's shooting? She claims that she could easily shoot an arrow through the holes in the net that surrounds the food. And yet it takes her three shots to drop a bag of apples onto a bomb? What type of blasphemy is that. She can shoot arrows through holes in nets but can’t sever a bag of apples? Come on Katniss. Consistency please.

And then we have Rue's death. Arguably the most important death in the whole Hunger Games Series. The one that shakes Katniss to her very core. The on that motivates her to destroy the Capitol. I have to say, the death was kind of anti climactic. She just gets stabbed by the District 1 male. That part wasn't anything special. The buriel is a different story. It was unexpected, and probably, in the end, helped Katniss a little bit. We know that District 11 sent her bread, and who knows what else they may have helped pay for. Plus, Thresh spares her at the feast because of her pact with Rue.

And that when the real fun stuff began. Because there was a rule change. The first rule-change in the seventy-four year history of the Hunger Games. And it’s a big one. Two tributes can win this year. Two. But only if they are from the same district. Which means that both Katniss and Peeta can win.

I have to admit, I thought the whole ordeal with Peeta's injury was overblown. How was it that no other tribute found them in that time? Why did the game makers not send down hell to liven up their lives? They were living fairly easily for some weeks. Something that doesn’t happen in the Hunger Games. Plus, its not like anything truly important happens. It just sets up Clove's death at the feast.

Speaking of the feast…that was exciting. I think Foxface may have had the single greatest strategy in the games the entire book. She was just like "lets not fight anyone and just hope that everyone else takes each other out, so I can get away with win with only one kill". And that strategy worked down to a tee. Except when Peeta tricked her into eating some nightlock. And then we have Thresh showing something called "mercy". Something that isn't displayed in The Hunger Games. EVER.

Since this is the first time that we actually speak of Thresh, lets ask another fun question: How did the battle between Thresh and Cato go down? Because I think Thresh could have taken Cato. Especially in that weird field that he used as his territory. I think he could have easily ambushed Cato and beaten him to death. And I don't think Cato would have much of a chance. But, if Thresh decided to try and take on Cato straight, Cato, with his superior fighting skills, could have easily killed him. But Thresh is smarter than that right? I think so. I don’t think direct combat is his sort of thing. But, I guess when your this close to going home a victor, your habits change. And you stupid, reckless things. That has to be what happened to Thresh.

With Thresh's death, we only have four tributes left. Katniss, Peeta, Cato, and Foxface. But Foxface doesn’t last long. Just a little bit longer than Peeta should have. The biggest question here though is, why was Foxface sneaking around Peeta? Was she planning on killing him and decided to have a bite of food before she did it? Or was she starving and needed food? And how did she know where to find him. He and Katniss hadn't seen another tribute outside of the feast for like four or five days. And then, like six or seven miles away, they run into one of only two other tributes left? How does that work.

And then the muttations attack. I have to say, these are the best muttations in the series. The game makers make wolf representations of all of tributes to send against the final couple. That was brilliant. Plus, the actual muttations themselves are pretty cool. And they make it a hell of a lot easier to kill of Cato. Anything that makes it easier to kill Cato is a great thing.

Not that killing Cato was easy. He still could have won it all at the end. It's a good thing that Peeta had the thought to shoot him in the hand, because Cato's plan to use him as a shield while simultaneously killing him was pretty genius. It would have worked too.

But Katniss is too good of shot. She doesn't have any problems killing Cato; especially since it means that she and Peeta get to go home and live out the rest of the lives. Only, that's not quite what happened. The game makers decided that changing the rules was not allowed under the rules, and so Katniss and Peeta get the fun time of deciding who gets to go home and who gets to kill of whom. But Katniss doesn't quite like that idea. And neither did I. Instead, she decides to give the Capitol NO winners. She was willing to kill herself with nightlock rather than go home without Peeta. But that proves to be problematic. And it sets up the remainder of the series. A handful of berries cause a revolution.

But were the berries a sign of rebellion? I don't think so. I think they were simply a way for Katniss to get out of having to return to District 12 knowing that she didn't bring back Peeta after she spent so much time nursing him back to health during the games. I don't think she was consciously trying to oppose the capitol and I think the districts took it way too seriously.

 

And with that, the seventy-fourth annual Hunger Games are finished. And the winners are Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark.

 

But there is worse the games to deal with now.

After getting out of the arena, Haymitch informs Katniss of the repercussions of her berry trick. That some saw it as an act of rebellion. Again, I don't think that it was an act of rebellion, but Katniss needs to makes sure that NO ONE sees it that way. And unfortunately, her only escape from it is to act in love with Peeta. Even when she knows she can now return home to see Gale. I'm sure that was fun.

Oh yeah, and Peeta gets a mechanical leg. I did not see that one coming at all. I assumed that he would have some surgery, maybe have some blood put back into system, and then be fine. I didn't think his leg needed to be amputated. But I guess that blood loss and tourniquet didn't help him much. It just kept him alive long enough to lose his leg. That all.

 

And then the return journey. The one where Peeta finally stops being stupid. We all knew that Katniss probably did not have any actual feelings for Peeta, but that was because she was narrating. Meanwhile, we were all confident that Peeta's feelings were real. So, I don't know why it took Peeta so long to figure out that Katniss's whole thing in the arena was an act. It was fairly obvious. If she had actually liked him, why had she not said something before the arena? Why does his almost death in a killing arena change her mind from indifference to love? Really Peeta it was pretty obvious.