I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Flipped the Pages of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Series:
Hunger Games
ISBN: 0439023483 - hardbound - 374 pages
read March 8, 2010
Catching Fire
ISBN: 0439023491 - hardbound - 391 pages
read October 1, 2010
ISBN: 0439023491 - hardbound - 390 pages
read October 2, 2010
Borrowed the whole set from my niece Daniela. i shall wait for the boxed set to buy my own copies.

I hate Suzanne Collins.

I hate how she had me flipping pages furiously, breathlessly. Sitting at the edge of my seat, afraid to turn the page for the next twist, wanting to slow down, but compelled to know what's going to happen next.

I hate how she has lobotomized my brain so she can poke my nerve centers and shamelessly manipulate my emotions, filling me with fear, anger, misery, and other emotions a jaded, sophisticated adult is not supposed to feel reading a Young Adult book.

I hate her for killing the people I loved. Oh, okay. They're fiction, Gege, they're fiction. No one real really died in the writing of that book.

There's hardly any need for me to summarize the plot; Google will give you 2,680,000 reviews that will do a better job than I would of detailing the Hunger Games story.

I'm here to tell you what the trilogy has been about for me. It's about 2 main themes. Love and war -- how prosaic, right? I shiver a little typing something as cheesy as that. Isn't every novel about love anyway and every other Hollywood blockbuster about some kind of war? Maybe so. But I'll stick with this, because this is my blog, okay?

Let's first talk about love. And I'm not just talking about the love triangle of Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. Love is splattered all over the trilogy's pages. It's ironic that it takes a story so violent, so gory to show the potency of love, how it moves people to do the most astonishing of things, whether good or bad, even if it would cost them their lives. It's love that drives Katniss to volunteer for the Hunger Games -- her desire to protect a sister she loves. It's love that moves the other characters in the book, like Finnick who loves Annie, and Peeta who loves Katniss. It's the absence of somebody to love that makes Johanna so fearless, like she has nothing else to lose. And then, there's Haymitch, who deadens with alcohol the ability to love anybody who's destined to die in the Hunger Games.

And then, there's war. Collins sends a strong message that war, though necessary, leaves people broken. Or dead. Of course, I'm stating the obvious. The angle I want to focus on about war is this -- Collins has, all throughout the series, been very obsessed with form, with symbols. Each Hunger Games contender has a styling team who preps the Tribute with costumes and makeup. When Katniss becomes the symbol of the rebels' war against the Capitol, she goes through another round of makeovers and mouths a propaganda script, the writing of which happened years ago, even preceding the choice of the Mockingjay as the war's symbolic leader. This makes me think about the things we fight about, fight for, fight against. I've always questioned the necessity of war, especially when the cause seems to be some abstract ideal. How many lives, in real life in the real world, have been lost in the name of democracy, and communism, and freedom, and somebody's idea of heaven? How many of these symbols are real? Are they worth all the loss of lives, property, family, psyche? Are the warring sides really fighting about opposing, irreconcilable ideologies? Or are they, like it turns out in this trilogy, just two sides of the same coin? Is war really ever justified, or are we all just like children throwing tantrums and threats of nuclear war because we cannot get what we want?

I've heard a lot of the comments from those people who didn't like the series, especially the final book. And I agree with some of them. Like the criticism that with all the violent turns and cinematically-compatible twists, it is the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, and this series is just begging to be moviefied. Collins, having worked for television, surely saw the commercial potential for this in film.

I do not agree with the criticism about Katniss's character being a disappointment at the end, that she should have been more empowered and not just a pawn in a power game. I think that's precisely the point -- she is a pawn and a mere symbol for propaganda. Young people have no business being part of grown-ups' war; no matter how much they have had to endure in life, no matter how much their character should have been built up by pain and circumstance, they do not have the emotional maturity, nor true motivation, to be in one, much less to lead one. And for her to break down and be weak is more realistic than her becoming some mini Angelina Jolie amazon warrior. I wish she had spent less time hiding in closets and behind curtains, but in the end, she did what is right, what must be done.

At one point, I really did hate Suzanne Collins. At one particular death close to the ending of the saga, I honestly considered not going on with the reading. And when I closed the book, I needed the time to mourn, to process what just happened.

But after hours of thinking hard about Mockingjay, Catching Fire, and Hunger Games, I decided that I liked the series. I liked how it ended -- it was the most logical, acceptable conclusion that could have done justice to the story build-up. So, don 't worry about me; I'm not going to be one of those trying to write an alternative ending. Collins thought this out well enough. Yes, there's a bit of moralizing. And she certainly has an agenda to communicate. But she remained true all throughout the series.

There is no doubt that Suzanne Collins is a deft storyteller who knows how to draw the reader in -- I was there. I saw what happened. I felt all the emotions. I hated. I loved. I mourned. Eventually, I healed. If you take away all the symbols, messages, and lessons, this would still be an entertaining read. And that probably is my bone of contention with the book. Will young adults, or even adults for that matter, see beyond the exciting violence? Will they pick up the lessons? Or will this be just another spectacular, shallow piece of entertainment?


  1. "i shall wait for the boxed set to buy my own copies"

    Spoken like a true Flipper!

    Oh gosh, I would need to do a Blooey!

  2. Reading your paragraph about love, naaalala ko tuloy yung time na nabuang si Lolo noong umalis si Lola... totoong totoo ang sinulat mo.

  3. {raising hand sheepishly} I haven't read these yet. I know, I'm horrible. Now that I read your post though, I sort of want to. I like books that cause a lot of emotion and inner turmoil in the reader.

  4. I also had similar experience of reading as your afraid to turn the page for the next twist, wanting to slow down, but compelled to know what's going to happen next. But I forget the name of the book now.

    page flip software



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