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Something Like a Review – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

A series is an entity composed of smaller entities and while each individual piece should be able to exist, and even thrive, on its own, it becomes more than the sum of its parts when combined with the other pieces. Ultimately, the best compliment for a series is that reading one leads to a voracious hunger for the next, and domino-ing from one story into the next until the conclusion releases the reader, exhausted, sated and slumped in a chair.

The Hunger Games series did this for me. I allowed my curiosity about the hype to get the better of me and I indulged my Audible.com credits in purchasing the first book. Before I’d finished the first 5-1/2 part of the download, I’d snapped up the other two and downloaded them so I could listen to them back to back. To put it in perspective, the total length of all three volumes in playing time is roughly 35 hours and I burned through it in a little over a week.

Voracious reading.

What I liked about this the most was it wasn’t a “happy” series, but there was an inherent lesson that threaded its way through the narrative without being so heavy-handed or didactic. I didn’t feel like I was being preached to, but I understood what Collins was trying to impart with the events that took place. In some ways, it was a non-partisan political message, and in some ways, it was just a general life lesson that all of us could benefit from. I loved the recovering-from-an-apocalyptic-event kind of atmosphere where society is still under reconstruction, life is being re-defined and the things we take for granted are luxuries, of non-existent. Collins did a great job building a credible world and putting the reader and the characters in the thick of the conflict and I was enthralled.

In general, the characters were well-rounded, and Peeta’s transformation across the three books is probably my favorite character development/evolution of the year so far. There were moments in all three stories that felt predictable – at least to the reader; Katniss, however, was shocked. These weren’t terribly distracting, but I found myself smiling to myself and wondering if I was actually *that grown-up* that I could anticipate what the old-beyond-her-years narrator did not.

What bugged me most about the series was character-related. Katniss was so consistently thick-headed that I wanted to shake her. Especially when it came to the boys. Ok, maybe not so much shake her, but smash her forehead into the table. I get being oblivious. Really. I’m quite thick when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex, however, Katniss seemed to be impervious to learning, or learning anything about the same men that continued to appear in her life. I understand her age being a factor, but by the end of Catching Fire and on into Mockingjay, her oblivious behavior was frustrating and I found myself occasionally calling her a dumbass for the way she behaved.

Out of the series, the most grumbling I’d heard was around the way Mockingjay ended. Personally, I had no objection with the ending and thought that it well suited the nature of the story as it wove through all three books. It was by no means the “happy” ending I think people have come to expect from books and movies, and not every little thing was resolved with a smile, but it was realistic and satisfying in and of itself. The tone of the three stories is grim, and this is yet another book I see targeting the YA group, but appealing more to the adults. There’s a good bit of satire and social commentary I don’t think young adults are going to pick up on for a handful more years, and that I think adults would benefit from hearing. The question is, will they listen? And if they listen, will they act?

Medium: Audiobook narrated by Carolyn McCormick (audible.com)

Other: Hardcover boxed set on Amazon.com

Overall Series rating:  4.5 stars

Potential Re-read?: Very likely

Dead-tree worthy?: Still considering. (I enjoyed the voice talent in the audiobook versions, so I’m not sure if I’ll want to make the leap to hearing it in my own internal voice. This is not a matter of quality of the story, but whether I’d prefer having someone else read to me or reading to myself.)

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