★★★★★: A concise world of bittersweet terror and triumph with perfect style, suspense, and resolution.
[spoiler free/mild details]
I know I am so late to this party that the party poppers have had grandchildren, but I am here defiantly wearing a party hat and demanding champagne, according to the party analogy. I did not expect anything spectacular from this series, but after picking it up I was so pleasantly surprised by the depth and consistency of these books.
First of all, Katniss is a million times more relatable than I could have ever hoped for. She's stubborn and distrusting and she always wears a plait and she doesn't care about being pretty and she thinks ripping hair out of your body is kinda weird and romance is confusing and inconvenient to her given her circumstances. For all her strength and value in the world and the communities she inhabits, for all her cleverness, she's guilty and angry and confused and upset but nevertheless capable. She feels like a very realistic character and I absolutely love her (and yeah, I kinda wanna put my hair in a plait and wear a Mockingjay pin now).
I thought the three books were really nicely balanced, each around the same length and ending at sensible points. The pacing, style, and twists of each book kept me hooked, and I felt such a strong connection with several characters.
The last book was my favourite, mostly because the ending was perfect to me. Katniss' losses and struggles and hurts are thick and cloying, but equally we see beauty, we see her bravery, and there is a purity of heart in her. Everyone is characterised so well. I hate detestable characters very easily, but the questionable nature of the various personalities in this series left me feeling the same way I do about complex people in real life - frustrated at their transgressions and fond of them at the same time. I like the way these books take me through personalities in a way that lets me cycle through dislike and pride and relief and love for them. There is a well constructed sense of intrigue and so much of the exposition across these novels slapped me in the face in the most exciting and sudden way.
Some details I enjoyed:
- Katniss being pretty indifferent to her body hair and not too enthused to have it removed - I thought this was such a nice touch
- The way Katniss pushed the romance away to focus on everything else going on around her - I thought this was so good because yes, she's seventeen, it's confusing, manipulation and war get in the way of it and distort it and I loved that entire dynamic. She has bigger fish to fry, but that one fish - the romance fish (I hope you're enjoying this fish analogy) - is left flopping about in the back of her brain. I just thought it was such a realistic and smart way to include it.
- Mutts - these creatures are so smartly revealed and so fascinating and so sinister.
- A general diversity of characters, attitudes, and motives that feels rich.
- Finnick - Finnick is great. That's all.
I totally understand the hype now, because this has become another Harry Potter to me in that I know I will treasure it.
The Hunger Games ★★★★☆
Catching Fire ★★★★☆