I had wrist surgery on Saturday, it went well but I’m heavily bandaged up and spending most of my time in a sling. Pretty much anything I like to do (or blog about) is currently out of the question, as the surgery was on my right wrist and I’m right handed (I spent all last night dreaming I was embroidering a squirrel, that’s what not being able to embroider for a few days does). However I can hold a book (although I have to be careful not to skip pages as the page turning ability of my left hand seems slightly deficient), so expect a lot of book reviews. (I’m typing slowly and mainly with my left hand, as an experiment to see if I’ll be ok for work tomorrow, apparently typing is good physio, so says the doc anyway).
So, I’ve been reading the last two Hunger Games books or devouring them should I say. I still feel like I’m probably one of the last people in the world to read the trilogy but at the same time I still want to be cautious about spoilers, however I’m aware there’s going to be some spoilers for those who haven’t read book 1, so if you haven’t read book 1 but still want to, don’t read on. Same with my review of book 3, Mockingjay, don’t read that if you haven’t read book 2 yet, as there will be spoilers there to.
In Catching Fire Katniss and Peeta have survived The Hunger Games but The Capitol or more specifically President Snow, is peeved, to put it mildly and it is feared that their rebellion in the arena could spread as rebellion to the twelve districts. When Katniss and Peeta go on the victory tour, sure enough they begin to see the signs.
The end of their tour coincides with the announcement of the Quarter Quell, a special Hunger Games that occurs every 25 years, where special conditions are applied. And in this Quarter Quell the special condition is that the tributes from the twelve districts can only be drawn from previous victors, which means that Katniss has to go back into the arena. However the thought of victors that the public had come to know and love going back into the arena begins to disturb even the citizens of the Capitol but President Snow presses on.
Once back in the arena, allegiances are made and all is not what is seems and eventually some of the tributes manage to escape.
In Mockingjay the rebellion is in full flow, Katniss has been rescued by District 13
and is joined by a handful of other escapees from the arena, Capitol rebels, Haymitch and refugees from District 12 (Gale, Katniss’s mother and sister amongst them), which has been firebombed into oblivion. Whereas Peeta and others have been captured by the Capitol. District 13 (which had been thought to have been destroyed in the original rebellion) is leading the rebellion again and they want Katniss to be their Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion.
Spoiler free zone ↓
What I loved so much about both books (and The Hunger Games to) is that it’s not black and white because power, war and rebellion rarely is and I think that’s an important topic to cover in a children’s / YA book. I loved in particular the depiction of how the media was used by both sides and how so much of it was spin or at least attempted spin.
I also loved how Suzanne Collins made even the briefest of characters important, how a sacrifice or small act of rebellion by a minor character mattered, even if he was only there for a paragraph. I think my favourite minor character was Cinna and everyone who’s read the books will know why and for those who haven’t, you’ll just have to find out.
Finally I loved how unpredictable, how unsafe Collins made The Hunger Games world feel, particularly in the last book, where the characters could be going along and doing something perfectly innocuous and then without any warning, no showy writerly build up, something happens to the character and they’re dead. So sudden and so simple, dead in a matter of sentences, so far more shocking.
This series will definitely be a series I will be introducing to Girl Lacer when she’s older (she’s already aware of it, as they have a buddy system in school and her buddy (in year 6) has been reading them), because as Collins wrote in her acknowledgements, when she acknowledged her late father and his deep commitment to educating his children on war and peace, the realities and morality of war is something children do need to know about and fiction, good fiction, is one of the ways to teach them.