The Hunger Games Trilogy is a series of three books by Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. The first of the books, The Hunger Games, was published in 2008 and the series has skyrocketed in popularity, culminating in a movie that will be released this March. It was originally marketed as a young adult novel, but has been embraced by readers of all ages, including almost all of my adult friends.
The books are set in a dystopian future in a country called Panem, which was once North America. The people of Panem attempted a coup that was defeated by the Capitol, the corrupt leaders of the country. The country was divided into districts and are strictly controlled by the Capitol. In order to remind the people of their mistake of the uprising and to demonstrate their control, the Capitol puts on the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.
THE HUNGER GAMES
The first book introduces the narrator, Katniss Everdeen, who lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister, Prim. District 12 was once the Appalachian mountain region, which is revealed by small clues, such as the coal mining jobs the people hold. Katniss is 16 and is the sole provider for her family; her father died in a coal mining accident five years before and Katniss and her best friend, Gale, have been illegally going out of the confines of District 12 and hunting animals and foraging different mushrooms and berries to feed the family (both by feeding their families and selling the excess meat to the people in the black market, the Hob).
The book opens on the morning of the lottery for the Hunger Games, when all of the people of the district are required to put their children’s names into the lottery. The children’s names that are pulled from the lottery are referred to as Tributes, which is one more way to keep the people of Panem in their place. When the Capitol representatives pull two names for the Hunger Games, the boy is Peeta Mellark, a boy who Katniss knew from school and had once given her bread from his family’s bakery when her family was starving, even though he was punished for it later. The name of the girl that is drawn is Primrose Everdeen, Katniss’s eleven year old younger sister. As Prim walks to the stage, Katniss runs forward and volunteers to be the female tribute for District 12.
Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, where they are to be trained by the former victors of the Hunger Games from their district. In the case of District 12, there has only been one former victor: Haymitch Abernathy, who is infamous for living in a perpetual state of drunkenness. Katniss takes an instant dislike for him, as he is too drunk to properly train them, which is crucial, given that the wealthier and healthier districts have been training their tributes for years.
In the initial interviews with Caesar Flickerman that are broadcast to everyone in Panem, Peeta reveals that he’s had a lifleong love for Katniss, which she interprets as a way to manipulate the audience and get support and fans, which is important, as the audience can send gifts of food and medicine to the players in the Games. Katniss and Peeta are assigned a team that serves them while they’re staying in the Capitol, which include an aesthetic team to help clean them up for the formal on-air parade and presentation. Their stylist, Cinna, designs their outfits that instantly gets the audience talking about them — he bases the designs for their outfits on their coal-mining district, but rather than sticking to coal, he comes up with designs that incorporate fire and flames; Katniss becomes “the girl on fire” when Cinna’s designs for the first audience presentation includes actual fire.
The Hunger Games begins with all of the tributes (two from each district, 24 in all) starting in a circle around a cornucopia filled with items that could be helpful during games, including weapons, food, and medicines. Haymitch has advised Katniss and Peeta to avoid the cornucopia, as that is where most of the triubtes are killed. Sure enough, 11 of the 24 tributes are killed the first day. Katniss spends most of the first few days of the Games alone, using her hunting and foraging skills to survive. Some of the more experienced tributes make a gang and are attempting to hunt and get rid of the other tributes. Katniss briefly unites with a tribute from the agricultural district who is one of the younger of the tributes. Rue reminds Katniss of her younger sister, and the two of them torment the gang by setting some of the Capitol’s mutant creations, tracker jackers, on them (the Capitol had created different creatures and set them on the people of Panem in order to shorten the rebellion; these include tracker jackers, a genetically-altered wasp that hunt you down and sting you with a hallucinogenic venom that gives you visions before killing you, and jabberjays, birds that spied on and then repeated the things the rebels said to the Capitol. The jabberjays then mated with mockingbirds to create mockingjays, birds that memorize and repeat songs instead of words. The mockingjays serve as a symbol of the rebellion and a slap in the Capitol’s face, as the jabberjays were supposed to die off but created new life and thrived instead). When Rue is killed by one of the other tributes, Katniss sings to her to comfort her as she dies and then covers her with flowers, giving her a makeshift funeral and showing her anger and defiance to the Capitol.
Unbeknownst to Katniss, the audience has become enamored with the unrequited love story of Peeta and Katniss, and the Capitol has announced that there are new rules for the Hunger Games: two tributes from the same district can win the Games as a pair. Katniss hears the announcement and tracks down Peeta; she finds him wounded and takes him into a cave to nurse him back to help. Peeta has blood poisoning from a leg wound given to him from one of the gang, and Katniss has to go to the cornucopia to get medicine that has been donated by viewers. While there, she is almost killed by the remaining members of the gang, but she is saved and her life is spared by Thresh, the other tribute from Rue’s district. He spares her life in order to thank her for helping and caring for Rue when she was dying. Katniss makes it back to Peeta and injects him with medicine, saving his life. They stay in the cave for days while Peeta recovers. Katniss and Peeta explore their budding romance; Katniss initially engages in the romance in order to keep up the star-crossed lovers act, but feels that the feelings she’s pretending to have are slowly becoming real.
On the final days of the Hunger Games, the river close to their cave becomes dry, and Katniss and Peeta realize that this is the Capitol’s way to get the remaining tributes together at the center of the arena. They make their way there and, once there, see the final tribute, Cato, being chased by giant muttations, a Capitol creature that are human-like wolves. Katniss realizes that the muttations resemble the dead tributes, including one that has Rue’s eyes and face. Cato is attacked by the muttations but doesn’t die because of the armor he’s wearing, so Katniss kills him by shooting him with an arrow. Peeta and Katniss wait to be announced as the winners when an announcement is made that there can only be one winner after all. OH HELL NO.
In order to keep one from having to kill the other, and because Katniss is pissed as hell, Katniss and Peeta threaten suicide with poisonous berries in hopes that the Capitol would rather have two victors than none. It works, and they are declared the winners and taken out of the arena. In the aftermath and celebration from the Hunger Games, the Capitol becomes angry with Katniss and claims she was sparking rebellion by “outsmarting” the Gamemakers and defying the Capitol. When Haymitch tells Katniss this, she takes it as her job to reverse it to save her family and friends from retaliation from the Capitol. During an aired interview with Caesar Flickerman, Katniss claims that she wasn’t trying to rebel, she was trying to insure a future with Peeta because she loves him, insuring that the audience likes her more and will hate the Capitol if they kill her. Peeta and Katniss seem to be safe for now.
On their way home, Katniss and Peeta discuss their feelings and Katniss reveals that she knew when Haymitch would send her sponsorship gifts and played most of the games by manipulating the feelings of the audience by acting like they were in love. She has assumed that Peeta was playing the games as well, and quickly finds out that Peeta’s feelings were true — he tells her that he’s loved her since that day years earlier when he gave her the bread for her family, even though he knew that he would be punished by his parents. Katniss tells him that she doesn’t know exactly how she feels about him. Peeta’s feelings are hurt by knowing that Katniss was playing him, but he agrees that now they have to portray themselves to be in love in order to keep the Capitol from discovering this and killing them and their families for their rebellion.
The second novel opens with Katniss and Peeta embarking on their Victory Tour, where they tour each of the districts and are presented as the victors of the Hunger Games. When the tour has finished, they return to their homes in District 12. Their relationship is tenuous, as Peeta is in love with Katniss and, because this is a young adult novel, Katniss is unsure of her feelings for him. She knows that she cares for Peeta and wants to keep him safe, but she thinks she just might be in love with her best friend from home, Gale. Of course she is. OF COURSE.
While on the Victory Tour, Katniss and Peeta keep up their love act, with Peeta proposing to her during one of the televised interviews. Katniss figures that this is the only way to stay alive. Turns out, she’s right.
When she gets to her family’s new house in the area reserved specifically for victors of the Hunger Games, her mother tells her that there is a visitor waiting in her room. Waiting for her is President Snow, the president of Panem, who is none too pleased with her shenanigans in the arena, specifically that her actions could be interpreted as trying to spark a rebellion against the Capitol. The unhappy citizens of the country have embraced the mockingjay pin Katniss wore during the games as the symbol of the rebellion. President Snow tells Katniss that she has to convince the citizens of the country that she was simply trying to save Peeta’s life and not a way to stick it to the man. Before he leaves, he whispers in her ear that he knows that Katniss kissed Gale upon her return home and Katniss realizes that President Snow’s breath smells like blood.
Katniss discovers that there have been uprisings in other districts — she encounters two runaways from District 8 and they explain a theory that District 13 was not wiped out by the Capitol, due to its residents going underground, and that stock footage of 13 is played instead of new film on television. There are suddenly a new group of Peacekeepers (the Capitol’s police enforcers) that arrive in District 12; their first act upon arriving in the district is brutally whipping Gale for hunting illegally. Katniss tries to stop his beating and is struck in the face by the new Head Peacekeeper, Thread, before the beating stops and Katniss and Haymitch carry Gale to Katniss’s mother for healing. That night Katniss realizes that she loves Gale, but she doesn’t know if it is a romantic love.
(That is one of my least favorite parts of young adult novels and honestly, one of the reasons why I tend to shy away from reading them. It seems like every young adult novel that’s been written in the past ten years incorporate some sort of love triangle between a girl and two guys. IT IS SO ANNOYING. I blame Twilight. There is some sort of romantic dissonance that has to occur in young adult novels. It’s not enough that Katniss is a strong female character, she has to be incapacitated by some sort of romance. Okay, moving on.)
This year is the 75th anniversary of the Capitol’s defeat of the rebellion, so it is the 75th Hunger Games and is what they call a Quarter Quell. There is always some sort of special craziness added into the mix. The last Quarter Quell, during the 50th Hunger Games, there were double the amount of tributes. This time, the twist is that the tributes will be chosen from previous victors, which means that Katniss and either Peeta or Haymitch will be back in the games.
On the day of the reaping, Katniss and Haymitch’s names are drawn, but Peeta volunteers to take Haymitch’s spot. Katniss decides that she is going to make it her mission to save Peeta’s life and make sure he stays alive during the games and makes Haymitch agree.
These games are different because all of the victors know each other and are friends and more importantly, all of the citizens of the Capitol love the victors — they’re celebrities in Panem and the Capitol loves them like we love our reality stars. A lot of the victors are old and many of them have turned to drugs or alcohol to try to rid themselves of the memories of the games. Haymitch tries to get Katniss and Peeta to forge an alliance with some of the tributes, but they decide to try to keep each other alive on their own.
The games start and Katniss and Peeta find out that Haymitch has been forging alliances without them — Finnick, the extremely handsome and muscular tribute from District 4 and his 80 year old fellow tribute, Mags, instantly fight with Katniss to survive; Finnick even has a bracelet Haymitch had been wearing to show that he can be trusted.
There are some gruesome tortures in the arena, including a chemical fog that paralyzes and kills and orange muttation monkeys. Johanna Mason, a tribute from District 7, meets up with Finnick, Katniss, and Peeta, bringing Beetee and Wiress, tributes from District 3, the technology district. Wiress soon proves her genius by revealing to Katniss that the arena is arranged like a clock, with all of the arena’s disasters occurring on a timed chart. After Wiress is killed, Katniss learns of Beetee’s plan to harness lightning in order to electrocute two other contenders.
While Johanna and Katniss are attempting to set the wire, they’re attacked by the remaining contenders, Brutus and Enobaria. Johanna jumps Katniss, which makes Katniss think that Johanna was working against them the whole time. Johanna has knocked her out and cut her arm, and when Katniss comes to, she finds Beetee laying on the ground with the wire wrapped around a knife and Finnick and Peeta are nowhere to be found. She remembers Haymitch’s advise before going into the arena: “You just remember who the enemy is.” She finally realizes that the enemy he was talking about is the Capitol. Good job.
Realizing that Beetee was trying to blow up the forcefield, she wraps the wire around her bow and shoots it straight into the forcefield at the exact moment when the lightning strikes the tree, blowing up the arena. She is thrown to the ground and, before she passes out, thinks that the Capitol will never let her or Peeta live after this.
When she wakes up, she is being transported on a hovercraft to District 13. Katniss wanders around until she finds a room with Haymitch, Finnick, and Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemaker who has been secretly working with the rebels. Haymitch tells her that there was a plan to break them out the minute the Quell was announced. The victors from 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11 had varying degrees of knowledge about it. Plutarch had been for several years part of a group planning to overthrow the Capitol. He made sure that the wire was among the weapons, as it was to be used by Beetee to blow up the forcefield. The hovercraft is from District 13, which is where they are headed. Upset, Katniss asks why she and Peeta were not in on the plans, and Haymitch explains that once the forcefield exploded, she and Peeta would be the prime targets and the less they knew the better, in case of capture. She tells them that Johanna tried to kill her, but Finnick explains that Johanna was removing Katniss’ tracker, and that all of victor tributes in those districts have pledged their lives to her and the rebellion; that she is the mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion.
She realizes that Haymitch never had any plans to keep Peeta alive. He tells her that everyone kept Peeta alive because they knew that if he died she would never keep an alliance with the others. She asks where Peeta is, and Haymitch tells her he was picked up, along with Johanna and Enobaria (the tribute from District 2), by the Capitol. In horror and anger, she attacks Haymitch, scratching his face. Finnick and others strap her down and drug her to keep her calm. Finnick tells her that the Capitol will at least keep Peeta alive to use as bait against Katniss. So you know, there’s that.
Gale visits her in her room on the hovercraft. He tells her that after the Games, the Capitol sent bombers to the districts. He explains that he was able to get her family out in time, but District 12 has been destroyed.
The third and final novel in the trilogy begins with Katniss visiting the ruins of District 12 and is thinking about the happenings of the previous few days. There has been an underground rebellion working for a while and District 13, which the Capitol said had been destroyed in the initial uprising, has been thriving in underground bunkers. District 13 had been in charge of nuclear technology and has escaped the clutches of the Capitol by threatening them with a nuclear attack.
The rebels, headed by President Coin, the leader of District 13, are eager for Katniss to join them. She has become the mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. She is more of a figurehead of the rebellion, but they’re desperate to be able to produce pictures and propaganda of her as a part of the rebel alliance. Katniss agrees that she will take part in the rebellion but she has some conditions: she demands that President Coin grant immunity to all of the captured tributes of the Quarter Quell, she demands the right to kill President Snow herself, and asks for her family to keep their cat, Buttercup.
The rebels are thrilled that Katniss has decided to be the face of the uprising and put plans in motion to make different TV spots featuring the Mockingjay in action. They send Katniss, Gale, and a team of other soldiers and cameramen to film her visiting a hospital in District 8, which has been targeted and badly attacked by the Capitol. In fact, while they’re leaving District 8, the Capitol bombs the hospital, killing almost all of the helpless men, women, and children inside. Katniss becomes enraged and realizes that she wants to help the rebellion now. Luckily, it’s all caught on tape.
Beetee, the technological genius from the Quarter Quell, has come up with a way to hack into the Capitol’s live broadcasts. The broadcast they interrupt is an interview with Ceasar Flickerman and Peeta. Katniss is relieved to see Peeta is alive but is concerned that they’re torturing him, especially since his message is for that of a ceasefire. Beetee manages to stick several seconds of the propaganda shots into the broadcast, which excites the rebels and makes them plan different videos they can shoot.
The next time they hack into the broadcast system is during another interview with Ceasar and Peeta, only this time Peeta is looking a little worse for wear. He looks like he’s lost a substantial amount of weight and there are bruises on his face that even the Capitol makeup can’t cover. Peeta manages to get a message to Katniss and the rebels watching that District 13 will be bombed that night — the screen goes black but there are suspicious torture noises. They manage to get further underground into their bunkers before the bombs hit, but Katniss saw blood on the screen before it goes to black and knows that somewhere Peeta is being tortured.
While bunkered down during the bombing that lasts a few days, she talks to Finnick, the tribute from District 4, who tells Katniss that he knows how she feels — his girlfriend, Annie, has been taken prisoner by the Capitol as well and he is being driven mad by the knowledge that she is being tortured by the Capitol in order to destroy him mentally. Katniss realizes that this is what is happening to Peeta and she has a panic attack and passes out.
When she comes to, Haymitch is there. He tells her that the decision has been made to attempt a rescue mission into the Capitol to save Peeta, Annie, and Johanna. It is a very dangerous mission, made even more dangerous by the fact that Gale was the first person to volunteer, so now she’s even more distraught about it because both of her men might die.
In order to distract the Capitol from the rescue mission happening under their noses, Katniss and Finnick shoot a new propaganda video. Katniss tells the camera that she has been set free by the knowledge that the Capitol is torturing Peeta because that means that she can fight them without punishment. Finnick reveals that President Snow had been selling Finnick’s body to anyone from the Capitol who was willing to pay; Finnick and the other victors were forced into this prostitution because if they didn’t, someone they loved would be killed. In exchange for his sexual services, Finnick has learned a lot of secrets about prominent Capitol members, including President Snow. According to Finnick, Snow has been poisoning his political adversaries to rise to power. He would drink out of the poisoned cups to avoid suspicion but sometimes the antidotes wouldn’t work, which is why he always smells of roses and why Katniss smelled blood on his breath — he has sores in his mouth that will never heal. After the cameras have cut, Haymitch tells Katniss that after his games, when he technically cheated by using the forcefield around the arena as a weapon to kill the remaining tribute, the Capitol killed his mother, younger brother, and girlfriend in order to “make an example” out of him to the other tributes.
The spot airs on the Capitol television, and Katniss and Finnick wait for the rescue team with Annie and Peeta to arrive. They finally get word that the team has returned with everyone alive. They bring Finnick and Katniss to the hospital wing, where Finnick and Annie are joyfully reunited. Peeta is still unconscious, so they bring Katniss to his room so she can be there when he wakes up.
When she gets to his room, Peeta is awake already. He sees her and immediately runs to her, for what she thinks is an embrace. He grabs her by the neck and tries to choke and kill her.
It turns out that the final way of torturing Peeta and Katniss has been to “hijack” Peeta’s mind — they injected him with the hallucinogenic tracker jacker venom and gave him false memories of Katniss being the enemy. It’s very “Zoolander killing the prime minister of Malyasia,” except this time it could actually work.
The doctors at 13 attempt to un-hijack Peeta’s mind while Katniss, Finnick, Gale, and the other soldiers prepare for an assault on the Capitol. Katniss still has her mind made up that she is going to assassinate President Snow. Gale shows her a bomb that he and Beetee have been working on; a bomb goes off, waits for about a minute for rescue workers to go in, and then another bomb goes off, killing the innocent people attempting to help. Katniss realizes that they are becoming just as sociopathic as President Snow, especially when Gale defends his bomb by saying that the people of the Capitol didn’t care about the people of the districts, so all is fair in war and war.
Katniss, Finnick, Gale, and about five other rebel soldiers go on a mission into the Capitol after taking control of some of the other districts (they’ve managed to take over District 2, which is especially important as they produce the Peacekeepers for the Capitol). One of the soldiers is killed toward the beginning of the mission and President Coin sends a replacement: Peeta. This is when Katniss realizes that President Coin sees her as a threat due to her influence on the people of Panem and has sent Peeta in so that he can kill her, even though his mind is mostly back to normal. After a call from Haymitch, Katniss resolves to start trying to help Peeta remember his former memories. The Squad creates a game, “Real or Not Real”, to help him separate the hijacked memories from the real ones. During this, Peeta reveals that when he was held in the Capitol, they forced him to watch the execution of two Avoxes (prisoners who have had their tongues cut out and are then forced into slavery in the Capitol), Darius and Lavinia, under the guise of trying to get information about the rebellion — he reveals that he is beginning to understand the difference between the fake memories and the real ones because the fake memories have a “shiny” quality to them. He still has some homicidal moments, though, which awkwardly show up in the middle of a Capitol street that has been booby-trapped with several traps and pods of danger, and it results in the death of two men.
The group continues through the Capitol to get Katniss close enough to kill President Snow, encountering traps and monsters and losing men along the way. When they finally reach the Capitol, Peeta separates from the rest of them, saying that he can’t trust himself to not try to kill Katniss at the last minute. Katniss reaches Snow’s mansion, which she is horrified to see has a human shield comprised solely of children. Silver parachutes that look like supply packages similar to those that came down in the Hunger Games arena come down and the children reach for them; unfortunately, the packages contain bombs. When the children have been bombed, a group of rebel rescue workers rush in to help. Katniss recognizes her sister, Prim, among the group and starts running to her to warn her of possible danger, but it’s too late — a second bomb goes off, killing Prim and burning Katniss.
Katniss is taken back to District 13 with the rest of the survivors — Finnick was attacked and killed by muttations in the Capitol, Gale was captured but rescued in the Capitol, and Peeta is nowhere to be found. Katniss’s body is reconstructed using skingrafts, but there is nothing to do for her mind; Prim’s death has driven her to a point of mental instability reminiscent to that of when she won the first Hunger Games. Slowly she regains her sanity, but the slightest remembrance of her sister can put her back over the edge.
President Snow was taken captive that day and has been held in a District 13 cell ever since. She goes down to see him and he tells her that it was President Coin, not Snow, who ordered the attack on the children. This means that the bombs could have been the one designed by Gale. Uh oh. When she talks to Gale, he tells her that he has no idea if it was his bomb but he feels guilty nonetheless. She realizes that she will never be able to look at Gale the same way again; he represents the destruction and anger that she has always had toward the Capitol and two fiery people will never last long together (and my ex-boyfriend and I can attest to that truth).
The day of President Snow’s public execution arrives and Katniss is outfitted with a bow and arrow to take the “final shot” of the war. As she stares at Snow, she realizes that he had promised that they would never lie to each other, which meant he was telling the truth about Coin ordering the attack on the children. Coin has also told the former victors that they will hold one final Hunger Games in which the tributes will come from the children of the Capitol, so Katniss thinks that she is just as untrustworthy and horrible as Snow. When she takes the shot to kill Snow, she aims and shoots and kills President Coin instead. The people on the square instantly riot and Katniss is taken away by guards.
While being held in a cell, she is told that after the riot, President Snow was found dead; he was either trampled to death or choked on his own blood from the sores in his mouth that were no longer able to be medicated once he was taken from the Capitol. District 13 holds a trial for her while she’s held in solitary confinement and finds her not guilty due to her apparent insanity — her punishment is that she is sent to live in District 12.
She and other former 12 citizens return to what is left of their homes. Her mother doesn’t return, however, as the deaths of Katniss’s father and Prim are too much for her to handle; she remains in the other districts as a healer so she can keep busy. The District 12 citizens attempt to rebuild and Katniss lives alone in her house in the Victor’s Village (Haymitch is a less than stellar neighbor) until one day Peeta shows up. It has been months since anyone has seen him and he has apparently worked off his brainwashing.
Katniss realizes that falling in love with Peeta was inevitable — he represented the peace and hope for the future that was a perfect contrast to her fire and anger. They reunite and together, with Haymitch, create a book memorializing the victims of the Hunger Games and the Capitol’s bloody reign.
The end of the book jumps ahead to fifteen years later, where Peeta and Katniss are still together. They have had two children together, because Peeta desperately wanted them. The Hunger Games are over, but Katniss dreads the day her children learn the details of their parents’ involvement in both the Games and the war. Peeta and Katniss sometimes experience flashbacks of the Games; when she feels distressed, Katniss plays a comforting game reminding herself of every good thing that she has ever seen someone do. She finds the memory game repetitive sometimes, but as she concludes the novel she concedes that “there are much worse games to play.”
The novels are really entertaining and have a really good story. I enjoyed them because they don’t seem like the typical young adult novels, minus that annoying love triangle. The characters don’t act like teenagers and there are a lot of mature themes. The characters live in extreme poverty and experience extreme loss at very young ages, and also have to deal with loyalty, betrayal, challenging authority, and war. Katniss has essentially raised herself after the death of her father when her mother had an emotional breakdown which makes her much more self-efficient and not a whiny teenager.
I tend to shy away from young adult novels because I spend my days with teenagers. The last thing I want to do is read about a teenager’s life and problems, especially because they usually involve crushes and clothes and bullshit. This novel circumvents the trapping of a typical YA novel by using teenagers in an un-teenage format.
Plus, the movie looks like it’s going to be AWESOME.