This review contains some spoilers
Over the past eight days or so I’ve been involved in a Hunger Games audiobook marathon. I finished listening to the last installment this afternoon and I’ve been torn between waiting for the book to settle in my head and wanting to write a review while my impressions remain strong. The second option has won out.
I don’t know what I expected from this book, but whatever it was, I’ve not been disappointed. This is not a fairy tale where good conquers evil and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s not about action hero good guys defeating the baddies through high moral principles, superior weapons skills and sheer willpower. Rather, it’s about the bleak reality of civil war and of revolution, where those who lead rebellion may be just as motivated by the desire for power as those they seek to overthrow. It's about the insidious role of the media in turning war into entertainment. It's about survivor guilt. It's about the effects of torture. It's about how difficult it is for countries and individuals to recover from the effects of war.
This book is also about Katniss Everdeen’s nightmares. Katniss – difficult, not always likeable, not particularly insightful – demonstrated her courage, intelligence and resourcefulness by surviving the Hunger Games, but here she is damaged almost beyond repair. Having unwittingly become a symbol of rebellion, she must continue to face the consequences of the choices she has made. She must also suffer from the consequences of being manipulated by powers beyond her control. Katniss is a compelling narrator of the horrors of her life.
As I listened to the narrative, I didn’t know how it was going to be resolved, and I remained enthralled until the end. To my mind, the resolution was very satisfying. I was glad that Collins allowed characters to whom I had become attached survive and find a way to heal together. I was moved by the fact that they did so in a landscape which was also in the process of regeneration. The ending mitigated the bleakness of the narrative, without being an unrealistic happily-ever-after.
If I tried hard enough I could probably come up with some criticisms of the writing, of the structure or of the plot devices. But I’m really in no mood to do so. While Collins’ depressingly believable treatment of the themes of propaganda, violence, torture, war and the manipulation of the innocent in political power plays will remain in my mind, so will her treatment of the themes of survival against all odds, loyalty, friendship and the power of love. Collins is a great storyteller, who has kept me glued to my iPod for more than thirty hours. Listening to the Hunger Games trilogy has been a very moving and a most satisfying experience.