The Queen of Pain: A Review of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

My apologies for my absence of late, blog friends! That pesky thing known as a “personal life” has kept me much occupied of late. I’ve hardly even had reading time! You can imagine how difficult that has been for me.

It seems, however, that things are settling in to a more sane, mellow place, so here I am again, with a double review for you!

Over the weekend I read both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. At this point I’m pretty sure everyone who might be interested in reading the books is at least familiar with the premise, but in case you aren’t, here you go.

The Hunger Games:

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.

Catching Fire:

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

There’s so much I can’t tell you about how these books made me feel without spoiling them all over the place. But I can tell you that I was crying within the first few chapters. Of course I started reading The Hunger Games on a particularly hormonal day, and I am an easy crier, so . . . probably not everyone else will respond to these books the way I did. But I can tell you that Suzanne Collins is some sort of brilliant sadist, and we should all be really happy she’s writing novels instead of, say, working for the prison system or the U.S. Military. Because let me tell you, the woman knows how to make you hurt. And then, when you think, no way can it hurt more? She MAKES it hurt more. She’s like the Queen of Pain, or something. Let us all fervently pray that she and Carrie Ryan never team up to write a novel; I might  not survive the experience.

And I just couldn’t stop reading, even though I was frequently crying, and had feverish dreams at night about participating in the games myself. I am, perhaps, a tad impressionable. Don’t worry, though, I will probably recover from reading the first two books in the trilogy by the time the third book comes out in August of this year.

So what’s so compelling about these novels? After all, we’ve all read plenty of books with violence and dystopian futures and fascist, sadistic governments and brave young people fighting for their lives. But what got me about The Hunger Games from the very start was the amount of goodness that Collins expresses, in spite of the horrible world her characters live in. Oh, she shows you the evil plenty well–Queen of Pain, remember?–but there is SO much goodness in her characters. I can’t tell you too much without dropping huge spoilers, though.

She also sets up a really awesome love triangle–one in which both the potential beloveds have a lot to offer our heroine, where both are noble and good and fit partners for the heroine in their own ways. I have a fairly strong preference for Peeta, but then he does get the most air time in the first two novels, so I am reserving my final judgment until I’ve read the third book.

Both books are incredibly violent, full of danger and fear. But I didn’t come away from them thinking about the violence and fear. I came away from them thinking about the love, the heartbreak, the sacrifices characters make for each other, and how often the characters make difficult, selfless choices in the face of enormous pressure and mind-blowing terror.

Absolutely gorgeous and heart-wrenching stories, and I recommend them without reservation. But I have to warn you, if you’re anywhere near as delicate as I am, get a box of tissue before you start reading.

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9 thoughts on “The Queen of Pain: A Review of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

  1. Aren’t they some of the most awesomest books ever! Ever!!!

    I heart Suzanne Collins and the amazingly poetic way she writes. She is THE heroine in our house. I happen to have a cyber buddy who went to school with her. He says she’s about the sweetest thing ever. He has specific orders to get her autograph if he ever crosses her majestic path.

    That said, I must admit I am totally for Gale. I differ in this with my DD, too, but I can’t be persuaded from thinking he is so amazing.

    Glad to see you back on the blogging circuit. I missed you and hope all goes well in RL.

    hugs~ cat

      1. I got hooked on her a few years back with her middle grade series- The Underland Chronicles. She is my heroine.

        BTW, a blogging buddy of mine is looking for book reviewers for his blog. I told him to check yours out, as you do a great job and read voraciously. If you want to peek at his blog, it’s in my sidebar under The Elephant’s Bookshelf.

        I think you would be a great fit.

  2. Oh I can’t say how much I LOVE these books and how much I am dying for book three!

    I agree with you on everything except the love triangle. What love triangle? Katniss and Peeta 4ever!!!!

      1. I think that is an amazing, though subtle compliment to the author…that she has enlisted so much trust that we are ok with whatever she wants to do.

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