The upsetting Hunger Games

I recently finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy. On the whole, I liked it. But the books also bothered me. A lot. It was unhealthy. I’ve tried to put a finger on what it truly was. Maybe it’s the story arc or Katniss Everdeen. By the end of the third book, she was just terrible - petulant, unbearable with a big dollop of self-loathing.

Warning: This post contains some spoilers. Stop reading now if that will bother you.

I’ll start with the second book. Katniss and Peeta have just been crowned victors after the stunt with the berries. Would that really scare the Capitol so much? They could just make anyone disappear - an “accident” if you will. People are fickle. They forget. The people in the districts are too busy trying to make ends meet and worried about their own kids to care really. So it’s very unlikely anyone would have a started a rebellion.

The second hunger games had me going “Really? Again?”

I digress. These are minor complaints. This story could still have been good.

Ultimately, it’s the inevitable ending that undid this story. I mean, everyone knew all along what Suzanne Collins was building up to. Katniss in the Capitol, confronting President Snow. Everyone saw that coming.

But Collins is so desperate to make that happen, and her stubborn narrative results in a story and characterization of Katniss that is immensely frustrating. It reduces Katniss and the people of Panem into facile caricatures of what they could have been. There are some flashes of complexity in the characters, particularly in Haymitch (whose singular job, it seems to me, in the third book is to point out to Katniss how ridiculous her behaviour really is). But these are far too rare and only serve to further highlight how much better this story could have been.

It all goes downhill in the third book. The rebellion is like an episode of the WWE. Many people shout and cheer, but it’s still a joke. When Katniss visits District 8 and the Capitol bombs a makeshift hospital, not a single person there has the balls or intelligence to call her out on her twisted sense of heroism. Yes, these people were oppressed by the Capitol, but at least they had a livelihood. Now everyone is either dead or dying. Caught in the crossfire, these people did not ask for or want a rebellion. Would that make Katniss reconsider her role in all this? Could it be that some people may not give a damn even if the Capitol were overthrown? You will not know because Collins never asks these questions. In her world, every citizen of Panem will cheer the Mockingjay on during her tawdry propos and district visits.

Talking about Katniss, she just can’t lead her revolution even if her life depended on it. Because it kind of did in this book. Yes, she is only 17 and all that. Again during that visit to District 8, she wonders why the Capitol would bomb a hospital. Wow, really? How about because not a single fuck is given by the Capitol? Is that something that must really be explained to the “Mockingjay”? When Gale points that out, he is suddenly super intelligent in her opinion. No Katniss, it’s just you.

Herein lies another problem. She can never grasp the big picture. It’s also regrettable her obsession with the boys comes to define her character so much in the last two books of the series.

In the third book, we read about a Katniss that is an exercise in exasperation. Her habit of over-thinking every single incident drives me up the wall. When she removes her headset during the fighting in District 8, she thinks Haymitch hates her for it. In her head, Fulvia also bears a grudge against her because the attempts to make her up in the studio and shoot some pithy scenes failed.

Katniss would have you believe that every member of the rebel army has nothing better to do than to examine her every move and deep inside, hate her bitterly. These qualities are incongruous with who she was. They are diametrically at odds with the Katniss from the first book who learnt to play on the feelings of the audience so well. For someone who has participated in two hunger games, I was looking forward to seeing her character tempered by wisdom. She could have been someone who, despite President Coin’s attempts to undermine/kill her, understands how the “game” is played and win the loyalty of the army and people. The rebellion was essentially still another game. None of that happens. Instead, Katniss is just selfish and bratty with an unhealthy obsession of what other people think of her.

The games scar her deeply but in the first two books, Katniss was strong, determined and a survivalist. She protects the weak - Rue and her prep team. If you thought the third book would build her character further, prepare to be let down. This was a dreadful waste of potential.

You should still read the trilogy though.