Firstly I just want to point out something weird, which is that this is my 75th book of the year, and this book follows the 75th annual Hunger Games, and I did not plan that, it’s just a very strange coincidence. (Not sure how this ended up being my 76th CBR review though??)
Secondly, I want to talk some more about Katniss and her psychological state, there will be spoilers in the rest of the review so mosey along now if you somehow haven’t read this yet. Or better yet, go read it? Why haven’t you read it yet?
This is really the first time I’ve tried to read this book as literature rather than just being along for the ride, and I have to say that as well as I know the story, it still managed to impress me. (This is my favorite of the films, so it was nice to go back for the first time in eight years after so many repeated viewings and remember the stuff the movie wasn’t able to fit in, and interesting to see what the film version did to my perspective on the story.)
I’ve really been doing a close reading of Katniss this time around. Her emotional and psychological state is so complex, I just find it fascinating. And the way that Collins managed to create it so that her emotions also serve to make other points is just so skillfully done. For the first 2/3 of the book, Katniss is dealing with the emotional and logistical fallout of being a victor in the Hunger Games, and also dealing with the games spiraling out into her real life. As she’s learning, being crowned the (co)winner is only the beginning. The games, even in the best case scenario, will be there for the rest of her life, in her relationship with Peeta, in her time as a mentor to future tributes, in clips rehashed endlessly on TV. She’s also working out what her purpose is now, that her main goal in life is no longer to provide food for her family (she’s rich now), and also working out her reaction to her life being chosen for her. She’s forced into continuing the fake engagement with Peeta, something Haymitch tells her she’s in for the long haul. And what does that mean for her future? She has very real fear of being forced to marry Peeta, of marrying at all, and if they have kids, watching them suffer and always be afraid they might go into the arena (or manipulated into the arena, as she mentions children of victors are tributes themselves more often than should be statistically possible). A huge part of the book is her dealing with her trauma, and developing a fragile sense of trust with Peeta and Haymitch, and her mother.
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, she also has to deal with the pressure of accidentally igniting a rebellion, and that totally unwanted, she has become the face of said rebellion, when all she wants to do is survive and be left alone. The tone of the book starts to change about midway through when, due to districts in rebellion, unbeknownst to almost everyone, the Capitol begins to crack down on everyone in District Twelve. And then the Quarter Quell is announced, and Katniss learns she’s to go into the arena once again.
I know some people see Peeta and Katniss’s return to the arena as repetitive, but I love it. I love the way the same thing changes flavor with the new circumstances surrounding it. The fact that all the tributes are previous victors energizes the whole thing, and ups the stakes. There’s something especially cruel about the decision to stick a bunch of traumatized people back into the thing that traumatized them in the first place, that they thought they were safe from for so long. I love the undercurrent of resentment and rebellion that slowly builds (we see it from Katniss’s perspective, and she takes longer to notice than others might).
Then at the end, Katniss finds out that those she trusted were playing games with her, too, moving her around like a piece in a game, just like the Capitol did. I didn’t realize how early these seeds were planted the first two times I read the book, how Katniss feels almost as resentful towards those who see her as on their side as she does towards the Capitol and Snow. The feeling of being used and moved around and controlled is not better when it’s coming from someone you should theoretically trust. This will all culminate in her assassination of President Coin in book three, but it’s something I’ve completely ignored or glossed over in the past when reading this book.
Moving on to book three as we speak.
[4.5 stars, rounding up, and raising from four stars previously]