The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

Stepping out of my usual genres, I ended 2023 reading (well, skimming really) ‘The Hunger Games’ to find new writing inspiration in a masterwork. I’m guessing you’ve been there, done that … but TBH, teen fantasy isn’t aimed at me and the binge was only triggered when the new fourth instalment was recommended. ‘The Running Man’ – a 1980s, Arnie, all action flick – flashes through my mind for survival games.

The Hunger Games (Book 1) Click here to get it on Amazon

Diving into Collins’ world is a breeze. The prose flows effortlessly, with perfect analogies for vivid story moments. I often pictured Collins churning out word quotas like a pro tennis player effortlessly returning backhands.

Written in the first person, the protagonist’s inner voice takes centre stage, akin to a personal diary. Quite a shift from the action thrillers I usually read.

Plot-wise, it’s a tale of kids challenging tyranny and surviving brutal games. Characters get ample development, and the film, which even I’ve seen, expands the visual world. Now, I’m curious to see how chaos unfolds in the sequel.

In a nutshell, this bestseller was a surprisingly easy read, tailored for early teens, judging by the characters.

Catching Fire (Book 2) Click here to get it on Amazon

The second book of The Hunger Games series seamlessly picks up where the first left off. Collins maintains her exceptional writing, investing thought into character development for the sequel.

Characters, romance, outfits, and internal story take center stage, exuding a teen drama feel. More dialogue is welcome and breaks up the internal narration and exposition.

TBH, I was hoping for a chaotic aftermath from the games in book one, but let’s see where book three goes.

Overall, this sequel makes more time for romance and character development.

Mockingjay (Book 3) Click here to get it on Amazon

Jumping into the final book of The Hunger Games trilogy, the writing takes a slightly more mature tone, though the first-person internal drama persists. I was craving more kinetic energy, which does appear towards the end, though briefly and interspersed. A new narrator adds a nice fresh voice to the audio.

Overall, binge-skimming all three books during my holidays felt like a prolonged visit inside a pensive teenager’s head (somewhere I haven’t lived in many years). If you enjoy internal drama with light action, The Hunger Games might be your pick.

The Ballad of the Songbirds & Snakes (Book 4) Click here to get it on Amazon

A new male protagonist and fresh cast bring a surge of energy and action in the fourth Hunger Games book, making a nice change from the internal drama of previous novels to reach new readers.

Thoughts and explanation give way to more action, but helpfully reveal that the Games serve as a reminder and retribution for a district’s rebellion, following a ten-year war. The narrative, now in the third person, makes it easy reading again, with a thread of romance and a big game sequence in the middle to hold attention.

Coriolanus, the main character gets an authentic evolution from unconsciousness (privilege) to consciousness (eyes open), with a surprising and perhaps inevitable twist right at the end.”Hipedy hopedy, how did you fare? Did they treat you like friends or just sit there and stare?” said Dr Gaul, the Head Game Maker and my favourite character, with a dark charm reminiscent of Dolores Umbridge.

Fantasy isn’t my genre, and the blend of children and violence might not suit everyone, but the cover and audiobook narration are spot-on.

In summary, if you enjoyed Collins’ earlier tyrannical games, this one offers another easy read with a fantastic new third-person male protagonist to reach a new audience. However, the mix of kids and violence wasn’t my bag. Dr Gaul adds a memorable sinister touch, perfect if you appreciate dark characters like Dolores Umbridge. Santino Fontana’s narration truly brings the story to life.

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“Something is significantly wrong with a creature which sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences.” Quite! 🤔 – Book 3.

“What young brains lack in experience, they sometimes make up for in idealism. Nothing seems impossible to them.” – Book 4.

“What happened in the arena, that’s humanity undressed – the tributes, and you too. How quickly civilization disappears – all your fine manners, family background, education, everything you pride yourself on, stripped away in the blink of an eye, revealing everything you actually are – a boy with a club who …”  The rest is too unsavoury to repeat here.  Book 4.

Other interesting reviews which you may have missed (click the title name):

The Road to Surrender: Focuses tightly on a handful of politicians and senior military officers involved in America’s decision to nuke Japan, as well as Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Atonement: I’m not a romance reader but this is one of my favourite historical fiction stories with an innovative ending, a really compelling screen adaptation and a superb movie score.

Checkmate in Berlin: Loved it! I was glued and thrilled beginning to end. You must read this book first, and take it with you if you visit Berlin with an eye on history. It also illuminates Russia’s war in 2022 in many ways.

Slaughterhouse-Five: Very readable WW2 fiction, if you can get over the odd combination of Dresden vs aliens and Eternalism, and an ambiguous ending.

Astronaut Wives Club: A great non-fiction book which does exactly what it says in the title.

Rocket Men: Another amazing book which retells mankind’s first foray to the Moon on Apollo 8.

The Book of Daniel: A thriller, echoeing the fate of the real Rosenbergs, convicted and executed as American Communists during the fifties Red Scare. Quite possibly my top fiction read and audio narration.

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