A few spoilers.
The Hunger Games Trilogy is a compelling roller coaster of shocking moments and it also meets the most important standard that any fictive writing can-it elicits emotion in the reader. By the time I got to the last page of Mockingjay I was ready to swallow a handful of poisoned berries myself.
Easily the best of the books is The Hunger Games, where our moody hero Katniss chooses to sacrifice herself so that her little sister will not have to die in the arena. The Hunger Games is the most straightforward of the books and it has the most satisfying ending. While there are hints that the Evil Empire will soon be facing its day of reckoning, we view the world through the selfish eyes of Katniss, who naturally enough cares only about herself and those that she loves.
Catching Fire and Mockingjay are dark and depressing books, filled with even more senseless violence and pointless murder than we saw in The Hunger Games. We are told a bit more about the mysterious world where Panem exists, and this world of the future makes less sense with each added tidbit of info. As with all sci fi, you have to follow Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s advice to suspend disbelief, but you still have to wonder.
Both Catching Fire and Mockingjay feel like books written to fulfill a contract or forced out of Suzanne Collins to meet some deadline and make as much money as possible. I’m in the vast minority here, the people who love the Hunger Game Trilogy really, really, really love it.
Reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay is often confusing, since we are still viewing the world from Katniss’s point of view we can only have glimpses of the over arching story of the battle between The Capitol and the Rebels. This is a problem since Katniss bumbles along on her own course and even she is a bit depressed by how many thousands of people die as a direct result of her choices. We also have long stretched of the story where nothing happens because Katniss has been injured or becomes depressed and we get long passages of mopey teenage angst until someone comes to visit and fills her in on what’s been happening.
For me, even a great book can be ruined by a bad ending. I never liked The Four Musketeers or Hamlet where the stage is littered with the bodies of our heroes as the curtain falls. I really hated the movie Knowing, where the film ends with the destruction of the earth, making everything that happened in the movie pointless and irrelevant.
And this is where Suzanne Collins leaves us, wondering if any of it mattered.