Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happily ever after?



I am one of those people, who enjoy a happy ending. It doesn't matter if it is a thriller, a murder mystery or a romance novel. I just love it when the characters (aka the author) get it right. They defeat the bad guy and everyone lives happily ever after. With this in mind I have been anxiously awaiting Suzanne Collins last book in her Hunger Games Trilogy. Yes it is written for young adult readers, but it is a crossover book and many adults have read and enjoyed each book in the series and like me have waited for the last book, Mockingjay
The series is set in a totalitarian dystopia called Panem. Two children from each district are selected annually to participate (pay tribute to the Capitol) in the reality show, the Hunger Game.In Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is introduced. Katniss not wanting to see her sister die, volunteers to take her place when her name is drawn in the annual Hunger Games Lottery.  The games take place in the Capitol and are a fight to the finish. 2 champions from each district are chosen and fight until there is only one victor (aka survivor) left. It's like the Olympics only deadlier.  It is televised and every night the death bells ring signifying how many tributes died that day.  This series is not for the faint hearted. Brutal deaths occur throughout the book. It is a story of courage, bravery and compassion in the face of  impending death. Katniss' struggle to survive while maintaining her integrity, leads the readers to hold their breath and hope for the best. How will she survive? She's only a kid. The only hope she has is to win the game.  Victors earn a life of luxury. This translates in district 12 to enough food to eat, money and a nice home in the Victor's Village. Your family moves in with you and you are safe. Or are you?


Katniss wins the game but defies the government.  What is the cost of saving yourself and your friend but making an enemy of the leader of the world? Can you really live happily ever after?

The second book in the series, Catching Fire shows the brutality of war and the evil of absolute power.  Katniss indeed lives in Victors Village with her family, but she no longer hunts, her life long friend and companion is forced to work long hours in the coal mine and to make matters even worse President Snow is VERY angry.  A rebellion has begun and he blames Katniss. 

Now, I believed at the end of the Hunger Games and the beginning of Catching Fire, that Katniss and Peeta were now safe in district 12. What was I thinking???  Spoiler Alert do not read farther if you have not read Catching Fire. President Snow gets revenge on the victors of the preceding games. This Hunger Game is a Quarter Quell and the President chooses to send 2 champions from each district back into the game. Need I say and here we go again. Katniss fights along side other district champions and then is miraculously saved. However, Peeta is captured by the government. The rebellion has begun and the government will stop at nothing to hold off the revolution by any means possible.  Collins leaves us hanging wanting to know what happens next to our humanitarian Katniss, her friend and companion Peeta, and all the districts. 
It is a terrific story that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next.

Consequently, I have been eagerly awaiting, Mockingjay, the last book in the series. I wanted to know what happens next to my beloved characters, their homeland and of course learn what happens to President Snow. Remember President Snow uses any means possible to accomplish his goal. His goal is to maintain control of the districts.  Katniss doesn't realize how much power she has given the President with the capture of Peeta after the Quarter Quell. The President knows Katniss cares about humanity, especially her family, Peeta, and Gale. He understands that death is not the worse possible consequence in time of war.  Katniss learns that leaders are power hungry and she and the citizens are merely pawns in their game.  If she dies both sides win, if she lives she's a danger to either regime. 
Let me tell you that I thouroughly enjoyed this trilogy: the vivid characters, bright scenes and the incredible, yet horrific details. The main characters, Katniss and Peeta almost always end up wounded but survive. I expected a happy ending in the last book. Well to be truthful, there was a happy ending, just not the one I wanted. The book kept me turning pages. After becoming entwined in the characters....it's hard to imagine being disappointed at the end, but I was. I wanted it all. I wanted President Snow punished (ok I admit dead), the districts free, the Capitol citizens to wake up and realize what a horrible environment they created and yes Katniss and her family (all those she loves and holds dear) to live happily ever after, in their new free world.

I forgot war just isn't like that. There is always a cost and price survivors pay. No one comes out of war unscathed and lives happily ever after. (What was I thinking?) I just wanted the fairy tale; instead I got a dose of grim reality.   
This is a wonderful series and I recommend it. Just remember these book try to imitate life and war. The characters react humanly and each must live with the choices they made for better or worse.



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