As a teenager in the early 2010s, I was right in the target age group during the big Hunger Games craze. Like pretty much everyone else I knew, I read the books obsessively, counted down the days to movie releases, tried to braid my hair like Katniss, shared “Peeta I knead you” memes, etc.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of the books, though. Since the prequel is coming out soon (though I’m not sure anymore if I want to read it) and the world is starting to feel like as much of a garbage fire as the one in this series, I thought it would be a good time to revisit them.
So here are my thoughts upon rereading The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in…at least six years, I think? Be warned: this post is FULL OF SPOILERS. And also a lot more in-depth analysis than I expected, because I have to use my English degree for something, right? Okay, let’s go!
The Hunger Games
“Here’s some advice. Stay alive.”
1. First of all: I listened to the 10th anniversary audiobooks narrated by Tatiana Maslany and THEY’RE INCREDIBLE. She does an amazing job of conveying the emotion in every scene, which makes sense because she’s an amazing actress.
2. I wasn’t expecting a lot from this reread, since it’s been years and I suspected that a large part of my love for the book came from nostalgia. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it this time around!
3. Not only does it have fascinating political messages (don’t worry, I’ll get more into that), but it’s just enjoyable to read! I listened to the first book in less than two days, even though I already knew what was going to happen…I didn’t want to stop!
4. I was also surprised by how much I remembered. When I was younger, I would reread books I liked over and over and over again, which means that certain things from this book – little details or turns of phrase – were seared into my memory without my knowledge, until this reread pulled them back up. It was a very strange experience.
5. Can we talk about Katniss for a second? There’s a reason she’s considered one of the most beloved fictional characters of this generation. We spend a large portion of this book inside her head while she’s alone, but I never get tired of her voice.
6. There’s this misconception that Katniss is cold and emotionless, but that could not be farther from the truth. She might act detached sometimes, but that’s mostly because of trauma. I think we have to realize that Katniss is an unreliable narrator; she sees herself as cold, and then immediately latches onto the first twelve year old child she sees and decides she would die for her. That is not an emotionless person.
7. This time around, I very much read Katniss as aro ace. I highly recommend Rosiee Thor’s Twitter thread on the subject, as she analyzes it in much more detail than I could.
8. Suzanne Collins really said eat the rich.
9. Like…what this book says about classism and political oppression?? Defined a generation. It’s not even subtle. This series is so much about how deadly and cruel class division is, and it’s frustrating when people boil it down to the love triangle.
10. Not to mention everything this book has to say about dehumanization for the sake of entertainment. The tributes aren’t even treated like real people by the Capitol; they’re pieces in a game for their amusement. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to reality stars and present-day influencers (which didn’t even exist when these books were written!), and it’s both fascinating and nauseating.
11. My biggest gripe with this series is, honestly, the writing style. There’s quite a few phrases or word choices that feel plain awkward. In comparison to everything else that’s great about the series, it’s a small complaint, but I’m not going to pretend that this series has The Most Beautiful Writing In The World.
12. Rue’s death makes me cry every time. She deserved so much better. I guess that’s kind of the point of the entire series.
13. Being inside Katniss’ head is interesting because she’s so analytical, always viewing her own and others’ actions through the lens of how it’s perceived by Capitol audiences. She’s able to discern subtle messages from Haymitch based on the timing of his gifts. Even if she doesn’t realize it, she’s already playing the Games by her own rules.
14. Anyways, this first book has always been my favorite of the series, and this time was no exception. It’s fast-paced, gripping, and sets up such a grim and horrifying world that you don’t want to look away until you can find out what happens next. And so, on to the next book!
15. Movie note: I’ve been rewatching the movies along with my rereads. This one is good and holds nostalgic memories for me, but the shaky-cam makes my eyes hurt and I think they get a better sense of the world’s aesthetic in later movies. Not the best of the series.
“I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite.”
16. The first time I read this book, I didn’t love it, especially given the huge shift that happens in the middle. But the more I read it, the more I appreciate it. Yes, the beginning feels slow in comparison to the end, and for much of the book the overarching conflict is a little unclear. But for a middle book, it’s pretty darn good.
17. The love triangle has always been my least favorite aspect of the series, so I was dreading getting into it in this book. But to my surprise, this time around I saw it less as Katniss choosing between two boys and more of her figuring out her ideology.
18. Allow me to explain: how Katniss feels about Gale and Peeta tracks closely with how she feels toward the Capitol and the idea of rebellion. The two impact and interact with each other. Every time Katniss’s mind significantly changes in her position on which boy she prefers, it’s largely because of something the Capitol does (peacekeepers beating Gale = Katniss kissing him; the Capitol forcing her and Peeta back into the Games = Katniss realizing how much she cares for Peeta). The reverse is also true (Katniss realizing her feelings for Gale aren’t platonic = her wanting to comply with Snow to protect him).
19. It’s a love triangle, yes, but it’s so heavily influenced by Katniss’s relationship to the Capitol and the rebellion that it’s impossible to separate the two. And this time around I really appreciated how Suzanne Collins used that romantic subplot to demonstrate Katniss’s changing worldview.
20. But also, why is Gale the Worst.
21. Seriously, he guilts Katniss for faking a romance to save her life and makes her feel bad for caring about Peeta, then puts her and her family’s lives in jeopardy because she won’t choose him?? THE WORST.
22. On the other hand, I absolutely ADORE Peeta. Yes, he gets frustrated by Katniss’ indecisiveness, but as soon as he learns about the danger they’re in, he backs off and gives her the space and the support that she needs. KING.
23. Seeing Katniss and Peeta become a team in this book – not just two people clinging to each other in order to survive, but two people who know and trust and deeply care for each other – is absolutely amazing.
24. Not gonna lie, one of my favorite moments of the whole series is when all the tributes are being interviewed and each one of them helps plant the idea that the Games are wrong, and then BOOM, Peeta comes along to drop a baby bomb and the crowd goes NUTS. AND THEN all the tributes stand up holding hands??? CHILLS.
25. Johanna Mason for most underrated character of the decade.
26. Speaking of great characters, can we talk about Effie Trinket’s “redemption arc”? At the beginning of the series, you never expect to like her at all, but then she comes to genuinely care about her tributes and I end up crying when they part. She’s clueless but she has her heart in the right place.
27. Cinna was 12-year-old me’s favorite character, because I was obsessed with minor characters, and I’m still not over his death.
28. It’s still so! darn! satisfying at the end when Katniss finally remembers “who the real enemy is” and points her arrow to the sky and blows everything up! I want to stand up and cheer!!!
29. And what a bummer note to end on, finding out that her home has been burned to the ground. Oof. I guess we’ll just have to find out what happens in the next book…
30. Movie note: This is easily my favorite movie of the series. Not only does it look amazing, but they managed to stay incredibly faithful to the book while still nailing it on the pacing. There were so many little details from the book that they could have easily left out, but adding them just gave it flavor. This is how you do a movie adaptation.
“If he wants me broken, then I will have to be whole.”
31. Mockingjay has always been my least favorite of the series, but in some ways I think it’s the most conceptually complex. Suzanne Collins spent the series building up this anti-war metaphor, and in this book she finally sends it home, and it’s fascinating.
32. Up until this point, we’ve viewed the Hunger Games and the rebellion as two separate, opposite things. But now, we finally see that they’re not very different at all. The rebellion, for all its noble ideals, is just another war, another struggle for power. Time and time again, we see comparisons between the war and Katniss’ experiences in the Games, and we finally see how alike they truly are. In war and in the Games, it’s easy to forget who the enemy is.
33. There’s this part when Gale designs a trap that would mean taking control of the District Two but killing a lot of civilians and innocent people. Gale’s argument is that there are no innocent people in wartime; those civilians had aided the Capitol, so they were the enemy. Katniss, in response, compares it to being in the Games. She killed people in the arena because she felt like they were her enemy. But the real enemy, in both cases, was the Capitol – not some civilians who had no choice or some kids whose names were chosen in the Reaping. In losing sight of the real enemy, they show how no one truly benefits in wartime. Not even the winners.
34. Okay, not gonna lie, this book is slow compared to the others. It feels repetitive: Katniss is injured, spends a lot of time recovering, feels useless, wants to join the fight, gets injured, repeat. There’s a lot more than what’s happening on the surface, but the surface is a little dry.
35. And the love triangle is at its most annoying in this book. Mostly because I dislike Gale so strongly.
36. The conclusion to the love triangle, though, is pretty darn satisfying. (Mostly for the above reason.) But it also tracks with the anti-war message of the entire series. Katniss represents rebellion. If Gale is war and Peeta is peace, then Katniss choosing Peeta means ending a rebellion with peace instead of ongoing fighting.
37. (NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT GALE MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE ONE WHO KILLED HER SISTER??? I’m never going to stop being mad about that.)
38. Since Peeta is one of my favorite characters, it’s heartbreaking to see him in the state that he’s in. I know it makes sense narratively and thematically, but I’m sad! I want Peeta to have nothing but happiness and fresh baked bread and sunflowers for the rest of his life, and this is what he gets instead?? It’s not fair, I tell you, not fair. That seems to be a theme for this series.
39. Likewise, Finnick’s death always feels so sudden and unfair. I prefer to just pretend it doesn’t happen, because it breaks my heart. Ugh I’m gonna cry just thinking about it.
40. This book is just bleak. One horrible thing happens after another and we watch the main character nearly lose her sanity. If I were reading this series for the first time now, I would be shocked to hear that young kids read it.
41. One time at work, a woman was asking for book recommendations for her pre-teen son, “nothing too violent…he’s read The Hunger Games but nothing worse than that” and I was like MA’AM THAT IS A VERY HIGH THRESHOLD.
42. I’m still, after all these years, conflicted about the ending of this series. I genuinely cannot decide whether it’s a hopeful ending. Yes, they’ve defeated the Capitol and put in place a (hopefully) better regime than before. But as Plutarch says, “We’re fickle, stupid being with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.” There’s this sense that no matter how much suffering everyone has endured over the course of this series, they’re still going to make the same mistakes over and over again.
43. Like, just the fact that the victors decide to hold one final, symbolic Hunger Games with the children of Capitol leaders?? I understand that they’re all angry and traumatized, but it goes against everything that they’ve learned! Katniss votes yes, for Prim – a child who died to suit someone’s agenda – and now she’s going to condemn other children for the same purpose?? It infuriates me, and yet it makes perfect sense given the situation, which only makes me angrier because we truly never learn.
44. I’m not one of those people who hates the fact that Prim dies because ~it defeats the point of the whole series~. Honestly, I think it brings the whole point of the series home. Katniss originally got involved in the Hunger Games in order to save her sister. Over the course of the series, her number one priority is protecting her family. But she gets so caught up in the conflicts between the Capitol and District Thirteen and all their conflicting agendas that she loses sight of this, and she ends up losing the one thing she set out to protect. Nobody wins in war.
45. The scene at the end when Katniss yells at the cat never fails to get me choked up. It’s the moment she finally acknowledges Prim’s death and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
46. And the final ending… *sigh*. It’s fine, I guess. It feels a bit too neat. They win the war and go back to District Twelve and everything is fine again? Yes, it’s satisfying for Katniss to finally look at the world’s brokenness and say “you know what? That’s somebody else’s problem now” — after she’s given up everything to fix it — but at the same time, it doesn’t feel finished. I’m not convinced that the problems we’ve seen throughout the series are fully resolved.
47. Movie note: I’ve only rewatched Mockingjay: Part 1 so far. As an adaptation it’s pretty good, managing to include a lot that would normally be left out. Though it is pretty slow and definitely feels like a first part. I haven’t seen Part 2 since I saw it in theatres, so I’m definitely curious to see what I think of it now.
Were/Are you a Hunger Games fan? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the series? Who is your favorite character?