By now you have probably made it all the way through the incredible Hunger Games trilogy and might even be looking for similar books to read.
There was a lot that went down in this series of books.
There were tremendous surprises, emotional anguish, more emotional anguish, more surprises, and death, lots and lots of death.
I don’t know about you, but I was practically gasping for breath on every page.
So here is a list of all the times these dystopian books made me feel that rare and fleeting emotion that you can only get through great art or really addictive drugs: “astonishment.”
So, while you won’t get addicted to morphling, I can’t guarantee that you won’t get addicted to reading, which capitalism hates.
27 Times When the Hunger Games Trilogy was So Unputdownablely Amazing it Made You Squee with Joyterrorsorrow
When You First Meet Katniss Everdeen
The Hunger Games trilogy introduced us to a new and much needed phenomenon: the moody, complicated, conflicted, female protagonist.
That is, a very real female subjectivity.
Not one that has glided out of a male imagination and sits among a fresh bank of wildflowers bathed in starlight whispering dulcet dictas through warm smiles.
Discovering who Katniss was and how she perceived and interacted with a post-apocalyptic world across the Huger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, was terrifying and yet marvelously exhilarating.
She did a lot of things differently from most of the heroes and anti-heroes I am familiar with and thus also the way I would have expected her to work through problems.
So, from the first page to the final melancholy epilogue I never stopped trying to guess what the girl on fire was going to do next, and was never once not amazed at what actually happened.
When Katniss Volunteered
When Prim’s name is drawn for certain death at the reaping, Katniss does what any good sibling would do for their younger sister.
Discovering How the Capitol can…Eat So Much
Remember when Katniss and Peeta are at their engagement ball in Catching Fire and Katniss wants to take at least one bite of every dish in the room?
Remember how quickly she gets stuffed, and what her handler’s suggest?
Yea, the slender glass of drink that makes you puke all your food out so you can go back again and again and again, gorging yourself on all the luxuries of the appetite.
Peeta’s Unconditional Love
In the opening pages of the Hunger Games, you just didn’t think Peeta had a chance.
You also think, Peeta: just give up.
But then there are so many times throughout the Hunger Games trilogy where Peeta does something or says something to Katniss that you can’t help but love the very special way he loves Katniss.
When Katniss Buried Rue
For me this was one of the most moving moments of the entire Hunger Games trilogy.
Even more moving than when Katniss volunteered to take her sister’s place in the 74th annual Hunger Games.
Here it is:
[quote]A few steps into the woods grows a bank of wildflowers. Perhaps they are really weeds of some sort, but they have blossoms in beautiful shades of violet and yellow and white. I gather up an armful and come back to Rue’s side. Slowly, one stem at a time, I decorate her body in the flowers. Covering the ugly wound. Wreathing her face. Weaving her hair with bright colors.[/quote]
When Katniss Decided Not to Kill Peeta
Many readers have issues with love triangles, and those objections have merits.
In this instance, I think it makes Katniss more believable, puts her in a more difficult situation, and makes her ultimate choice an exciting one.
Think about it:
She’s in the Hunger Games.
She’s supposed to kill everyone else, especially the person from her own District.
That’s what the Capitol wants her to do.
But Katniss defies the Capitol when internally she makes the choice not to kill Peeta, and again when she makes a suicide pact with him.
The Berries. The. Berries!
I absolutely loved this moment.
That is all.
When You Meet President Snow
When President Snow shows up at Katniss’s home in Victor Village in Catching Fire I was as startled as she was.
President Snow put a new and really, really frightening face on modern villainy.
He is elegant and avuncular, characteristics which make you want to trust him and be at ease when he is around.
But his breath smells like blood and roses.
Which means you definitely can’t be at ease when he is around.
When You Meet Haymitch
[quote]“So, Haymitch, what do you think of the Games having one hundred percent more competitors than usual?” asks Caesar.
Haymitch shrugs. “I don’t see that it makes much difference. They’ll still be one hundred precent as stupid as usual, so I figure my odds will be roughly the same.” [/quote]
In this moment from Catching Fire, Haymitch became a far more interesting and exciting character.
In the first Huger Games book he is more of a drunken jester who is also more often than not just very stern.
But in Catching Fire Haymitch becomes Haymitch. He’s snarky, arrogant, and utterly indifferent.
He’s also a badass.
Because he won the 2nd Quarter Quell.
And to do that he had to figure out something that no one else did:
He discovered the force field and made the Capitol look like a bunch of fools.
He is just another reason to love reading the Hunger Games trilogy.
Discovering The Second Quarter Quell
[quote]“It’s the most breathtaking place imaginable. The golden Cornucopia sits in the middle of a green meadow with patches of gorgeous flowers. The sky is azure blue with puffy white clouds. Bright songbirds flutter overhead. By the way some of the tributes are sniffing it must smell fantastic. An aerial shot shows that the meadow stretches for miles. Far in the distance, in one direction, there seems to be a woods, in the other, a snowcapped mountain.”[/quote]
The Quarter Quell that was actually the most exhilarating for me to “watch” wasn’t the one Katniss and Peeta were thrown into, though that was certainly breathtaking.
It was the second Quarter Quell, or the 50th Hunger Games.
Because we got to learn so much about Haymitch and Maysilee Donner.
Ok and also because I am a sucker for seemingly utopian settings that quickly devolve into dangerous places, which is exactly what the Gamemakers created for the 50th Hunger Games.
“almost everything in this pretty place—the luscious fruit dangling from the bushes, the water in the crystalline streams, even the scent of the flowers when inhaled too directly—is deadly poisonous.”
And then of course “four days in, the picturesque mountain erupts in a volcano that wipes out another dozen players, including all but five of the Career pack.”
When You Learn How Enobaria Killed Someone
Remember in Catching Fire when Katniss describes how Enobaria killed someone?
She “killed one tribute by ripping open his throat with her teeth. She became so famous for this act that, after she was a victor, she had her teeth cosmetically altered so each one ends in a sharp point like a fang and is inlaid with gold. She has no shortage of admirers in the Capitol.”
When The Avox Leaves You Speechless
So this is astonishing in the same way that Enobaria is: probably for all the wrong reasons.
I think The Capitol shows how merciless and cruel it really is with the Avox.
Perhaps even more than sending children to die in the Hunger Games.
It’s doubly offensive and terrifying to us because the tongue symbolizes such a sacred thing to those of us who grow up in a Democracy: the ability to speak, the freedom to speak—especially to those in power—and to have our voices listened to and our opinions (supposedly) respected.
The Capitol shows just how little power a person has when it severs their tongue.
It’s almost like you become a ghost or a citizen of the living dead.
Imagine what your life would be like if you were an Avox:
No one really tries to talk to you, because they can’t.
You can’t talk to anyone for obvious reasons.
So you slowly fade away from the world, even though you are right there in it every single day.
When Darius & Katniss Touched
This was another moment in the Hunger Games trilogy where my breath simply left me.
Everyone says that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what is a touch worth? A million?
I was blown away when Darius, a former Peacekeeper in District 12, stepped in to save Gale’s life and stop the wicked whipping session being delivered by the Head Peacekeeper Romulus Thread.
I was blown away again when we found out that Darius had his tongue removed and returns back to the story as Katniss’s avox.
But then I had to put the book down when Katniss and Darius touched…when they clenched hands while cleaning up the peas.
The nightmare about the tongues was probably the most horrifying for me to read…
..Until I read about her nightmare where she is lying in the bottom of her own grave and everyone is shoveling ashes on her, that was pretty horrifying. I mean astonishing.
When Katniss Hanged Seneca Crane
Yea that was breathtaking.
I was trying to think, along with Katniss, just how exactly she was going to top shooting at the Gamemakers.
Well she did.
She really did.
She goes over to the knot-tying station, gets some rope and makes a noose. Then she finds a dummy and some bloodred berry juice and carefully finger paints the two harrowing words on the body:
This then leads to one of my favorite scenes from the Hunger Games trilogy:
[quote]The effect on the Gamemakers is immediate and satisfying. Several let out small shrieks. Others lose their grips on their wineglasses, which shatter musically against the ground. Two seem to be considering fainting. The shock is unanimous.[/quote]
The Rooftop Picnic in the Capitol
If you are the hopeless romantic type like me, how can you forget this incredible moment from Catching Fire?
I’ll let Katniss tell it, since she narrated it in such a stunning way:
[quote]A daylong picnic in the flower garden that tinkles with wind chimes. We eat. We line in the sun. I snap off hanging vines and use my newfound knowledge from training.
No one bothers us. By late afternoon, I lie with my head on Peeta’s lap, making a crown of flowers while he fiddles with my hair, claiming he’s practicing his knots. After a while, his hands go still. “What?” I ask.
“I wish I could freeze this moment forever,” he says.
Usually this sort of comment, the kind that hints of his undying love for me, makes me feel guilty and awful. But I feel so warm and relaxed and beyond worrying about a future I’ll never have, I just let the word slip out. “Okay.”
I hear the smile in his voice. “Then you’ll allow it?”
“I’ll allow it,” I say.
His fingers go back to my hair and I doze off, but he rouses me to see the sunset. It’s a spectacular yellow and orange blaze behind the skyline of the capitol. “I didn’t think you’d want to miss it,” he says.[/quote]
The Wedding Dress Metamorphosis
When Katniss doesn’t have a script for her interview with Caesar I initially thought she was just going to mess it up and just say something disparaging, and probably a little bit clever and the show would move on.
Well I was wrong.
Something absolutely mind blowing happened that night, when the crowd was already emotionally overwrought.
[quote]When I hear the screams from the crowd, I think it’s because I must look stunning. Then I notice something is rising up around me. Smoke. From fire. Not the flicker stuff I worse last year in the chariot, but something much more real that devours my dress. I begin to panic as the smoke thickens. Charred bits of black silk swirl into the air, and pearls clatter to the stage.[/quote]
But Katniss doesn’t stop even though she is catching fire, she keeps spinning and spinning.
“For a split second I’m gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames. Then all at once the fire is gone. I slowly come to a stop, wondering if I’m naked and why Cinna has arranged to burn away my wedding dress.
But I’m not naked. I’m in a dress of the exact design of my wedding dress, only it’s the color of coal and made of tiny feathers. Wonderingly, I lift my long, flowing sleeves into the air, and that’s when I see myself on the television screen. Clothed in black except for the white patches on my sleeves. Or should I say my wings.
Because Cinna has turned me into a mockingjay.”
When the Girl on Fire Gets Pregnant!
The interviews for the Quarter Quell just keep on delivering in Catching Fire.
Just when you think it can’t get any more intense, Peeta drops his bomb on the Capitol.
[quote]As the bomb explodes, it sends accusations of injustice and barbarism and cruelty flying out in every direction. Even the most Capitol-loving, Games-hungry, bloodthirsty person out there can’t ignore, at least for a moment, how horrific the whole thing is.
I am pregnant.[/quote]
Well played Peeta, well played.
Past Victors Show of Solidarity
[quote]“All twenty-four of us stand in one unbroken line in what must be the first public show of unity among the Districts since the Dark Days.[/quote]
This is another stunning moment, when the Hunger Games trilogy hints that perhaps not all is lost.
When the surviving victors from all the previous Games line the stage and take hands in a show of solidarity, for at least a moment you think there might be some sort of hope that they all won’t immediately turn on one another once the Games begin.
“Katniss, There is no District 12.”
You kinda knew something drastic was going to happen when Katniss remembered who the real enemy was and destroyed the force field in the third Quarter Quell.
But destroying District 12?
It just goes to show everyone how really, really ruthless and cruel President Snow is.
Haymitch is Way Smarter than You Ever Thought
Did I already mention Haymitch? Yea? Turns out he’s so good you have to mention him twice.
You know Haymitch: the drunken, acerbic fool?
He might be a drunk and he might be mean, but that just means he’s a drunk, mean, genius-puppetmaster.
It turns out there was more than one Game going on.
One in which President Snow and the Capitol revel in the gory entertainment as children and old, washed up Victors battle to the death every year and another where Haymitch Abernathy, the boy from district 12 who outsmarted everyone, and Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Gamesmaker, needed a figurehead for their revolution.
If your Katniss Everdeen, you get to be just a piece in both Games.
That Time Katniss Got Shot in District 2
I was totally surprised (ok and a little angry) when Katniss was objecting to Gale’s idea of how to “crack” the Nut in District 2.
District 2 is where the Peacekeepers come from.
District 2 is where the hardest Career tributes come from.
Why give them any sort of mercy?
For all of Katniss’s shortcomings she was still able to see these people as fellow human beings.
And then she gives a beautiful speech in the square of District 2.
But she got shot!
Not only that, but she couldn’t give anyone a reason not to shoot her!
This was a pretty unpredictable way of upturning generic norms.
You expect the hero to have tons of reasons why they shouldn’t get shot. Or you expect someone from the crowd to step out and give a heart-warming speech of the protagonist’s heroic deeds.
When the Rebels Killed the Capitol Children…
Towards the end of the Hunger Games trilogy I wasn’t reading all too critically because honestly I thought I knew how it was all going to end.
As usual with these types of things, I had not outsmarted the author and Suzanne Collins still had a number of tricks up her sleeve in the closing pages of Mockingjay.
When you first encounter all the children locked up in front of President Snow’s mansion, you immediately think of course this scumbag despot is going to use the city’s innocent lives to protect his own by creating a human shield of children.
You know who doesn’t care about a human shield comprised of innocent children?
Future-President Coin. That’s who.
As Snow goes on to admit, “it was a masterful move on Coin’s part. The idea that I was bombing our own helpless children instantly snapped whatever frail allegiance my people still felt to me. There was no real resistance after that.”
This was pretty gut wrenching on multiple levels.
Prim, the girl that Katniss originally volunteered during the reaping to save her life from the awful misery of the Hunger Games.
Prim, her younger sister who she always looked out for and tried to protect.
In the end, she couldn’t save her life at all.
When Katniss killed President Coin!
Maybe I should have seen this coming, but I actually said “oh, shit!” I think right at the same time the arrow arced into President Coin’s chest and she toppled over the balcony.
Real or not Real?
When Katniss realizes (or admits to herself?) that what she doesn’t need is “Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred,” but the “dandelion in the spring” a part of me melted.
Suzanne Collins cashed out BIG on some love triangle drama built up over about 1200 pages and it was definitely one of my favorite moments of the entire Hunger Games series.
[quote]So after, when he whispers, “You love me. Real or not real?” I tell him, “Real.”[/quote]
It Inspired So Many More Incredible Dystopian Books
While dystopian books certainly existed before the Hunger Games trilogy (and here are 13 reasons why dystopian books are effing awesome), it was this book series that pushed the world through a hidden door that had yet to open.
We simply wouldn’t have books like Divergent, Red Rising, or a whole host of others without this incredible, indelible trilogy.
And maybe that’s the reason why I love these books the most.
What about you?