Total Hours to Read: 4 ½
--Average pages per minute: 1.37
Sex/Romance: Sexualization of children (minors-we're talking as young as 12 years old). There is some romance as well, but it feels a bit forced.
Violence: Yes, the books are centered around violence, and there is gore that comes along with that.
Thoughts: I last read these books when they were first coming out. Re-watching the movies with both parents left me pretty keen to re-read the series. And then I finally got to read the book my younger brother gifted me for Christmas, "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes." I found the new prequel enlightening and also another push to re-read the main trilogy. So, here we are.
If you want to get a quick review of the book, skip to after the end of the book-movie comparison. Otherwise- SPOILERS AHEAD.
The first thing that really hit harder than I remembered: the sexualization of actual children. Katniss is 16 in the books, and she is already seen (and occasionally treated) as a sex object by the Capitol and its residents. She is stripped naked by a group of people she doesn't know to be subjected to "beauty treatments" and then remains naked as an adult man purposefully scrutinizes her body. And just think, 12-year-old Prim would have been subjected to the same thing had she gone instead. Rue was subjected to the same thing! All the children were subject to the same horrifying dehumanization and denigration by the Capitol. Also, I completely forgot that in the books, as part of Katniss' "young-girl-madly-in-love" look after winning the games, her wardrobe was given a major boost in the breast department. AND, that was to avoid them surgically altering her breasts! THEY WANTED TO GIVE A 16 YEAR OLD A BOOB JOB! WITHOUT CONSENT! WHILE SHE WAS IN AN INDUCED COMA. When she was supposedly already "taken" no less! As it was, they completely altered her body without her consent, making her skin "flawless," erasing every scar and blemish that ever proved she had lived.
Branching off of that, the casual condescension, paternalism, and possession of the men in the book was unsettling. It often cropped up in the little details, like Templesmith patting Katniss' cheek, Peeta and Haymitch calling Katniss "sweetheart" often as a derogatory term or meaning to provoke her, etc, etc. Haymitch can only be given a partial redemption because of his drunkenness, his past trauma (can you imagine having to murder 23 other children as a child yourself and then having to "mentor" two other children through that to their deaths every year for years on end all alone?), and because in the end he actually did work to come through on his mentorship and succeeded in his capacity as such.
Re-reading so many years apart means I brought a very new perspective to this book this go around. I think the most surprising thing to come of that was that I really did not like Peeta this time. This goes along with the above point, but also just the manipulation that is involved in his whole relationship with Katniss. He already has an upper hand in the power balance by having saved her life (as well as her mother and sister's lives). He is very derogatory in his treatment, saying how she (Katniss) has no idea, "...the effect she can have," and somehow treating this as a fault of hers. It felt to me like men saying it is the woman's fault they got a hard-on and it is somehow their responsibility now. Peeta, without consulting her or asking her consent, puts her in a very awkward position with his "strategy" of revealing his crush on her, but he and Haymitch both expect her to be grateful for making her "desirable" by doing so. It is especially upsetting because Peeta even believes that Katniss already loves someone else, Gale. But he plows onward, regardless. Peeta and Haymitch then maneuver Katniss into a fake relationship with Peeta, all the while Peeta pretends to have no clue it's fake, seeming completely heartbroken and acting "hollow" when it is revealed as such after the games. If his crush was a strategy then why should her "love" for him not be the same? It is stupid and willfully ignorant to assume otherwise. In reality, his reaction is that he becomes cold toward her, no longer friendly as he supposedly always was. All it takes is that small moment for us to see his true nature revealed. It would seem that like so many men that cry "friend-zoning bitch!" Peeta immediately drops all pretense of niceness as soon as her romantic interest is shown to be fake (or at best, conflicted). This emotional manipulation was unsettling at best, disgusting at worst. I will have to read the next book to remember if he actually recovers or if little 14-year-old me just didn't know any better what love or emotional manipulation looked like.
Speaking of any romantic interest: Katniss had none to speak of. She specifically states that she's not interested in Gale that way and that she wouldn't want to bring a child into that world so she didn't really care to be in any sort of relationship anyway. We know that her feelings for Peeta change throughout the book rather drastically, but by the end we still get a strong feeling that she is not really into him. She likes him, but not like that. As I said before, at best she is conflicted. And think about it, SHE IS 16! Of course she is conflicted! A teenager who is definitely still in the throes of massive hormone changes, she's bound to be conflicted! Your average teenager is gonna be conflicted about a lot of things, not the least of which would be romantic attractions! This book does not contain some love triangle plotline, and the series doesn't either, except for what is forced upon her repeatedly by two boys that she previously trusted and loved platonically. The true love story is between Katniss and Prim. Everything Katniss does she does to protect Prim. She took her place in the games and subsequently tried to win the games for Prim. And being told that a fake relationship with Peeta was her only real hope of getting help in the games meant that of course she engaged in a fake relationship with Peeta. So don't be fooled.
Snow's presence in the book was almost non-existent.
We do get to see a bit more of the PTSD inflicted on those involved with the games, the trauma these characters go through, and the deep, lasting effects of that trauma.
It was interesting to see a bit more clearly and in detail how the Capitol starts its tactics long before the games and how they continue on forever after the games.
A final interesting note: Katniss treated most Capitol residents as less than human. She states many times that she sees them as less human because of how different they are from her and everything she knows. This was an interesting tidbit that I didn't remember that changes my view of Katniss somewhat.
One of the big differences between the movie and the book is the level of violence and gore. If they had more accurately adapted the book the movies probably would have been rated R.
Overall it is a well-told, interesting story with high stakes and good characters, it just had a few more complexities than I was aware of at the first reading all those years ago.
In the end: 4 out of 5 stars. This story definitely has layers to be explored.