24 teenagers will be placed in an arena together and left to slaughter each other until only one is left standing. Sounds easy, right? Oh, but there's a catch: You might have no food or water, you might suddenly trigger a death trap and—did I forget to mention—you're going to have to kill the person you love.
This is the situation Katniss Everdeen finds herself in at the beginning of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. The plot line masterfully depicts the country of Panem made up of poverty-stricken districts ruled by the tyrannical Capitol. Every year two children, one boy and one girl, are chosen from a drawing called "the Reaping" to go to the Capitol and participate in the Hunger Games as punishment for the districts' previous rebellion. When Katniss Everdeen's younger sister Prim is chosen, Katniss throws herself forward unconsciously and volunteers to take her sister's place. Thus begins her journey of truth, pain, rebellion, survival, and love. When she finds out that the boy drawn from her district is secretly in love with her, she must fight to keep them both alive.
Katniss Everdeen depicts one of the strongest heroines of modern literature. At first she seems a violent, emotionally void outlaw who has toughened and withdrawn from people, but she is not as she seems. Beneath her hard exterior is a heart coursing with sympathy and rebellion, making her a capable "mockingjay," a symbol of rebellion against the Panem's tyranny. Along with her "strong, silent type" personality, Katniss is a skillful fighter and clever wilderness expert, enabled to survive and outsmart the Capitol throughout the series. Collin's strong cast of characters do not end with Katniss, however. The Hunger Games series is packed full of touching characters that are as masterfully created as the Fellowship of the Ring. With the exception of Katniss's mother, Collin depicts every character vividly and distinctively. Peeta, the strong but gentle, Haymitch, a boorish drunkard, Rue the innocent victim, Prim, Gale, Finnick, Snow, Coin, all play their part with powerful effectiveness.
The book carries a break-neck pace full of poorly-written sentences and few descriptions. Since the book is written from Katniss's point of view, however, the style exhibits her personality perfectly. Collins did not write her book as a literary achievement but so that readers could consume it quickly. Undeniably the books carry an addictive quality that perhaps contributes most strongly to their success; the series pointedly jolts by on cliff-hangers and emotional roller-coasters that make the reader's eyes glued to each page.
The Hunger Games, the first book of this series, has a strong and virtually flawless plot line. Everything throbs with purpose, and as the book reaches a resounding climax, it ends leaving us thirsting for the next one in the series. After that Collin's strong plot decays into ambiguity. She rushes through important scenes and delays in uninteresting places. The last book of the series seems immature compared to the skillfulness of the other books. Important characters lose their tact, places lose their purpose, and at the climax of the series seven unnecessary deaths happen as Katniss leads her troop down a pointless mission.
When the series begins we praise Katniss's effort to defy the corrupt Capitol that lets children die of starvation while aristocrats force themselves to throw up food so they can devour more. But when the series ends, we feel like nothing has changed and Katniss's life was ruined for nothing. We wonder if the fight for justice and freedom is worth its cause. The means of winning this freedom may be just as devastating as its effects, and although the characters win the victory as a whole, no individual is left satisfied. Collins depicts this strongly in a scene where Katniss, Peeta and Finnick stare at a map of the death-traps in the Capitol. They realize that even though they have left the arena, they still remain subject to the Capitol's cruelty. Though these books accurately represent mankind's wickedness, it leaves us with no solution to its problem; we finish the book wondering whether mankind will ever change for the best. The wheel of government turns, but mankind and its cruelty remain the same: the Hunger Games never end.