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Reviews by Nan

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not often enough, a writer comes across books she wishes she'd written. Her only recourse is to study such a book so as to steal, as invisibly as possible, that writer's techniques. THE HUNGER GAMES is such a book for me. I read it in three hours, took time to pee, then went back and read it again. A few days later, again. How did Collins force me to turn the page from chapter to chapter? I needed to know, because I was writing my own mystery and needed any tips on how to make it compelling. I discovered--as most readers of this series do, consciously or not--that at the end of every chapter we either learn a new piece of information, see another key character in danger, watch the stakes get even higher (which I kept thinking was impossible, but wasn't, not for Collins), or see Katniss do something that demands we read on to see the reaction. Etc.

I learned that my own story UNACCOUNTED FOR had plenty of events in it, but the pacing could be improved. Also, my hero needed to take a tip from Katniss and keep thinking about his immediate goals, to remind the reader why things are important. I re-ordered it a la Hunger Games--it ratcheted up the excitement enormously. I'm not claiming my book's as riveting as Collins', but I owe her a big debt. Not only did she give me three books of tremendous entertainment value, but she stuffed them with serious issues that demand thought of serious readers--the kind of readers you hope will savor your own work. (Or just sit next to you at dinner.) A must-read series for any mystery writer, or any reader in search of a compelling tale.

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Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this the same day it came out, having impatiently waited the requisite year after CATCHING FIRE. Immediately, I was bummed. This was depressing! Katniss is messed up! And events moved so fast it was hard to keep everything straight. If Book One and Two were 5 stars, this concluding book in the trilogy was a 3.5. Not a strong finish, I felt.

BUT--I read it again a few months later and had to revise my opinion. This time I read more slowly, paying attention to each sentence. All these books are tightly written, and maybe Collins overdid the succinctness in this one, but by reading closely I saw I'd missed some things first time around--including the inescapable, relentless reasoning behind Katniss' horrific action at the end. (A big thing to misunderstand...reader error!) Now I'll raise my rating to 4.5 stars. Collins did a good job fulfilling the initial promise of this series--that it not only entertain, but examine in a responsible way one person's credible reaction to the inhumanity of the Games. Katniss has had all the experience anyone could demand of an informed participant. When she violates certain moral givens in order to prevent worse injustice, and is prepared to pay the ultimate price for doing so, no one can argue she acted irresponsibly. We can only wonder if, in those circumstances, we'd have had that same kind of courage. (I do love moral dilemmas, and this one's a doozy.)

An ultimately satisfying, sobering, conclusion to an important work.

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