I reread the entire Hunger Games trilogy earlier this week.

The hunger games trilogy book covers
The trilogy: The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010).

There was a specific reason. I was trying to combat an earworm.

Around the holidays I was invited to the movie theatre to watch Mockingjay, Part 1 and I declined… because I hadn’t watched Catching Fire yet. Even without seeing it, “The Hanging Tree” has still been stuck in my head ever since I heard it on the radio.

…Stuck in my head for three days solid. Interestingly enough, the song maintains the lyrics from the book, put to music by The Lumineers. It’s a perfect match for how it is described, and catchy enough to be a rallying song for a rebellion.

Although I can still hear “Are you, are you, coming to the hanging tree,” rereading was interesting for another reason. Since the first movie came out in Spring 2012, I haven’t revisted the world of Panem except for what popular culture has exposed me to. Rereading them gave me a very different perspective from my first time.

I read the Hunger Games trilogy during a hot summer in 2011 after recently getting a Nook e-reader. There was a deal on the ebook edition of The Hunger Games and having heard plenty about it I bought it.

It was the Hunger Games trilogy that taught me that E-readers are nice, but were also new portals to impulse spending and instant gratification I hadn’t access to before. Upon finishing Hunger Games, I immediately purchased Catching Fire, followed by Mockingjay.

My original perspective was that the first book was the best, the second half of the second book was exciting and the third book just plain depressing.

“I must say, the first book is the best of the trilogy. Breathlessly exciting and fast-paced.”

—Kallen’s Goodreads Review, Written August 2011

The Hunger Games book coverI loved the speed of the first book and felt that it wrapped up the story just fine. I’m not the only one either; I know someone who loved the first book but refused to read on because he was sure the sequels wouldn’t live up to the first (I could never have such self control…).

Re-reading The Hunger Games, I already knew generally what was about to happen. I’d also watched the movie in theaters when it first came out, so those images were also in my head. This completely changed how I read the book.

Trying to explain with absolutely no spoliers is impossible, but I’ll try not to give away any major points.

Although the Hunger Games is ostensibly just a story about Katniss’s survival in the arena, we know that her actions lead to the uprising and rebellion that feature in the second and third books.

Katniss is a very conflicted character. In the first book, it seems she is motivated only by her love for Prim and desire to survive.

But upon reading it a second time, you see what the citizens of Panem saw; Katniss is a born rebel. She may not even know it herself.

Mockingjay Book coverIt is there from the very first pages. She has learned to keep rebellious thoughts and criticism of the Capitol to herself for years. In fact, this echoes Katniss’s reflections in the third book, Mockingjay, when she speaks of the forbidden song her father taught her when young (that oh-so-catchy Hanging Tree song…).

Once reaped as a tribute, Katniss seems only motived by her promise to Prim to try and survive. But Katniss is the one character in the arena who understands the Capitol perfectly. She knows how the Capitol’s game is intended to be played and therefore understands what her actions really mean, from the teaming up with Rue (not entirely an act of survival), to Rue’s flowers to the berries.

Her hatred of being a pawn becomes important when the Rebellion wants to use her as a symbol.

She understands what motivation power has and the lengths people will go to gain it.  This leads directly to the conclusion of the third book.

I used to think The Hunger Games was better as a singular book, but Katniss’s character is handled perfectly in the second and third book. I used to think revisiting the Hunger Games arena was repetitive in Catching Fire, the case of a sequel trying to capture the magic of the original. But the Quarter Quell questions the Capitol’s support of the games and serves to underscore the shifting of the status quo.

I used to think Mockingjay was just a dystopia downer, but it realistically portrays the cost of war, no matter the winning side. Also, there aren’t may books that will have the hero (or heroine) come down with PTSD.

All in all, when re-read hold hidden treasures, like the development of the Mockingjay symbol. I found the books much richer the second time than the first, when I was caught up in the fast-moving, breathtaking plot.

Reading an amazing book for the first time is a gift. You can never go back to that moment of suspense and surprise. But rereading is also important. As Jo Walton said in What Makes This Book So Great

“There are readings of a book you can’t have on first reading. One of them is reading in the light of later work.”

Although it will never be as magical as the first time I read it, THe Hunger Games trilogy is worth revisiting.

Also, there are so many rich details and characters that are absent from the movies. No Madge? How sad!

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