By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I read all three Hunger Games books in a week in March 2012. My oldest son's birth in 2010 seriously cut into my time for reading, and parenthood was, initially, an unexpectedly emotional rollercoaster, so while I'd read the book jacket of The Hunger Games about a dozen times before I finally took the plunge, it stayed in my TBR pile a long time because the subject matter seemed too heavy for my then-state of mind.
I enjoyed the first book more than any of the others. I found Katniss to be utterly relatable as a character, despite the fact that her universe is blessedly very far removed from my own. Her survival instinct and sometimes brutal (almost heartless) practicality made her difficult to like, but she resonated with me. Peeta was, throughout the trilogy, a bit too good to be true, but thankfully not at all Eddie Haskell-ish as are so many male romantic leads. (Perhaps I should say Edward Cullen-ish? He is probably the Eddie Haskell of the new century.) To call the story 'gripping' would be a massive understatement. Unlike Twilight, where one can skip hundreds of pages and pick up more or less where one left off, every page of every chapter of The Hunger Games seems to bring a new twist which the reader won't want to miss.
I did not like Catching Fire as well as book 1, but liked it better than Mockingjay (book 3). In this second installment, Katniss grew into her role as the human tinder that sparked a revolution -- this time not by accident, but by reasoned decision. Also, Peeta-the-Perfect began to look less inevitable as Katniss's better half as her childhood hunting partner Gale also vied for her affections.
Perhaps it is my fault for reading the whole series in a week, but Mockingjay was my least favorite of the Hunger Games trilogy. Throughout all three books, horrifically bad things happen to the main characters with unrelenting frequency, and some of the worst tragedies happen in the last half of the last book. By the end, I was emotionally drained and, frankly, not having fun anymore, but of course I had to keep reading to see how the series ended.
I give Suzanne Collins a lot of credit for her spot-on understanding of the human psyche's response to trauma. By the end of the series, Katniss is as numb and damaged as so many of the domestic violence victims I work with, which made me glad that this book ended, not with a happily-ever-after (which would have been hard to swallow) but just respite from her trials, which is the best Katniss can hope for.
The Hunger Games: 4.5 stars
Catching Fire: 3 stars
Mockingjay: 2.5 stars