These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
In the last book, was Katniss's approval for the Capitol Games a Batman Gambit to catch President Coin off guard or was she geniunely vengeful after Prim's death?
Additionally, because the series takes place from Katniss' first-person POV, and her growing paranoia and suspicion increasingly make her an Unreliable Narrator, it's up for discussion which events were someone manipulating things behind the scenes and which were coincidences, and if Katniss' surmised reasons for the actions of those around her are the truth.
The Career Tributes in general: were they human sacrifices raised to die and thus the most tragic of casualties?
You also have to remember that we never heard much from the District 1 tributes or victors (although they did rebel), and District 4 seemed to hate the Capitol as much as anyone else. If we consider that they made a choice to send trained and deadly warriors to the games, who would have a real chance at victory, they actually seem more sympathetic than the people in 11 and 12, who were so concerned with saving their own skins that they'd stand by while a 12-year-old is sent to the slaughter. And for all their viciousness, remember, the Careers knew as well as the non-Careers that once their food ran out, the tides turned, and their competition just had to wait for them to starve.
Foxface's death. Many people suspect it was no accident but a deliberate suicide. Since she knew she was no match for the remaining four tributes, they opt for the quickest, most painless way to go and did it in a way that their family at home wouldn't get in any trouble. The first movie throws more credence out there, showing Foxface whizzing through a plant identification test during the training scenes.
President Coin: Evil or a revolutionary leader doing what she felt she had to in order to keep a new prospective country stable?
The book itself seems to stress the Not So Different nature of Snow and Coin, showing that they're both equally evil but Snow is worse than Coin in certain areas while Coin is worse than Snow in other areas. And the Capitol Games proposition seems to reinforce that if Coin got her way, nothing would really change. It would be the exact same world but with the Capitol and Districts' positions reversed. Coin, while possibly having a good excuse for it, was ultimate very power-hungry.
During the talk at the beginning of Catching Fire President Snow seems for a moment genuinely concerned about the implications of a new war for the (relatively) few remaining humans, and he did promise not to lie. Of course his concern could always be more about his own hold over said humans than their lives themselves, and Snow has been known to lie: just not when he makes a promise, in which he is always bound to his word.
Johanna: Flavours of Jerk with a Heart of Gold or Alpha Bitch? A good chunk of the narrative displays her negatively (in Catching Fire anyway), but many of her words and deeds suggest otherwise. At most, she's intentionally portrayed as a Broken Bird.
Angst? What Angst?: In Mockingjay, Peeta shows a remarkable lack of grief over his dead family. It's justified at first since he's Brainwashed and Crazy for the first third of the book, but it's still a bit jarring that the Mellarks' deaths get brought up once and are never mentioned again.
Badass Decay: Invoked purposefully with Katniss in the third book. Once an ever-fighting tribute, now a trauma-stricken shell. But don't worry, she gets better at the end. Resulted in a bit of Angst Dissonance for at least a few fans.
Complete Monster: President Snow, as the overseer of the corrupt Capitol government that created and runs the child-murdering spectacle of the title, commits an insane number of atrocities all in the name of keeping his power. A consummate liar, Snow, at various points in the trilogy, authorizes the painful brainwashing of multiple citizens (including Peeta, something that destroys his mental faculties for months - and, implicitly, will affect the way he processes events for life, according to the epilogue), firebombs Katniss' home in District 12 (and later tries to plant guilt for the act on President Coin), and tortures Seneca Crane because Katniss and Peeta, without his interference at all, figured out how to survive The Hunger Games together and beat the system. Katniss and the others of District 12 are convinced that the Quarter Quell's rules are changed (to force two previous Hunger Games winners from each district to compete) out of pure spite, and most of his various tortures/murders inflicted against Katniss' friends are motivated similarly (he forces Katniss to watch Cinna's beating before the Quarter Quell). Katniss and Peeta, in being sentenced to surely die in the Quarter Quell, probably got off lucky - most other Hunger Games winners, Finnick Odair included, were forced by Snow to prostitute themselves out to other Capitol residents. His most heinous action does not occur until the war between District 13 and the Capitol, where he uses innocent Capitol children as Human Shields to protect himself.
Contested Sequel: Catching Fire and especially Mockingjay have their share of detractors, the former for having a love triangle and the latter for being slower-paced and more depressing.
Broken Base: Mockingjay pretty much splits the fanbase into three sections. The first loves the book because of how well it portrays the Real Life effects of war. The second partially dislikes the book because so many horrible, horrible things happen to Katniss and/or such and such character dies, but otherwise they're okay with it. The third dislikes the book because they perceive the quality of the writing as having decreased. Then there are those small fourth and fifth camps, the former loving the book as unconditionally as the first two but not picking up on the themes, and the latter disliking the book simply because they thought it was boring and they were annoyed with Katniss's psychological state.
Draco in Leather Pants: Many of the Career tributes are subject to this interpretation in the fandom. Cato is especially noticeable.
Cinna, Finnick and Rue. EspeciallyRue. She only appears in one book, but she's impossibly beloved by fans. Some fan-circles seem to adore her more than they do PrimroseEverdeen.
Foxface is a notable example; she only appears for a few scenes in the first book, doesn't get any lines and doesn't even get her real name revealed, yet fans love her for how cunning she is and because she's more identifiable than a sword badass/archery badass/knife badass/rock badass etc.
Fanon: In Catching Fire, right before watching the tape of Haymitch's victory (also the 2nd Quarter Quell), Katniss asks Peeta if they also have a tape of the First Quarter Quell, which has led many readers to assume the only other (now deceased) victor from District 12 won the First Quarter Quell, which is not impossible but would be a pretty big coincidence.
First Installment Wins: The series is called "The Hunger Games" trilogy for a reason, aside from the fact that said games are the focal point of the entire series.
Cato/Katniss seems to have a fair amount of popularity.
There is quite a bit of subtext between Katniss and Johanna, if one looks at it the right way. Katniss' narration detailing on Johanna stripping in the elevator and oiling herself up for a match in the training arena, for example.
Iron Woobie: Peeta is arguably the biggest Woobie in the series. Starting from the beginning; He comes from a abusive home. Once selected from the game, his brother doesn't offer to go in his place like Katniss did for Prim. His own mother told him to his face that Katniss had a better chance for survival than he does. Once in the game, Haymitch puts all effort for sponsorship for Katniss as he also considered her the more likely of the two to survive. Peeta loses a leg protecting Katniss. He accidentally walks into a forcefield and nearly dies. He's left behind in the Quarter Quells and gets captured and tortured by the Capitol. His family dies during the bombing of District 12. He's made Brainwashed and Crazy, and even when rescued by District 13, he's used a tool by President Coin in order to get Katniss killed. Despite all of this, Peeta more or less takes it in stride and refuses to let it break him.
Thresh. Inevitable for a guy who spent half the time he appeared crushing heavily armed people with nothing but a rock.
Katniss herself naturally gets some of this treatment.
Misaimed Fandom: A strategy board game was made, which successfully takes the event Collins has spent three books showing as horrible, life destroying, and a sign of just how evil humanity can be, and makes it a fun game for 2-6 players. Some fans are ecstatic.
Many fans, like the Capitol crowd, were completely star-struck by the love triangles, intense action sequences and pretty costumes, to the point where wanting to be a tribute became the new "wanting to attend Hogwarts". (Though this◊ exists, of course.) The final book didn't go over too well with these people.
In addition, a lot of fanfiction involves sending OCs to the Hunger Games, and it's treated like a fun game rather than a dehumanizing death-match. Oddly, few of them ever get the real violence; they usually just hang around making OC's, reaping, and maybe chariots/interview scenes.
Every fan who basically appreciated Katniss for being a badass in the arena, rather than for her personality and her conflicts, and disliked her for her PTSD-driven angst in the third book.
There are people who see Katniss as a role model. For her character and survival skills, maybe. But for her actions? Katniss is pretty clear that she does not want people in-universe looking up to her or imitating her for that.
People who are in it for the Love Triangle. By the third book, Katniss is completely exasperated that everyone is so interested in her love life when there's bigger things at stake. This may also be a Take That at the Publisher, who insisted that Gale be made into a Love Interest instead of Katniss' cousin like he was originally envisioned.
President Coin when she kills Prim and the Capitol children and tries to set up another Hunger Games.
In-universe, Snow crosses it when he reaps the victors for the Quarter Quell. That's what finally starts unrest going in the Capitol itself and causes several prominent Capitol citizens to do a Heel-Face Turn.
Some of the deathtraps are a little over the top. Like the death-by-evil-black-jello in Mockingjay.
"I avoid looking at anyone as I take tiny spoonfuls of fish soup. The saltiness reminds me of my tears."
Older Than They Think: While people point to similarities with Battle Royale, the concept of a government-run competition in a dystopian future in which the participants are killed for the spectatorship of others has existed as far back as Stephen King's The Long Walk and The Running Man. (King himself pointed this out in his positive review of the first book.) And even further back than that if we include the Real Life gladiatorial fights in Rome.
The series' famous three-fingered hand-sign is the same as the hand-sign used by Scouting youth groups across the world.
Rooting for the Empire: The fandom has no shortage of fans who prefer the Career tributes to Katniss and Peeta, finding them equally sympathetic (or even moreso), considering that they have been brainwashed and bred since birth to kill other kids in a horrific child murder reality show.
The Scrappy: Gale has gained quite a hatedom in recent years, mostly from fans who deem him responsible for Prim's death. The deck is seriously stacked against him in the Love Triangle considering the very setup of the story means Katniss is barely able to spend any time with him compared to Peeta.
Peeta is this way for several people considering that he often gets Katniss in danger and has no purpose in the story outside of being Katniss's love interest.
The description of Glimmer's death by tracker jacker wasp venom in Book 1.
Cato's final hours before being put out of his misery, being mostly eaten by muttations.
The idea that some of the tributes used sexual appeal to gain sponsors is disturbing once you remember that they're all teenagers about to fight to the death for entertainment. Taken Up to Eleven with Finnick, who reveals that after his victory, he was used as an unwilling sex slave to Capitol people (most likely including men and women).
It's also completely canon that some tributes are presented during the chariot portion of the games completely nude, presumably for the sexual gratification of the viewers. These are all kids between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Ugh.
Katniss's relationship with her sister is never really explored, when it was supposed to be the driving force in the first book.
In Catching Fire, the opportunity was wasted for Katniss to be a mentor and show us what things are like for the other victims of the games. Failing that, the opportunity was wasted for Katniss and Haymitch to go in together and give us a different flavour to the games/alliance thing, instead of rehashing the first game's plot of having Katniss protect Peeta and vice versa.
The first book puts Katniss in a battle to the death with 23 other randomly-chosen people, painting the decision to kill or be killed as an enormous moral quandary, but coincidences and Laser-Guided Karma ensure that she can win the whole thing without hurting anyone who isn't actively trying to kill her at that exact moment.
Some fans feel Katniss volunteering as tribute did this, and that Peeta protecting Prim in order to re-unite the sisters would have made for a much better story.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The age recommendation for these books - 11, 12, 13 - is surprising to some parents, reviewers, and even older teen readers. Maybe it's the inclusion of decapitation, suicide, torture, mutilation, child prostitution; death by fire or venom, being buried alive, and other psychologically and emotionally disturbing content that raises their eyebrows.
Further on the subject, tessera, the extra slips for names are put on to draw for the Hunger Games in exchange for more food, is the Latin word for ticket, particularly referring to the Colosseum. Where gladiators were expected to fight to the death for public entertainment as part of the public dole known as panem et circenses, or bread and circus. Statement on culture much?
What The Hell Casting Agency: The books are told in the first-person by a sixteen/seventeen year-old girl. Casting Carolyn Mc Cormick, who is in her fifties and most definitely sounds her age, to read the audio books makes for a very jarring experience.
Virtually anyone, with special mention going to non-career Victors.
Of course, even some of the Careers get shades of woobieness, most notably Finnick.
Katniss herself. She's lived her life in dire poverty, her father's dead, she's forced twice into an arena where the only way she can survive is to become a murderer, she's forced to be in love with someone she barely knows, whose memories were then twisted to hate her, she's caught up in a war between Evil Versus Evil which keeps on getting everyone she cares about killed and tortured, and the leader of the side she's on is trying to get her killed, and she knows it.
Peeta was tortured viciously for six weeks with tracker jacker venom, until most of his happy memories were twisted into terrifying ones, and he couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't. Finnick was forced into prostitution at fourteen, on pain of the deaths of his loved ones, and spent nearly two-thirds of the last book so worried about Annie that he could barely function. Pollux, though a minor character, still managed to be a woobie, what with his being an Avox who spent five years doing forced labor underground, during which he didn't see the sun once. Then his brother Castor gets killed.
Jerkass Woobie: Haymitch. He spends most of his time getting drunk and generally acting like a cynical Jerkass, but once you learn about the hell he went through at the hands of the Capitol, you really can't blame him.
Alternative Character Interpretation: The film seems to present the possibility that Foxface purposefully killed herself with Peeta's nightlock berries. During the training montage, a scene of her matching and identifying plants from memory is shown, indicating that perhaps she knew all along what she was doing, and didn't actually make a fatal mistake. Since she was weak and starving anyway, and knew she couldn't match the other remaining four tributes, she opted for a quick, painless way out instead, and covered it up as an accident so that her family back home didn't get in any trouble. This goes all the way into Heroic Sacrifice — in eating the Nightlock berries before Peeta does she stops him from accidentally poisoning himself and Katniss. Whether this is intentional is anyone's guess but quite posssible.
Alternate theories have cropped up over Effie's sigh of relief when she pulls Haymitch's name from the Reaping ball in Catching Fire — was she relieved because she thought that now Peeta, at least, was safe... or because she figured all along that Peeta would volunteer to go in with Katniss and, therefore, she knew Haymitch was safe?
Award Snub: The MTV Movie Awards came under fire for excluding Katniss from their Best Hero nominations, which happened to be entirely made up of male characters. This was especially bad due to the inclusion of John Cale, Channing Tatum's character from "White House Down," as the character wasn't very recognizable as opposed to the actor himself.
Awesome Music: Arcade Fire's "Abraham's Daughter," which plays during the credits, perfectly captures the emotional frame of the whole movie. With symbolic lyrics to boot.
Heck, pretty much all of the companion CD would count. T-Bone Burnett, the producer (previously of O Brother, Where Art Thou? fame) was careful to follow along with District 12's Appalachian music roots and included a lot of lesser-known but extremely talented artists. Doing It for the Art!note However, only three songs on it - including the ones mentioned on either side of this entry - are in the movie.
Taylor Swift's song "Safe & Sound," released late 2011, was mutually helpful, turning many people into fans of her and introducing many teenagers to the series through music.
Her song "Eyes Open," while a little more rocking, has fitting lyrics for Katniss.
James Newton Howard's score is also effective, and not only because of its incorporation of "Abraham's Daughter."
The sequel's soundtrack ain't half bad either, with Coldplay's soaring "Atlas," The National's Tear Jerker "Lean," and Sia's "Elastic Heart." It's more poppy than the first one, but by no means does that mean it's bad. (Incidentally, "Atlas" is the only one of these songs to actually be in the movie!) Points also for Howard's by turns reflective and exciting scoring.
Very soon after the movie was released, Google was bombarded by searches for Isabelle Fuhrman, the actress who played Clove. Despite being mostly a One-Scene Wonder, Fuhrmann has been widely praised for her ferocious portrayal of the character, some even calling her superior to how they imagined Clove in the books.
Foxface, who makes no alliances and is shown to be quick and clever and apparently without a mean streak.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: District 11's three-finger salute, which Katniss raises in solidarity with them and turns into a symbol of rebellion, was used in real life by people in Thailand protesting the 2014 coup, enough that the military (which was very much aware of its origin) made it illegal.
Misaimed Marketing: Given it's the year's first smash hit, it received merchandising. Given it's based around teenagers killing each other in a Crapsack World, it's mostly nonsense.
Throughout the books (but especially the first), the Capitol uses violence as entertainment, and then draws attention to the (faked) romance to entice viewers further. Guess how the movies are marketed.
Not to mention Covergirl releasing a line of Capitol-inspired makeup. Y'know, the people whose fashions are either incredibly gaudy or nightmarish?
This receives a biting Take That in Catching Fire, when a young girl tells Katniss that she's going to volunteer just like her when she's old enough.
The film's depiction is actually toned down considerably from the book's description, which involved disintegrating skin and Katniss grabbing ahold of the bones of Glimmer's ribcage to roll the body over to get to the quiver of arrows.
Not so much for folks who might have motion sickness if they're watching the first movie. The Shaky Cam does not help matter (and this movie was also an IMAX release, woe to anyone who was watching that with that condition).
Periphery Demographic: Unlike Twilight, The Hunger Games films have attracted male audiences like Harry Potter. While the crowd is still more female, many guys show up for the action, the captivating plot, and Jennifer Lawrence. Both the original and Catching Fire ended up grossing more domestically than any of the Twilight and Potter movies ever did to boot.
Relationship Writing Fumble: Due to it being a film rather than in first-person narration like the book, some people don't get a good sense of how and why Katniss is faking her feelings for Peeta, and interpret it as a more typical romance under fire. However, the movie does give some strong indications (Haymitch pointing out how the "star-crossed lovers" thing is useful; Haymitch's note with the soup saying "You call that a kiss?", indicating Katniss has to play up the romance to get popularity and sponsors). And at the end Peeta acknowledges it was artificial, though he wants to have something real. The real difference from the book is that in the movie it seems more like Peeta's aware all along that Katniss is faking for the cameras, whereas in the books he thought her feelings were genuine and was very hurt to learn otherwise after the Games.
This gets better in Catching Fire, with the circumstances making it much easier to make clear that they're playing up the relationship for the cameras.
Also, it's very hard to build Gale as a proper alternative when he gets almost no time with Katniss, or indeed, in the film. Again, in Catching Fire, this does get better.
Unfortunate Implications: There's some people who find the movie quite homophobic. Long story short, the choice to make most antagonist male villains into Camp Gay stereotypes, backed by having the one good fashion designer be more manly than his book depiction, only makes it worse.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The premise sounds like it's not for kids, but the books the film is based on are classified as Young Adult fiction, and the movie's rating and level of violence are toned down in keeping with that ( the scene where Rue is killed is much more graphic in the books).
What The Hell Casting Agency: Jennifer Lawrence did a good job, but her skin definitely isn't olive and her hair is neither straight nor black. It would be one thing if just the hair was different, but it's like they didn't even try to find someone who matched the description in the book. Which make this this article strange, since it describes the author, Suzanne Collins, was in the casting process and says that she was thrilled Jennifer Lawrence accepted being Katniss.
A lot of fans complain about the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, due to him being short, brown-eyed and (apparently) not attractive enough. Made fun of by Honest Trailers when they wonder why they didn't cast Liam Hemsworth as Peeta instead if they wanted audiences to root for Katniss/Peeta over Katniss/Gale.
People thought this happened to Rue. There was a minor case of Internet Backlash where people complained about her being portrayed by a black actress despite being dark-skinned in the books.