Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading three very different dystopian novels – Divergent, The Giver, and The Hunger Games. I’m here to talk about the last one on that list. I can’t really call this a book review, since I’ll be talking more about themes and a couple of issues I have with this book than the actual plot and characters (although I’m sure I’ll get into that too), but the word ‘analysis’ doesn’t really fit either…whatever. You can draw your own conclusions about my word choices. I’m here to talk about The Hunger Games (hereafter referred to as ‘THG’). It’s the kind of book that sticks with you after you read it. I liked Divergent, I really did, but THG is deeper, in my opinion. I would read a big chunk of it, and then stop and come up for air, so to speak, and think about what I’d just read. Read, think, repeat.
Like The Giver, it disturbed me, but mostly in a good way (some of it, like how lightly life and death are treated just disturbed me, period, but I was expecting that, so it didn’t hit me as hard as if I’d come at it cold). I mean, I don’t live in America (although, I think Panem was actually built from the ruins of North America, so that could include Canada as well), but there are still several thought-provoking parallels between our modern culture and that of the Capitol. Our obsession with make-up, clothes, and hairstyles. The constant need to be entertained. And, most of all, the killing. How often do we watch murder mystery TV shows and think nothing of it? Or watch war movies, and don’t really care when guys get mowed down, just as long as it’s not the hero? In fact, we might even be a little glad (in the aforementioned murder mysteries) that someone gets killed because that’s what sets the ball rolling for an hour or two of entertainment. We’re becoming hardened to death and violence, and, if nothing else, THG should give us a wake-up call.
I think Suzanne Collins made the right choice to not stick a lot of gory, gratuitous violence into the trilogy (I’ve only read the first book so far, but from what I’ve heard, the next two are relatively low-key in that area as well). She’s portraying how wrong killing is by having teens kill each other, which, you’ve got to admit, is a verrry fine line. She could’ve easily crossed it a dozen times, but she didn’t. Some of it was disturbing, in a ‘the violence is getting pretty bad, and I don’t want to read much more of it’ way, mainly with the mutts (when I read about the mutts ‘being’ the tributes, it completely freaked me out), but overall, it was fine. I wouldn’t give it to a middle-grader to read (which, apparently, is the age group its targeted at O.o), but I didn’t have any problem with it. I think the idea of teens being forced to kill each other is enough to get the message across.
Pretty much my only other issue with this book (and, I imagine, the series), is the semi-big focus on ‘the odds’. One of the most iconic lines from the entire series is the quote above, and while it may seem like nit-picking, I really don’t care for it. I mean, besides the literal odds (like ten-to-one for your name being chosen), there’s no such thing as luck, or ‘following your destiny’, or being guided by the stars. God is in control of this whole world, and nothing happens without His knowledge. I actually found the lack of any religion a bit…weird, because I don’t think that would’ve happened. Not everyone can be an atheist, right? It felt a bit odd, but I guess there are lots of books that have good stories without mentioning anything like that. I just would’ve thought that in a book where world-building is one of the key players in the story, it would’ve been explained, at least a little.
I thing I did really, really like about this book is the themes of love. Not just Katniss and Peeta (actually, I didn’t really care much about their relationship, since I didn’t get to see much of it…the whole book was pretty much SURVIVE, KATNISS, SURVIVE – obviously, I’m exaggerating, but I can’t wait to see their relationship growing in Catching Fire), but Katniss and Prim. Katniss and Rue. Friendships in literature (and real life), are sometimes even better than a good romance, and THG is not an exception to this. One reason that I like Katniss so much, is that she took her sister, Prim’s, place in the Reaping. It meant almost certain death, since in the last seventy-three Hunger Games, only two victors were from District 12, but she still did it. Would I? Would any of us? I have no idea. Just thinking about having to go fight in the Games makes me feel sick to my stomach, so I…I don’t know. I don’t think any of us really know what we would do in any given situation, until that situation comes up (I’m not saying anything like the Reaping, would ever come up, though). And don’t get me started on Rue. I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. EVER.
The world building was awesome, the characters were perfect, in their own special ways (Cinna’s one of my favorites), and the ending was good. A bit of a cliffhanger for the full story arc, but the first book’s separate story is wrapped up well. There’s a good, clean romance, enough excitement and danger to keep you flipping pages desperately, and it’s deep enough to leave you thinking about if for a long time after you finish. Is it worth reading? YES. I do, however, think it’s best for children older than thirteen. And, yes, I will be reading the other two books in the series and writing a post like this for each, if at all possible.
Thank you for your consideration.