The Hunger Games was not an enjoyable book for me. To me, reading the book was an intense, gripping, thrilling, experience that I found rather unsettling.
Suzanne Collins, is, as Ron would say, "bloody brilliant". Her writing isn't my favorite, but she is incredibly talented. Her books are extremely suspenseful and forcefully grab you and make you not stop reading until the end, often in one sitting. Her writing is haunting, poignant, and darkly humorous, and her plot seems so real it's hard to believe that a mere mortal could have thought it up.
The Hunger Games have a seemingly simple premise. An oppressive government, that rules what used to be North America, forces each of its twelve slavish districts to send one boy and one girl each year to the gladiatorial Hunger Games, a competition in which they fight to the death. Whoever is left standing receives fame and fortune.
This all sounds very fine and well on paper. It has the potential to be just like any other book you've ever read(although a bit more violent).
But when you actually get to that part, you're not just reading about it. You're in the arena, watching innocent people your age kill each other in violent ways. You're being oppressed along with Katniss, and seeing what happens when rage and poverty and desperation go to extreme lengths. You're in Katniss's world, a world with no hope, no mercy, and virtually no hope of improvement.
And no matter how disturbed or how unsettled you are, you can't stop reading, until you get to the end. And when you're finished reading, your experience doesn't stop there. You just keep thinking..and thinking..and thinking.
I read The Hunger Games last Tuesday, and stayed up till three in the morning thinking about it. It's been a week, and I'm still unsettled. I know I won't be the same for a long time, and I'll never forget this book.
And is that a bad thing?
The Hunger Games carries several extremely important themes on its shoulders, themes that a lesser author might be overwhelmed by. The story punctuates and emphasizes every one of them. The book, like many other dystopians, highlights and satirizes important issues in modern society.
Despite all the violence in the book, none of it is gratuitous. It's always used to highlight something. Some values in The Hunger Games-
Desensitization of violence-This is one of the more disturbing themes in the novel. The fluffy, naive, shallow, silly Capitol people love fashion and are seemingly harmless, but they don’t bat an eyelash when children are mauled by animals, impaled, or beaten to death for their entertainment. SC mercilessly demonstrates this again and again, and you can’t help but think of the similarly violent video games and movies that are gobbled up by children young enough to not be able to ride a bike. Sure, they’re not real, but the message is the same: Human life is not valuable-just another form of entertainment.
Value of human life: Sort of like the previous point. I’m not going to get all controversial here, but can you think of ways our society is objectifying and devaluing innocent lives?
Extreme poverty-Poverty is more than just not being healthy. Extreme poverty can drive people to desperate lengths. The Capitol’s oblivion to the districts’ plight(In a memorable scene, a Capitol citizen criticizes starving children's’ table manners) can be an exaggerated nod to most Americans’ views toward starving, third world countries today, where people still starve to death and children are still enslaved.(Most know about it , but few do anything about it).
Courage and hope- People have mixed opinions on the main character, Katniss. I feel that she carries an important message about courage and mental strength. Her world is one, that at first glance, seems devoid of hope. But Katniss never gives up, even when things seem like they’ll never change, because she knows her sister and mother depend on her. At first, she doesn’t feel like she can change anything, and is absorbed with just surviving from day to day. At the end of The Hunger Games, she realizes that The Hunger Games have given her the potential to change things, and she starts to rebel(this is continued in the other books).
Trust-Katniss has been critisized for not making her own decisions. But she does make the decision that helps her win-the decision to trust Haymitch and Cinna and not stray from what they told her to do. Even though she does not come up with her own strategy, the decision to trust Haymitch’s strategy was probably one of the hardest ones she ever made, especially since she is used to being independent.
So would I recommend The Hunger Games?
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. -Phillipians 4:8
The Hunger Games kind of dominates your mind for a while. You just keep thinking about it, sort of like The Game(haha. I just lost it.) It’s not that I want to think about it-actually, some parts I’d rather forget-it’s that The Hunger Games has that sticking quality which worms its ways into your thoughts.
What goes in in the Hunger Games is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, but the grim themes and lines of thought it leads you to are.
I can barely understand how people can be all “The Hunger Games were AWESOME! They’re my favorite books ever! Yay!” They are so grim and jarring, but they have this unmistakable otherworldly quality that makes them worth reading. They are so absorbing and realistic. Liking The Hunger Games isn’t like liking Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl. You just sort of have to like them, you have to be obsessed with them, because somehow you don’t feel you have a choice.
Case in point: Even though I just wanted to sort of forget about The Hunger Games, I still spent an hour on Tumblr on Saturday, looking through THG pictures and memes and listening to different versions of Rue’s Lullaby. Here's my favorite one:
So, the verdict: Would I recommend the Hunger Games? Yes to those who really want to read it. But not to anyone a month under the age of 12.