Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Hunger Games: Thoughts and Theories

First of all, I am WAY late to the game on reading these books. I’ll explain that as I go, I think. 

Let me begin by stating that I had A LOT of preconceived opinions about this series – and why I was never going to read them. A few have changed, a few have been shattered. However, I will stand by my comments on the suitability of these books for children.
They’re not.
The End. No more discussion. They’re not for children. Your fifth grader should not be reading these books. Your eight grader should not be reading these books. Your high school freshman should have your APPROVAL to read these books – and you should probably read them first to make sure. I’ve heard many a parent say they could not get through the first chapters of this book and turn around and hand them to their children to read. I don’t get it.
Granted, I’m not a parent and I’m not your kid’s parent and you ultimately know what is best for your children. But hear me out for just a second on a few of the actions behind the theme of this book.

Kids killing kids. For sport. For entertainment.
Politics. A sickeningly real parallel to the politics in our own world today.
Violence. Plenty of it.
Drunkenness. Rather frequently.
An attack on materialism.  That may or may not be so obvious to a 12 year old.

Now – here’s where I may surprise you.

I REALLY loved the series. Really, really loved the series. Like – I borrowed them from my public library and would go out and purchase them today if I had the time to add them to my own bookshelves.
You see, the reasons I think these books are not appropriate for younger readers are some of the very same reasons that I liked these books for older (adult) readers.

The Hunger Games:
We’re introduced to The Games for the first time. And horrified by it as well. Honestly, I would not allow my imagination to take me in to the heights of the violence, hatred, and utter disrespect for human life found in them. As a reader, I literally censored my imagination through these bits. I will say, however, that the message of killing for entertainment rings loud and clear. And many a parallel can be pulled from our current world. And, while I’m pretty conservative on the political side of things I have a tendency to swing violently to the left when it comes to PEOPLE. People that are suffering, people cloaked in poverty, and the political agendas that exploit them.
We’re also introduced to Katniss. The story is told from her perspective and her character is engaging: the perfectly flawed heroine that we all love to love. Katniss from Part One, however, goes through quite the transformation as we close the final pages of Part Three in Mockingjay.
And, as Katniss and Peeta enter The Games an important (almost) side note rises to the surface… the shambles of district 12, the sheer desperation of its people, prove to reveal the materialism, excess, and superficiality of the Capitol.

Catching Fire:
Honestly, book two of the series is a bit of a blur to me and felt more like a means to book three than a standalone title. Of course, it’s NOT a standalone title. Instead, it paves the way – albeit a bit slowly – for the final installment, Mockingjay.
A repeat of The Games is quite cruel – for the characters and the reader but I was amazed at the imagination behind the arena of the Quarter Quell – at the ability of Ms. Collins to spin a seemingly repetitive story in to one of intrigue instead of boredom.
Here, we learn more of Gale and his care toward Katniss and a kind of love triangle develops. Normally, I hate these, but I was just as lost as Katniss in trying to choose.
As more and more of the political motives are revealed behind the theme, more and more of the attributes (good and bad) of the characters are brought to light.
And, a shocking end catapults the reader right in to Mockinjay.

The third, and final, book of the Hunger Games series brings about the best and worst of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.
I’d say that the underlying frustration with this book is the constant nagging thought that something not quite right is going on behind the scenes – just out of both the starring characters’ and the reader’s grasp. Never knowing who to trust. Always checking shadows.
And still, the tension between Peeta and Gale. The knowledge that Katniss will, somehow, have to choose. Or, as was my fear, will Ms. Collins just blow them all the bits in some Capitol explosion and end it all right then and there??? The fear of this very thing kept me from finishing this book for well over a week. Collins doesn’t seem overly compassionate toward her characters (or her reader) throughout the books and my concern seemed valid.
As Katniss desperately tries (and fails) to keep from being a pawn in everyone’s personal version of The Games we see a bit more of the darkness of her character revealed – a few more flaws – a few more cracks in the pot – a few too many publically revealed honest remarks that often get her in to trouble. But that is the charm of the story, really. That Katniss, face of the rebels, inspiration to the masses, really doesn’t have it all together. Is lost and confused and may just be more of a puppet than even she suspects. That she, too, is growing and learning and finding thoughts of her own.
I do feel that the final pages were a bit hurried. The story-line wanes on into the very last chapters and everything is wrapped up rather quickly in about 5 pages or so. 15 may have been in order for more of a neatly packaged conclusion. However, Ms. Collins leaves just enough undone for the reader to find a sense of satisfaction and still the need for imagination. Normally, this kind of thing would drive me insane. But, in the case of the Mockingjay, I was satisfied to fill in the bits and pieces on my own. I wonder if this was more intentional than not as the reader must decide where their own alliances lie. 

I was quite affected by Suzanne Collins words. Which, in the world of writing, is the point. So, I suppose, she’s done her job well.
I’m not an end-of-the book crier and can only recall 1 other time in which real tears fell as I closed the pages on a series. The Hunger Games Trilogy makes two.

The beginning: Shocking. Violent. Unjust.
The middle: Valiant. Revealing. Raw.
And the end: Simple. Bittersweet…. And Highly Effective.

Whew! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

I realize this is not a complete review of the series by any means but that wasn’t my intent, really. To see another  reader’s perspective, hop on over to Seasonof Humility and check out Amber’s thoughts on the books. Her review inspired me to read the series, actually! 

Did you catch on to the Hunger Games early ? Or, did you read it late in the game like me? Love the books? Hate them? I’d love to hear from you, let me know what you thought in the comments below.

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  1. Great post, Samantha! I so agree - Suzanne's stories affected me, too, and I loved this series because of that, and because of how it made me think, even though I didn't agree with everything it presented on the surface.

    I jumped on this bandwagon a little later than some, as well - a few months before the first move came out. The movie trailer and the online chatter was what convinced me to ask for the trilogy for Christmas. ;) Will you be watching Catching Fire in theaters this November? I kind of want to, but I'm also a little scared of how violent it might be, since the second book was more graphic than the first, I thought...

    BTW, can I say how honored I am to hear that my review inspired you to read the books?? Thank you so much for reading my thoughts (and for the S/O here)! I hope you weren't disappointed, overall, in giving them a try. :)


  2. Hi Amber! I attempred to reply yesterday but my connection at the airport must have been iffy.
    Like I said above, I was quite surprised to have enjoyed the series and even more so to be sad to see it go... I read the first book AFTER watching the movie which proved to ruin some of the character development but was actually helpful, I think, with the violence as I read - "insert scene from movie here" kind of thing. I am looking forward to the next film but am right there with you on wanting to be able to fast forward or bury my head in a pillow and not look ;)
    As always, I loved your review. Have a lovely week-end!


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