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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games - Book

So, back in '10 I saw The Hunger Games at the library and put it on my list of books to read.  But I had about 20 other books on the list, so it was pretty far down on the bottom.  Then more and more people I know started reading it, and then I found out it was being made into a movie, so I figured I should probably bump it up a couple notches on the list so I would know what all these people are talking about. So I went and checked it out of the library, and spent all day one Wednesday reading it.  I couldn't put it down.

***SPOILER ALERT*** I will be discussing things that happen in the book that may give away certain plot points, so if you don't want to know, stop now.

The Hunger Games is a well written book and to be completely honest I enjoyed it very much, but it was also rather disturbing.  The government takes
a bunch of kids, throws them into an arena and has them fight to the death on television and the whole country is forced to watch.  If you've read the books or watched the movie, detach yourself from the fact that the books are very well written and interesting and that the movie was pretty faithful and well made and think about that premise for a minute.  A group of
children are forced to fight to the death - gladiator style - while their families and friends back home are forced to watch.  This premise is just sad, disturbing, horrifying, and awful.  And yet it it so enthralling that people are just drawn to it.
As I stated earlier, I honestly really enjoyed this book.  It rivals my favorite books of all time (The Inheritance Cycle) in how well it is written and how much I like it.  There is also a very distinct possibility that I shall be reading the Hunger Games trilogy again in the near future. (Summer reading list.....)  But I have to ask myself why?  Why do I find this book so fascinating that I cannot put it down until I have read it cover to cover?  What about this book made me so excited that I couldn't wait for the movie and I waited for hours so I could watch the midnight premier?  The more I think about these questions, the more complicated the answer becomes.
I think originally, I was attracted to the Hunger Games because it's a recent book that is fairly popular and it's not about a boy trying to become a wizard or a girl in love with a sparkly vampire.  (Believe me, I've read books from both of those fads, they've got nothing on the Hunger Games.)  But more than that, I do find the more detailed premise intriguing.  A young girl sacrificing her well being to protect her little sister.  I identify with that, being a big sister myself and definitely having that protective instinct.  You mess with my family, you mess with me and while I may be sugar and spice and everything nice, if you mess with me, you just might want to think twice.  I'm Irish and have the temperament to prove it.
Anyway, back to the Hunger Games and what drew me to them.  A young girl sacrificing her well being to protect her younger sister.  She then is thrown into a game that is far bigger than the hunger games in which she is forced to participate.  This is a game of politics and no one is who you think they are.  In this book you watch as this girl's character changes and develops as she is forced to cope with circumstances that are beyond her control.  But more on that in my posts on Catching Fire and Mockingjay.
The other huge thing that I know is the main reason so many females are attracted to this book, and to be 100% honest, it is part of why I enjoy this story so much is what develops into a love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale.  One of the biggest questions you are asking yourself the entire time you are reading these books is: who is she going to choose?  Peeta or Gale?  Everyone has an opinion; everyone has a preference.  (I'm in the Gale camp myself, for reasons to be disclosed in future posts.)  Who didn't gasp when Peeta announced his love for Katniss on live TV, or sigh and wonder what Gale was feeling when she kissed Peeta in the arena?  I'm a romantic, as are most girls I believe, and things like this attract me.
I'm also a writer, and I love reading stories that have good character development and decent plot twists.  The style that Suzanne Collins chose is brilliant.  Having a first person narration by Katniss really just pulls you into the story.  You feel with Katniss as she struggles with different emotions all throughout the series.  You identify with her because she is just a girl trying to survive in a world that is determined to destroy her.  She isn't a super hero.  She doesn't have super or extra ordinary talents.  She is human and she makes mistakes.  Just like anyone else.  I think this is one of the biggest reasons the Hunger Games is so popular.  It's realistic.  But that is also why these books can be dangerous.  A world like the one described in the Hunger Games can exist.  All it would take is a war or enough people looking away and refusing to speak out before all our rights are stripped away and we become just like the citizens of Panem, slaves of the state.
The danger of books and movies like the Hunger Games is that they desensitize us.  We read these books and watch these movies and think, it's fine, nothing like this will ever happen.  It's just a book or movie.  But we forget.  Things like this have happened, and quite honestly, it very possible that it will happen again.  Look at history.  Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or even as far back as ancient Rome looked very similar to Panem in the structure of government and the way the general populous was treated.  Who is to say that that won't happen again?  I pray to God it doesn't, but unless we wake up and pay attention to the world around us, stop living in this dream world we create for ourselves, surrounded by our books, movies, music, friends - our entertainment, a world like this will sneak up on us and we will be powerless to stop it.

I am not saying that people shouldn't read these books or watch the movies.  What I am saying is that if and when we do, we should do it with a sober mind, analyzing and weighing each message that is being portrayed.
One last thing I would like to say, due to the intense content and deep philosophical ideas that are present in this novel, (even if you can't see them right away, they are there) I would highly recommend that no one under a senior in high school read this book, unless the parent choses to read the book with their child so that they can discuss it.  Even if you are older, I still recommend reading it at the same time as someone else or telling someone about it, just so that you can work through the deeper ideas in this book and really understand and digest it thoroughly.  I'm 19 and a sophomore in college and I told my mom all about the books as I read them so that we could talk about it.  You are never to old for wise counsel.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on this series next time.

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