Everyone and their neighbour/dog/mother have read Hunger Games and now I finally have too.
You know when you read a book or book series and you just know that you’ll be reading it again one day because you are enjoying it so much? Yeah, that’s how I felt about this book and Catching Fire. This was honestly such a relief because I wasn’t really sure whether I would actually enjoy the books. After all, all I knew about the series was what I had heard or seen in some snippets of the movies. In fact, one of the reasons that I had put off reading The Hunger Games trilogy for so long was that I was concerned that I wouldn’t really enjoy it all that much and that it just wouldn’t live up to the hype. But, lo and behold, I actually really loved it—so much so that I actually decided to write a sort of review/appreciation post about Hunger Games when I was only halfway through the first book!
The Hunger Games debuted in 2008, with the book series and subsequent films sweeping the world for years after. Despite the trilogy’s initial popularity, the majority of its hype has now died down. Although, when I was double-checking the original publication date I did see whisperings of a new Hunger Games book by Suzanne Collins. Rumour has it, it’s going to be a Hunger Games prequel! I’ll be honest, I didn’t really end up reading any of the articles I found about Suzanne Collins’ new book, so I don’t know much about it or even if it is truly going to happen. So, I digress. Ever since that initial popularity I have had the young adult dystopian book series mentally added to my TBR (To Be Read) list.
I found the first Hunger Games book to be interesting and enthralling—and so much more complex than I remember the first movie being. Or at least, what I can remember from the movie. I found it to be effective in introducing the reader into Katniss’ mind and world, and into the world of Panem more generally. It reminded me of another classic dystopian novel, 1984 by George Orwell, in its portrayal of negative thoughts towards the authority of the Capitol being met with possible punishment. The characters of Orwell’s 1984 are unable to truly voice their thoughts except in a few carefully found and secluded areas they can sneak off to, just like Katniss and Gale can only really voice how they feel about the Capitol when within the safety of the forbidden woods. These subtle elements of censorship and policing by the more affluent groups in power are key ingredients in a dystopian novel, and are subtly included in Hunger Games. Collins’ inclusion of such elements are certainly more subtle than Orwell’s, which I suppose makes sense since Collins’ is a young adult book and therefore the themes are a little more subtle and approachable.
That being said, however, there were certainly moments in this book that I found truly sad and heavy. This is to be expected since the entire premise of the book—and of the games—is a days-long fight to the death with only one survivor. These moments were interesting because they were always heavy on the reader (me), but, although the characters did mourn and were impacted by the events that unfolded, there were some moments where something heavy or horrific was said and it was barely reacted to by the characters. I don’t think that this was an unintentional oversight on the author’s part. Instead, I think such moments were intentionally conveyed in that way to really evoke just how ‘normal’ the horrendous games and authoritarian rule of the Capitol must feel for the citizens of Panem. They are so used to such horrifying things that they have become partly desensitised to them. These things are just part of their everyday lives. Such moments, of the things left unsaid, of characters reacting or not reacting to devastating things, added to the richness and complexity of the narrative of Collins’ Hunger Games.
Overall, it was refreshing and interesting to be taken along for the story and to see the world through Katniss’ eyes. I liked Katniss as a character as she very clearly had her own thoughts and personality. It was also interesting because Katniss in many ways is a flawed character—as all the best protagonists are. She at times becomes enamoured with the glamour and opulence of the Capitol and the way she is being paraded and appreciated by the Capitol. She becomes confused as the division between performance and true feelings becomes blurred by her understanding that she must not only survive—she must perform for the Capitol viewers in order to survive. I found this to be a really interesting dimension of the book.
So, if you’re still here and reading this, thanks for reading! This blog post started as being a bit of a review but then ended including a pinch of analysis and a dollop of appreciation for Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games.