Someone is always watching in The Hunger Games

“The greatest multiplex in the universe is in your mind, and the only ticket you need is a good, well-written novel.” Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I agree with Zafon. But still, I can’t wait for The Hunger Games movie. If it’s good, that will be partly because it’s based on a fantastic young adult novel.

On March 23, Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Primrose, Cinna, Rue and the rest of The Hunger Games’ characters will come to life on the big screen, as will the world of Panem, the futuristic North American country that emerged after climate change and war.

As YA literature goes, The Hunger Games is controversial. Every year in this harsh dystopia, twenty-four teenagers, two from each of the poor districts that serve the ruling Capitol district, are chosen in a “reaping” to fight to the death. The last contender alive wins.

These teens, some as young as twelve, kill each other on TV to entertain the Capitol citizens; their families get to watch them suffer and die.

A New York Times reviewer observed that the reality show motif adds complexity to the drama of alliances made and broken for the sake of survival. In this “double storytelling,” Katniss and Peeta must put on a good show because the audience favorites may win a share of mercy from the unseen game masters.

We, the readers, are privy to Katniss’ innermost thoughts and feelings, while we watch her present a false self to the cameras. She and Peeta form a bond that, for Katniss, may or may not be love. They play up their romance to captivate their viewers while they play out their “true” relationship under cover. Except, for all concerned, it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which.

And, in the end, they both know one of them will have to kill the other.

The Hunger Games is, in part, a nightmarish look at a culture of reality shows taken to an extreme.

It strikes me that young people are always “on.” They have never known life without incessant friending and following and posting. I’m ambivalent, to say the least, about the constant staging of oneself that’s necessary now if you don’t want to be completely out of the mainstream. 

In fact, it’s getting harder to deliberately choose privacy and anonymity. Recently, in a nearby town, over a dozen teen-age girls developed an illness with symptoms resembling Tourette Syndrome. Reporters and television cameras have besieged the town in an unrelenting media storm.  The story has gone viral.

It’s not just news. It has become our entertainment.

For peace of mind, some of the girls have given up social media altogether, at least for the time being.

Back to The Hunger Games –  there is still time to read or reread it before the movie comes out. My niece, a soon-to-become librarian, is a big fan of The Hunger Games.  She wears a mockingjay necklace (a mockingjay is a bird that symbolizes liberation from the evil Capitol) and knows everything there is to know about the upcoming movie. In fact, I found out about the movie when she posted the trailer online.

I saw it because I’m her friend on Facebook.

What was your Hunger Games book?

Did you have a Hunger Games book when you were growing up? A sci fi kind of book about a different world, that made you feel alive on every page? With a heroic character so real you could step inside his/her skin?

Tell us your Hunger Games book in the comments. I’ll tell you mine in my next post. Hint: It’s the 50th anniversary of this book’s publication.

10 responses

  1. Pingback: She read The Lord of the Rings and said what you’re not supposed to say to get the job « Books Can Save A Life

  2. I already purchased my tickets to The Hunger Games movie, too!

    What I love about this trilogy is that it offers a very different take on violence than a lot of kids and teens are routinely exposed to on shows like CSI, where violence is presented as something that is almost routine and something to spur on the plot, not something that is explored in itself, particularly in terms of its effects. Katniss breaks down through these books in a very convincing way. She both prepares herself for and resists resorting to violence in the first games, and then once she’s started responding violently to situations, she has a hard time breaking out of that pattern. It impacts how she views the world in a profound way. I love how Collins parallels Katniss’s journey to Haymitch’s and some of the other survivors of the games, exploring what it does to them in the long term, how it never leaves. That is real, and I think it’s important for children being raised in a time of war to think about and understand these things.

    When I was a kid, I was deeply, deeply impacted by The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those books are still really important to me, and I reread them regularly.

  3. I too am a fan of the Hunger Games Trilogy. I am an avid reader of many different genres of books and like the YA books from time to time, even though I’m well past that in age. This series was well written and after reading the first book, had to immediately read the other two. I was dissappointed at the ending of the third book, but liked that the series continued to tell the story instead of focusing on other characters for the remaining books. It’s hard to put yourself in their places, living their lives and going through what they do daily in their “world”, but that’s what great about books, they take you to different places and times through the amazing imagination of the authors.
    I have already purchased my tickets to the movie and am very interested to see how much it stays with the storyline of the book. I’ve been disappointed too many times by changes made from book to film that did not need to be made – after seeing some of the trailers, it’s going to be a long month 🙂
    If you liked this series, you will like Divergent by Veronica Roth. The second book is coming out shortly.

  4. I think the third book, Mockingjay, is the one that are giving people mixed reactions. I was really disappointed in the ending, because I felt like it just ended. I needed a little bit more to feel closure. But I have to stick up for Katniss. I have heard several complaints that she is too whiny or moody throughout the book. Think about all that she has gone through in the previous two books, nobody would be left in their right minds. I can’t remember where, but I read an interview of Susanne’s and she mentioned how she really wanted to explore the effects of war on children. She has another series, which she wrote before The Hunger Games, called Gregor the Overland Chronicles. It’s a series of five books, about an 11 year old boy, Gregor, who lives in modern day New York City. One day, Gregor finds himself lost under the streets of NYC and discovers an underground world. The human race of the Underland are in the midst of a war and Gregor is expected to be their warrior to save the humans. There are several points in the series where Gregor questions whether what he is doing is morally right, and is punished by the Underland government for going against them because he feels it is wrong. Both stories follow the young adults through their deadly journeys and it is clear that this is an issue she cares deeply about. I really enjoyed both series and cannot wait to see The Hunger Games brought to life on the big screen!

    • I think that Katniss has a lot of self-hatred because of what she has to do, and I don’t think she ever gets over it, even into adulthood. It affects her relationships with Peeta and Gale, too.

      When you write, whatever you care deeply about is going to come out. Then you shape it into art.
      Was Collins being true to her vision, or was she writing what would sell?

      • I guess, in a way Suzanne doing both. In the end, Katniss had to choose one or the other, at least that is what the readers expected. She still kept her vision while having Katniss end up with one. I felt like she kept her vision. I felt like she still had mixed emotions as an adult and wasn’t truly happy with her decision. I was left wondering if Katniss just accepted what was forced on her instead of fighting to make herself truly happy, simply because she didn’t have it in her to fight anymore. Suzanne still made her point clear, to me, that war has a lasting effect on the children who live through it.

  5. Read the series up until the last half of the 3 rd book ….. I am in a different generation . This was as affronting to me as a young adult, who dismisses being asked to Not Look at their phone for the next hour…. I just didn’t understand the wicked plot. Not looking for Pollyana, but hoping to be a bit more inspired …. Sorry ….

    • Yes, people have mixed feelings about this trilogy. Suzanne Collins’ (the author) father was in the Vietnam War and this seems to have deeply influenced her and the writing of this. A friend of mine wrote a memoir (Snake’s Daughter, Gail Gilberg) about her childhood and her father’s death in Vietnam. This experience shaped her entire life and she couldn’t NOT write about it.
      When I look at the bleakness in these books and the harshness of kids killing other kids, I’m turned off. But the reader in me couldn’t put the books down and I cared deeply about the characters.
      I would love to hear what other readers think about these books.
      Thanks, Bonnie, for commenting.

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