When the Hunger Games first came out I was reluctant to read it. Someone mentioned reality TV, another person talked about kids fighting to the death and I thought “ick! that sounds horrible”. I could not have been more wrong. Seeing how incredibly popular it has been with both teens and adults I decided I needed to read it, but I went into it thinking this would be a chore.
I read most of the first book in one sitting and devoured Catching Fire in between a few things I had to do, finishing both books within 4 days. I LOOOOOVE this series.
I literally started crying during the first part where Katniss describes being 12 years old trying and failing to feed her family when her father passes away and her mother is too depressed to realize or care her children are starving to death. Her confusion at anyone’s willingness to help her is heartbreaking. I loved Peeta from the moment he was introduced “the boy with the bread”.
The section of the book that takes place in the Capital is something that would seem frivolous if it didn’t follow the description of the extreme poverty and suffering of District 12. There is no doubt that the author is critiquing the Capital’s shallow obsession with fashion and plastic surgery. In the second book when they are vomiting so they can make room for more at the feast it is disgusting on many levels. Collins’ social commentary is incredibly well written, and I think the reason it works is because of characters like Cinna. Cinna is a designer, in many ways he takes part in the Capital culture and Collins could have made him an enemy, a despicable shallow person who cared only about how Katniss looked while she was sent away to her death. By making Cinna and the other staff in the Capital human and likeable she makes the commentary more real and close to home. In many ways we are like them, worrying about what we look like, watching violence and “reality” on tv for entertainment.
The districts are a lot like the third world. Katniss mentions how in the districts being fat or old means you are respected because you can provide food to your family or you have been strong enough to survive. I’ve heard the same thing from my friends who grew up in refugee camps in Africa.
The way that the life in the districts is compared to the life in the Capital reminds me of the scene in Lord of The Rings where Pippin is singing for Denethor who is stuffing his face while the people of his kingdom are being slaughtered. I loved that scene in the movies, when he had food that looked like blood all over him.
I was completely absorbed in the books, my boyfriend kept trying to talk to me and I’d be like “one more chapter!” and accidentally start another without realizing it because I was in Katniss’ head, in the games watching her fight, not seeing page numbers.
The games were horrific as I feared, but not gruesome for the sake of gore. Any gore served a purpose, it was all part of the social commentary, important in getting the point across.
I won’t talk much about the second book because I don’t trust myself not to give to many spoilers to those who haven’t read it (because I hope they will). The main thing that strikes me is that this could easily be studied in high school if it isn’t already. I could write essays about the mockingjay, the bird, the images, the jewelry, the bread…. I think there is a ton of potential for this book to used as a teaching tool, but it would be a really fun one because I enjoyed every minute of the book, even when I was cringing or welling up.
The character development is awesome, particularly with Katniss. Collins makes you care about what happens to her characters, makes you hope when they hope, and suffer when they suffer.
I’m tempted to run out and buy the box set of the books (I read library books) and maybe even the pins and merchandise because I am so excited about this series. Now I’m 30 or so people down the waiting list for the book at the library and I can’t wait for Mockingjay! The Hunger Games was the best book I’ve read in a long time, and I read a few YA books a week along with a pile of picture books and the occasional graphic novel.