The Hunger Games: A Book of Our Times

After so much hype surrounding the books and the movie, it’s hard to find something to say about The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, that hasn’t been said before.  The book seems like it is everywhere, from the highly successful movie to the nail polish series by China Glaze. I will say, that I don’t believe the hype is unfounded. Collins had a brilliant and innovative idea, which she followed through with strong character development and very tight writing.

The novel has come in my mind to define dystopia. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but here is the teaser from Amazon:

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.  

I know it sounds strange and gruesome, in a way that I probably wouldn’t have touched it while in high school, but it is one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. It almost makes you keep reading.  Even on this second reading of the book, where I knew what was going to happen there was suspense that led me to finish the book in one sitting.

Stars of The Hunger Games film sign copies of the book.

What strikes me in the aftermath of rereading Hunger Games, is its status as a book of our times. Perhaps more than any other book I’ve read, certainly in the science fiction or fantasy genre, it is a book that I believe could only have been written and gained such prolific popularity now, in this specific point in history and culture. The idea of reality TV is essential to the plot, and the powerful theme of exploitation, in the book, however the connection to the present day goes beyond this.

The book emphasizes a social critique of a social structure where the few experience gluttony of excess wealth at the expense of the majority of people. Although Collins invented this world before the occupy movement and the term “one percent” entered our consciousness the concept and reality of unequal wealth distribution was prevalent. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Panem is a future version of the United States.

I think where this book really succeeds is that it does everything a good book should do. It has romance and action, strong themes and symbolism, relatable and fantasy, and most of all tension and suspense. Even as I’m writing this I keep thinking of more: politics, humor, fashion! I think that the best thing about series like Hunger Games is that it is making reading viral, with both adults and children that wouldn’t pick up a book otherwise. I have yet to meet someone who could put this book down once they started it, especially once they get to the actual games. And I’ve actually yet to meet someone who took the time to read it and didn’t like it. I really couldn’t recommend it more strongly.

For further reading and reviews:

11 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: A Book of Our Times

  1. In Mexico on vacation, one of our friends said she had gotten the box set for Christmas but had not read it. When she recognized it was the set for the movie, she started reading and could not stop. She was glad she had all three do she could just keep going!

    1. I don’t know what people who read the series as the books were published did. There is no way I could have waited between the books, especially between 2 and 3.

  2. See, this is why I wrote a crushing review. “What else is there to say?” That’s the one position I never want to be in. I don’t think this book is all it’s cracked up to be, though I did think so the first time I read it. I do like your review, however. As my Spammers often say, “Thanks for the writing!”

  3. That’s interesting–I hadn’t considered how very reality-TV-ish they are. (I managed to get completely caught up in the Rome metaphor, thank you Classics.)

    But it’s so true: especially, I think, how short the attention span of people living in the Capitol is.

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