I have never watched a “train-wreck” reality show. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a reality show, unless you count the cooking shows like Iron Chef America. I have no desire to watch reality shows (beyond learning to cook, that is), and I don’t understand the appeal.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, depicts how in the futuristic world of Panem, which emerged from the ashes of a war-torn North America, the government produces a televised reality show in which 24 teenagers kill each other. The purpose of the Hunger Games is to illustrate how the government provides everything for the populace and that without the government’s wise support, anarchy and personal battle will reign over the land. People in the far-off districts depend on the Capitol for support. The Hunger Games illustrate what would happen if people rebelled against authority: chaos and murder.
Yet, The Hunger Games is not about savagery or murder. It is about defiance. Katniss volunteers herself, eager to save the life of her twelve-year-old sister Prim, whose name has been selected from the lottery. And from the beginning of the games until the end, Katniss hates the games, hates the Capitol’s philosophies, and hates the forced murdering game she is a part of. In that sense, she is a hero.
Except, reading as the games played out felt to me like being a voyeur watching a reality show. Certainly, it was a gripping read, and Katniss and Peeta are heros working against the norm of Panem. But I was still watching a horrible display of survival skills in which teenagers, mostly rotten ones, are killing each other. I hated it. I didn’t like the writing (present tense, which at times seemed invisible and at other times jarring). I didn’t like the romance element (Katniss pretends to be in love in order to win). I didn’t like the ignorance (Katniss is ignorant that Peeta loves her; Katniss is ignorant of the danger of rejecting the Capitol, which seemed to take away from the power of her defiance). I just plain didn’t like it.
From the time I learned the premise, I had no desire to read The Hunger Games. This was probably my problem from the beginning, and I should have followed my gut. But since I have a book club on Thursday night and I didn’t go last month, I decided I’d bite the bullet and read it so I can go and socialize. Besides, so many people have praised this novel that I felt it couldn’t be that bad. In fact, I hoped to be blown away. That did not happen. I read fast so I could be done with it. I’m not sure I can discuss it without being sick.
I read the entire plot summary of the second book and it sounds just as horrible, with another set of games in which people must kill each other. Next time I want to read a young adult novel (which is about once a year) about defiance against a repressive society, I’ll finish reading the Uglies series. That was not so physically sickening.
In fact, the more I think about Uglies, the more I prefer that book to this. Both young adult novels are similar. In a futurist world, people are forced to do horrible things that they are brainwashed into thinking are good. The main character (a teenage girl) decides to reject the government’s plan. In Uglies, though, Tally seems to constantly be making difficult decisions that can be considered parallel to a modern teenager’s life. I don’t think the murderous survival choices Katniss made in The Hunger Games are very parallel to modern life, noble as they may be. I also thought Tally to be a much more developed character, a more likable person, and a better role model than Katniss was, who bothered me from beginning to end.
I’ll keep this short and end now. There are hundreds of book bloggers out there who love The Hunger Games. Find one of their reviews via Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search. Personally, I’m done with it.
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