The Hunger Games is a controversial young adult dystopian novel that is a highly competitive death-dealing game, and a fight for survival. I couldn’t watch the film – there wasn’t enough to grab my attention – but the book was bought as a gift and was the only dystopian one on my shelf. As a result, I didn’t begin reading with much expectation that I would take to the novel: I’m not a fan of the young adult genre in general, with some exceptions.
The novel had quite a potent political message, especially early on. It illustrates simply and yet strongly how inequality can lead to resentment between the starving and the better-off, even if both groups know better on a full stomach. It’s a clever ploy of the Capitol’s system to divide the people so that their hold on power is relatively undisrupted. The Capitol uses official excuses for those who have starved to death, burying their guilt and complicity at ridding many of the districts of their inhabitants. The population are not fooled, but what can they do to act against the Capitol when the Treaty of Treason is an intimidating warning to those who would oppose them, in the form of a reminder that past uprisings have bitterly failed. It’s at this point the reader must wonder how accurate this history is, and if it is, why do the Capitol need to remind the districts not to rebel if there weren’t weaknesses?
Let’s start with the positive. There were more than a few lengthy passages that sustained my interest, mostly between Katniss and Peeta’s struggle to understand and trust each other before they entered the Hunger Games as the two Tributes representing District 12. The battle for survival in the arena started off very well, capturing my interest and impressing upon me the severity of Katniss’ predicament. The conclusion as well, was well written, emotionally tense, and with enough peril to make it impressive. First-person point-of-view worked well at intervals, bringing Katniss’ personality, likes, and dislikes to the fore and engaging the reader.
Katniss’ voice did bother me, rendering her emotionally numb to any related or past events. This is where first-person point-of-view didn’t work well, and the switches were occasionally noticeable. Katniss and Peeta’s mostly passive and tolerant attitude to following rules irritated me. I know why they did it – to protect their families – but it almost seemed to justify the need for a sycophantic totalitarian regime, bloated by wealth and superficiality. It made the characters sick, and it made me feel sick, but the characters still went along with it more often that I would have liked. I’m obviously only commenting as a reader/observer here and not a participant in the Hunger Games; maybe that would make a difference to my opinions.
Katniss’s boundaries were pushed once or twice, causing her to act in rebellion, but her actions only really made a difference where it concerned the Capitol’s perception of her and to me reinforced the idea that if you have enough talent you can become popular enough that it doesn’t matter that most districts are starved and oppressed. The bottom line is that Katniss and Peeta were absolutely helpless, and had to do as they were told. I didn’t think this philosophy did much to encourage young adults in life, even if the suspense and gory deaths were appealing to some.
Suzanne Collins’ Website