Thoughts on reading The Hunger Games

The day before yesterday, I read the last page of Mockingjay, which is the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Two weeks ago I barely had any idea about what The Hunger Games was about, other than that it seemed to be getting a lot of hype around an upcoming movie adaptation and a lot of people were calling it the next Twilight.

Well, I can tell you that The Hunger Games most definitely is not the next Twilight. It’s so much better than that. Yes, I occasionally have a guilty foray into Twilight (okay, so I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies) but I accept it for what it is: an easy-to-read series without much substance at all. And the movies are complete chick flicks.

The Hunger Games, on the other hand, is well written and compelling. I couldn’t stop reading. If, like me two weeks ago, you have no idea what it’s about I’ll try to give a brief summary of the central plot. But you really do have to read it yourself because there’s no chance that I can summarize such an engaging, polished and shockingly vivid series in about 100 words. But I’ll try to give you a taste of what it’s all about.

Picture North America, now called Panem. In an unspecified time in the future, after the destruction of North America as we know it, Panem is segregated into twelve districts which are all overseen by one threatening and sinister mega-government, the Capitol. In the past, the districts attempted and failed to overthrow the government. As punishment for this sin, the Capitol initiated the televised reality show, the Hunger Games. Each year, twenty-four competitors (one male and one female from each of the twelve districts) are placed into a vast outdoor arena and, in Roman gladiator style, have to fight until only one remains.

“The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland”, quote from The Hunger Games, copyright Suzanne Collins

The book draws on Roman and Greek mythology to create lucid details and imagery. The series is narrated in the first-person by Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old resident from District 12, who volunteers to take the place of her beloved sister, Primrose, in the Games when Prim’s name is picked.

It is difficult to describe how addictive and brilliant these books are (I read the whole series in approx. one week!) but they are not just another ‘Twilight’. They deal with some pretty deep themes — family, love, friendship, sacrifice, as well as the symbolism of the totalitarian government and a dystopian reality. There are similarities to George Orwell’s 1984 and there is a considerable amount of political allegory as well as some stunning imagery in the books. I even found myself crying at one very moving point. The author, Suzanne Collins, used to be a scriptwriter so she has a real way with words and a way to make things come alive in your imagination.

Although The Hunger Games is being marketed at young teens, I think that younger readers won’t get the symbolism. I am also concerned that the upcoming movie adaptation is going to be watered down for young viewers, missing out crucial parts of the book and focusing on a partly made-up love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, who are three of the main characters. Unfortunately, there is already a huge amount of comparisons between The Hunger Games and Twilight but don’t let that scare you away from it!

And please read the books before you go see the movie because I expect the movie makers will try to cater for a young audience of teen girls. I envision a Twilight-esque ‘Team Peeta’ versus ‘Team Gale’ showdown and I emphatically do not want that to happen! It doesn’t happen in the books and it shouldn’t happen on-screen but I fear it will. Yes, there is a love story in the series but it is by no means the central plot, unlike in the Twilight series.

The Hunger Games series is subtly and beautifully written. I didn’t expect that I would like it when I first started reading it as it’s not my usual type of literature but I was amazed by how blown away I was by the series. It’s been a long time since I read anything so thought-provoking, so tender in parts and yet so brutal at the same time.

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18 thoughts on “Thoughts on reading The Hunger Games

  1. If it provides any encouragement, according to Wikipedia, Collins herself wrote the screen adaptation for the movie, and the second book is going to be made into a movie as well. Here’s hoping things will stay close to the original, since while the love triangle wasn’t a dominant theme.

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    • That’s great news!
      I’m not averse to the love story per se, since it is present in the books. I just don’t want it to become a major marketing ploy and spoil the other themes of the movie. But I’m really glad to hear that Suzanne Collins is so involved in the making of the movie adaptations.

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      • Agreed. I thought the love angle really brought up an interesting issue about who Katniss was “supposed” to end up with, and it really didn’t resolve itself to the very end, which kept me thinking about it the entire time.

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  2. The Hunger Games is amazing! 😀 Up until a few weeks ago, not many people knew of the series at all. Now, suddenly, everyone’s addicted. Which is so, so great! I agree with the “team Peeta” and “team Gale” thing which unfortunately seems likely to happen… I just hope the movie will stay true to the books. 🙂

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    • Yes, I agree with you! I knew literally nothing about it until two weeks ago but now I consider myself a fan. 🙂
      Hmm, we’ll see. I don’t think we will be able to completely avoid the ‘team’ thing unfortunately. In some ways, it makes me want to skip seeing the movie because I’m a book purist but I know I will be too curious about it to do that!

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  3. Nice book review! I think that for the most part, when it comes to books that are made into movies, the books usually are better. I’m fine with the movie not being as great, just as long as it isn’t a movie with Twilight appeal! The Hunger Games has so much more meaning and depth to it. But if the movie does turn out like that, I’m on both Team Peeta and Team Gale haaa!

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    • They are very good! At first I was really unsure about whether or not I would like them because The Hunger Games series isn’t my customary genre of fiction. But I decided to take a leap and try something new. And it was worth it!
      I haven’t read anything by Steven King but 11/22/63 looks like a gripping read. Another one to put on my ‘to read’ list… 🙂

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  4. OMG! I also found the books so addictive. I couldn’t put them down, and I’m not such a book person. I must admit though… I can’t wait to see the movie! But I def. agree that you should read the books first. I constantly talk about the books with all of my friends. I think I’ve made all of them now read it.

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    • I think that the characters have a lot to do with it as well. Katniss is much more dynamic than Bella. I don’t think that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are terrible actors; Twilight’s characters are just too monochrome and formulaic.
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Cultural Life turns two! | Cultural Life

  6. I had a similar experience with these books–my sister kept asking me to read it (even though it’s YA fiction), and once I started on the first book, I couldn’t stop!

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