Book Simple: Hungry for The Hunger Games [One More Time]
This Sunday I couldn’t stop reading The Hunger Games trilogy. Gudrun made it sound so good last week that the books rocketed right up to the top of my Kindle wish list. I started the first novel meaning to compare dystopian futurescapes with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but to be honest, I can’t. Suzanne Collins’s devastating rebellion is addictive in a way that Ishiguro’s gorgeous slow reveal can’t be, even if both books analyze the dehumanization wrought through authoritarian government from the focal point of a love triangle.
Gudrun already discussed the trilogy, so I’ll keep my synopsis short. Katniss Everdeen competes as a tribute in the Hunger Games, a brutal televised battle to the death played out by kidnapped children and used by her government to keep the poverty-stricken outer districts from rebelling. “There are no rules in the arena,” Katniss notes, “but cannibalism doesn’t play well with the Capitol audience, so they tried to head it off.”
Accompanying Katniss to the Capitol is her fellow tribute, Peeta, a baker’s son who saved her once from starvation. Katniss leaves behind her a budding romance with the hunter Gale, but when the politics surrounding the Games requires her to feign a romance with Peeta, she is surprised to find her emotions torn. “Gale and I were thrown together by mutual need to survive,” she explains. “Peeta and I know the other’s survival means our own death. How do you sidestep that?”
This becomes the motivating question behind the first book: when your survival is threatened, is it possible to love? The very emotion can become a chink in your armor. As the trilogy continues, Katniss discovers that love can be illusory, disappointing, used as a weapon against her. What is most amazing about the character is her resiliency, her inspiring ability to continue loving and fighting. Katniss finds herself at the Games “blushing and confused, made beautiful by [her friend] Cinna’s hands, desirable by Peeta’s confession, tragic by circumstance, and by all accounts, unforgettable.”
Reading them, at first I couldn’t understand how these are novels for young adult readers. Despite some unnecessary exposition, the book’s writing is deeply compelling, and the power and pain evoked seem too extreme. Katniss sings a lullaby to a murdered little girl, “the words are easy and soothing, promising tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today,” but of course there will be no more tomorrows for the victims of the Games. I sobbed aloud over the waste.
But the chilling scenes of violence we see every night on our televisions and movie screens are not nearly far enough removed from the tributes in the arena. As Katniss runs from the packs of hunters in the Games, she knows that somewhere “in a cool and spotless room, a Gamemaker sits at a set of controls, fingers on the triggers that could end [her] life in a second” if it would make for good viewing.
From the Roman gladiatorial battles to teams of football players slamming their craniums against one another, human societies have enjoyed bloodshed in many forms. When violence is entertainment, it dulls our senses to its horror. The Hunger Games trilogy re-awakens the revulsion brutality should inspire and demonstrates the danger of trusting those in power without question. By the time I’d finished, I wanted every teenager and adult I know to read these books.