Last week I finished The Hunger Games.
Before I get too far into this review, let me just say that I think there are two types of stories, whether in movies or books – stories that have some sort of driving point (whether inspirational, educational, political, etc.), and then there are stories that are mainly for entertainment, with no clear point. And I think that’s just fine. I can really appreciate both types.
When I decided to go ahead and read The Hunger Games, I was under the impression that it was of the first variety – a story with a point behind it. I heard from multiple sources, people and articles, that The Hunger Games was meant as a “cautionary tale” of what could happen when government or the media get out of control, or of what may happen if we lose our sensitivity to violence as a society.
And I just have to say, having read the book now, I didn’t get any of that.
I see no real point against letting government or media get out of control in the book. Sure, the government and media are out of control in Panem, but I think they have to be to make the plot work. Though I obviously don’t know exactly what the author was trying to portray, as I was reading I didn’t get the feeling the author wrote this book trying to make a point about either media or governmental control. They just seemed like necessary plot elements.
As for the idea that she’s trying to send a message about not losing our sensitivity to violence, if that is so then I think the content of the book is rather counter-productive. Deaths are described in detail, and it’s one of the more violent books I’ve read. Generally speaking, the more violence we are exposed to in books and movies the more danger we are in of becoming insensitive to it, so I can’t say I think this book is all that helpful on that point.
If a book is going to have a message behind it, there has to be some dialogue or scenes in the book that really drive the point home – and I kept waiting for it, but it never came. There were vague stirrings of a point here and there, and I kept thinking that maybe this is where “cautionary” message I expected to read would be addressed, but nothing that I would consider solid was ever said.
If there was a point that the author was trying to make, it was weakly portrayed. Strictly judging from content, I wouldn’t see any particular intended message behind this book without also reading a commentary on it. All of those suggested points I mentioned before came from commentators, not from the actual book itself.
I have no problem if commentators or parents want to use the story to help make their own point about out-of-control government or media, or about being insensitive to violence. But the book itself is pretty neutral and doesn’t exactly say anything against either – the reader is left to draw their own conclusions, if any are to be drawn.
So if this isn’t a book with a particular point (and I just don’t think it is, in and of itself), then it’s main value would lie in entertainment. Which is absolutely fine. I’m not one of those people who thinks everything has to have a purpose, and I love a good, entertaining story.
If I’m looking at the book from a strict “entertainment-value” standpoint, then I do have to say that the book is very entertaining. It’s exciting and suspenseful. Every time I finished a chapter I had a hard time not starting the next one. There’s no doubt that it’s well-written.
However, I kept feeling like there was something that was just off. And I wish I could put my finger on it better.
Maybe it was the fact that I thought Katniss was almost disturbingly good at playing “the game”, and everything she did seemed to be for the camera - we are left to applaud her for her cleverness throughout the story, even though doing things only for the camera shouldn't necessarily be something to aspire to (I don’t think so, anyway).
Maybe it was the plain old reason that this entertaining story was, in fact, about children being forced to kill other children.
Maybe it was because I felt that even though the violence in the book wasn’t condoned, it almost seemed to be accepted because that’s “the way things are” in Panem.
Whatever it was, something just didn’t sit right.
I agree with the mom who petitioned to get The Hunger Games off her middle schooler’s reading list from her school - I don’t think this book is appropriate for younger preteens/teens. Kids that age are so impressionable, and they are still forming their worldviews. I don’t think it would be beneficial for a child that age to be reading about a world where kids do whatever it takes to survive. In my opinion, it would be wise to wait until they were a little older and had a bit more practice at thinking critically about this sort of thing before reading this book, if it is indeed a book the parent decides is okay.
I’m not trying to pick on the book or be overly-critical, and I can’t say I thought the book was “bad” . . . but I also can’t say I thought the book was good. It just was . . . and for a book that just is, I have my doubts. Though it was hard to put down, and I was dying to find out what happened between Katniss and Peeta, I can’t say I’m really a fan for that reason.
Thankfully there are lots of reviews with spoilers out there, so I know what happens with Peeta and Katniss without having to read the next books.
Okay, I’m prepared to be pelted with rotten tomatoes now, but that’s my opinion. Take it or leave it.