Friday, June 17, 2011
mormonhermitmom's review of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
You never leave your home district. A civil war long ago ended in the triumph of the central government. Not only does the government not want you, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the rebels, to forget who won, but the government wants to rub it in your coal dusted face. They do this by putting the names of all children 12 to 18 in a lottery. One boy and one girl will have the privilege of fighting the representatives of all the other 11 districts in the country to the death. 24 competitors and only one will outlast the Hunger Games, which are televised live nationwide.
I had heard that this story was incredibly violent, incredibly disturbing, and incredibly popular with teens. I can see how teens might like it as the main character is a teen who is literally fighting for survival, a definite "me against the world" theme that gets in your face constantly.
I can see how the resurrected "gladiator games" can startle and frighten the most sensitive readers. The violence wasn't enough for me to put the book down. I've started other books that nearly made me retch before I could get them out of my house. I can't remember the book I read years ago, a true story of a young boy in Africa getting press-ganged into a militia, but I thought of that book a lot while reading Hunger Games. The damage that violence can do to a young person, especially when that person is forced to commit the violence, tears at one's sensibilities.
What I found disturbing was not the violence, but the exploitation. It wasn't enough that the young people chosen to fight were treated like celebrities only because they would be dead soon, but the "victors" were expected to make their victory lap through all the captive districts - and they couldn't say no. They knew what a charade it was and yet to not perform was unthinkable.
I don't know that an average American teen who had never known hunger, abuse, neglect, or worse, would be able to scratch the surface of all that is in this book. Girls may look at the "non-romance" between Katniss and Peeta and the other guy "whatshisname". Guys might read it for the battle scenes. Beyond that, I don't know if they could really see the fractured reflections of the world they live in.
This isn't fluff. This series can kick off some introspective discussions between youth and adults. I don't think I would want my teen to read it without me. I'd want to tell her, "yes, that happens" or "no, that doesn't happen". Grim, yes, but with the potential for sure insight.