My Thoughts on the Hunger Games

I’m going to preface this by saying that I have not read the Hunger Games series, nor have I seen the movies. Everything I am going to say is what I have gathered from talk by friends and family on them, as well as Wiki, so I could see what the main plot was about.

And after reading it all, hearing what people have to say, I can honestly say I don’t plan on reading them any time soon. I think it’s great that there are books out there that get people wanting to read, I really do. They become a part of our generation, of our world and culture. Some of them are good (The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings), some of them aren’t built in worlds that could work, but connect with people at such a level that everyone knows it, even if they have never read them (Harry Potter). Others have redefined a created a new twist on an old myth (Vampires in Twilight). They all have their issues, but they all have a place.

I look at the Hunger Games the same way. It is something that, at the moment, has become a pervasive part of the world and conversation. It remains to be seen how long it will stick about, but judging from what I hear and see, I think it’s here to stay for at least as long as Twilight and Potter, if not perhaps as long as Tolkien. But at the same time, people are reading about kids killing kids when we get down to it. And not just that, but it’s kids killing kids for entertainment for the wealthy of the world in this series.

There are enough kids killing kids in real life, do we really need to sensationalize it?

My sister is 12, and she has just finished reading the series. She would tell me about what had just happened, such as reading about a child in the games around her age being mauled to death by monkeys or some such. Or wasps killing another. Or two children making a suicide pact at the end just so that there would be no winner. She is twelve. Yes, she sees worse on the news about shootings and killings, wars and earthquakes. But I always saw books as a way to escape that. And true, there are fights in Potter and Tolkien, there is death and destruction, even of kids. But the majority of them were written for the older age group. And weren’t kids killing kids.

There was an article I read a few days ago about a mom who went with her kids to a midnight showing of the film and came out in shock. Her words are perfectly to the point: “I didn’t expect to come here and see a movie about the young Israeli soldiers sent to occupy the West Bank”. Over dramatic? yes. But she raises a good point. (read the rest of  it here if you want, I highly suggest it).

I remember when September 11th happened.  We were watching in classrooms, and saw all the footage. And by the end of the day, I had grown almost numb to what I was seeing.   The fact that maybe my sister could get numb to kids her age dying…  that frightens me.  A lot.

And hey, maybe I’m over reacting.  I mean, I do play the Deus Ex games and enjoy running around with a laser sword and a flame thrower… so I contacted some friends who HAVE read it and asked their opinions.  I’m posting the questions I asked and the answers I received.

Question and Answer with a Mother (not mine)

1- As a mother, did it disturb you at all to read about kids killing kids?  If not, why?  Was it because you knew it was only a book?

it disturbed me, i think, mainly on the level of a human being. I don’t think I brought so much of “being a mom” to my reading of it.   these books totally got to me. I’m not joking when I say they broke my little heart all the way through. I sobbed like a baby through much of the end of the third book. but it wasn’t .. I don’t know, it didn’t always feel like kids.  I had to remind myself at a couple spots that Katniss was only 16 and 17 when this is taking place.

2- What do you think draws people to them (the books)?

it’s a compelling story, certainly. you really start to empathize with the characters. I couldn’t put it down… I worried about them and wondered what was going to happen until i got back to the book.  it’s this world that’s so detailed and familiar in some ways …and yet such a mystery.  so i think the storytelling has a lot to do with it.  that she unfolds this society as the story progresses.  it’s not everything over the head all at once, the layers keep coming.  and the characters are great.  katniss is sort of oblivious and flawed but sincere.  and the love triangle doesn’t hurt.

3-    finally, is there are age that you think would be best for people to read these books?  example: my sister was 11 or 12 when she started reading them.  The big sister in me goes “TOO YOUNG FOR THIS!”  Having not read them though, I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting
hmm, no, I think 11 or 12 is probably a good age.
Why is that?
The violence is probably up there. It’s shocking, and that’s what gets people talking st first. But the more you dig into the story, you realize it’s about friendship and loyalty, love and loss. It’s about the futility of war, the disparity of socio-economic classes, the inherent cruelty of humanity. It touches on a lot of issues that we face in the real world, only they’re magnified by a thousand. People just relate to a character our a situation easily. I remember I read Catching Fire in about two nights. You just get sucked in to the story.

they’re not graphic .. well, there’s a lot of fighting and killing.

but it’s told from a very innocent perspective, though not at the same time.
katniss has her eyes open; she’s just not always right about what it is she’s seeing.

i’d let my kids read it in the next couple of  years.

it was pretty emotionally taxing for me, but I am just a giant ball of emotions.
stuck together with tears.

 

The same questions to four friends around my age (update: all friends have reported in. But I’m currently working to get a hold of my sister for her opinion on the books. Rather than take words from her mouth, I figured she should have her own say. That’ll be a blog post in and of itself though, once I get a hold of her.):

 

Caleb Hall:
1. I was not disturbed, mostly because, as you say. it’s only a book. Also, it’s a well-written book, and I was too drawn in by the story to be disturbed. Mostly it was just the knowledge that what I was reading was purely fantasy. Knowing that, it didn’t bother me at all.

2. Oooh, good question. Depends on which people. For teenagers, young adults, people my age (I’m 19) I think the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale is a major draw. Shippers pour their hearts out on the internet over how much they love one couple and want them to be together forever.Also, though, the characters are very interesting, and I’m sure everyone can find one to whom they relate, even if the situation in which the characters find themselves is nothing like the readers’ lives. I know there were times while reading the books that I felt a certain kinship with Peeta and Gale. If I can see myself in a book, that makes me love it.

Third, the action. What can I say, the books are action-packed and fun to read. I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat through all 3, but especially in Hunger Games and Catching Fire I was very interested in seeing what happened next, how things would turn out. Action keeps people interested, keeps them reading.

3. Huh, never thought about this. The books are violent, sure, but they’ve also got a lot to teach about society. But would an eleven-year-old see that? I’m not sure. I’d say middle school age, maybe, around 13. The problem is, I love the books, and so I want everyone to read them […] It’s a difficult thing to judge.

 

Jonny Appleseed:
1- It didn’t disturb me, personally. I’m really just desensitized to that sort of thing at this point. Maybe the knowledge that it was just a book factored in. But I think that Collins understood that the impact of the story would be much greater if the Capitol was forcing the districts to send children to die, and that the results would be infinitely more shocking if the kids were doing these things to one another. It’s an idea that’s been touched on before (Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale spring to mind.) But the presence of children in these situations rather than adults makes it tougher on the reader, because you fully expect adults to do these things. The death of a character like Rue doesn’t hurt as much of she’s not a tiny 11 year old girl. The cruelty of the Career Tributes isn’t as frightening or tragic if they’re not teenagers who were raised to enter the Games and slaughter each other.
2- The violence is probably up there. It’s shocking, and that’s what gets people talking st first. But the more you dig into the story, you realize it’s about friendship and loyalty, love and loss. It’s about the futility of war, the disparity of socio-economic classes, the inherent cruelty of humanity. It touches on a lot of issues that we face in the real world, only they’re magnified by a thousand. People just relate to a character our a situation easily. I remember I read Catching Fire in about two nights. You just get sucked in to the story.
3- I don’t think age is really an accurate indicator of maturity. I probably would have been pretty okay to read this at eleven, but I was probably more mature than some fifteen or sixteen year olds. It’s honestly no worse than your average hard PG-13 or soft R movie. The fact that it’s kids doing the worst of it makes it seem a lot worse than it is.

 
Hunter “Wildback”
1- I wasn’t particularly disturbed by the concept. I think It may have somthing to do with knowing they were only books. Plus, I was aware of the setting and the importance of understanding how the actions of the characters fit into the world.

2-I rather enjoyed them. I found the story compelling and the characters interesting. I believe that the strength of the story comes from the important meanings we take away from it and the lessions we learn. In esscence, it’s a cautionary tale about overcoming the odds and the dangers of consumerism.

3- Well I think that you should be at least 13 before reading these books, while not overly graphic in its discription death is a constant companion to the characters. Someone reading the tale should be mature enough to handle that.

Joe Knight
1- It didn’t disturb me because it was just that well written and that well set up. The disturbing part was the fact that the children were put into that situation, not really the fact that they killed each other.
2- The story is compelling, a post apocalyptic world that’s rebuilt on the back of oppressed districts who must offer up tributes to compete in gladiatorial games once a year.

3- The first book, I’d say is okay for early teens. Yes, it’s got questionable subject matter in it, but not terribly so, and it’s not graphic about any of it. The second book gets darker than the first, and the third is much darker and more violent, but even still, not graphically so. The subject matter ages with the reader, so I’d probably put an 11-12 age limit to begin the series, but it’s not anything worse than they’d see on TV these days anyway.

Me again

Basically, at this point in time, I have no desired to read these books.  Maybe when the hype dies down and I can read them without having something explode when someone sees me reading them, I might give it a shot.  But right now, I think I’m better off not knowing.

 

As always, feel free to debate and comment.  I only ask that you keep it civil.  If there isn’t civil, I will  ready the Stick of Whacking to lovingly bring civil back.
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About Megan Hammer

An author just beginning to try to get her foot in the door, Megan hopes that blogging about her love will help her own writing skills, as well as let her see what other people like to read, and connect with them. While her favorites books are mainly in the Fantasy Genre, she is always looking for recommendations for something new to read. Have something to say to her? She is always happy to get e-mail at: inkblabber@gmail.com View all posts by Megan Hammer

8 responses to “My Thoughts on the Hunger Games

  • disperser

    Could not agree more.

    As soon as I knew the subject and general premise of the story I resolved not to read the books or watch the movie. Maybe at some point I will catch it on demand, and come across it, but I won’t seek it out.

    I have no doubt it is a compelling story, but I cannot buy into the premise of kids killing kids for the sport of the rich. I have no doubt kids would be able to do so (happens every day all around the world). They lack the maturity to comprehend mortality.

    What I cannot buy into is the parents, the adults, society as a whole, buying into it. I think even under the threat of extermination a parent would brave death to keep their kid from it. Any decent human being would fight to keep any kid from it.

    I am just not interested, nor would I find believable, such a society. Yes, there are pockets of such depravity in the world. I just can’t believe any event in history would turn the entire human population into acceptance of something that goes so against what is ingrained in majority of humans.

    Heck, even animals risk death to protect their young. As I said, I have no interest in exploring a society that does not manage to rise above the level of an animal.

    • Megan Hammer

      Once the hype wears down, I might make myself read them. The topic makes me uncomfortable, but, like Az mentions below me, it’s for that reason one should read books sometimes. But they will be a library find. Not going to buy them. At least, at this point in time, I say that I am not going to buy them.

  • azuaron

    *I’ve read the books and seen the movie.

    There are some books I’ll probably never read. There are some books I regret reading (and not just because they were poorly written). And there are some books that I read because they make me uncomfortable. Chief among these is Song of Ice and Fire. A close second is The Hunger Games.

    Do kids kill other kids in The Hunger Games? Yes. Is it for entertainment? To an extent. Was I entertained by kids killing kids? No. Kids killing each other is terrible, which is exactly the point.

    Let me point it this way: one of my favorite movies of the past few years was Shoot ‘Em Up. Is it a… quality… movie? No. It’s not supposed to be. It’s called Shoot ‘Em Up. What it is is a gloriously fun, violence-filled, hilarious movie where you could hold your breath whenever a gun isn’t being fired and not pass out. This movie is everything parental groups fear about the glorification of violence and it is filled with more Crowning Moments of Awesome than any other movie of which I can think.

    The Hunger Games is not that. The Hunger Games is not a “fun” read. No one wants to go live in Panem with Katniss. No one says to themselves, “You know what I could use? Some starvation in District 13 while rebelling against the Capitol!” or “I’ll get my name in the Reaping more than you will, haha!” The Hunger Games is about a society violently oppressing its people, and the people fighting back. It’s about how voyeurism/reality television distort people’s view of the world. It’s about the false security of vanity, and the willful ignorance of the well-off who don’t want to think about the downtrodden because it makes them uncomfortable.

    The Hunger Games is a great trilogy because it’s about things that are happening today, in our society and societies around the world, and serves as a discussion starter for people who want to make the world better.

    Although, I don’t know about a 12 year old reading it. Maybe wait until 14.

    (For other books to make you uncomfortable, look no further than China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. If you ever wanted to know how to describe something as “disgusting” in an interesting way, Mieville can show you how it’s done.)

    • azuaron

      Speaking of Shoot ‘Em Up…

      You know what I hate? When WordPress makes me link to http://azuaron.wordpress.com/ (which doesn’t exist) instead of any of my actual websites…

    • disperser

      If you like Shoot’Em Up, you might enjoy Hitman.

      You make good points. I think people differ in their needs, but being uncomfortable was never a reason for me to read a book or watch a movie. In fact, it’s exactly opposite. I want entertainment, and as much neither the Hunger Games nor Game of Thrones hold any attraction.

      I don’t buy these books make people talk about the problems of the world. For one, people who are not aware of the problems of the world are not likely to become engaged because they read a book or watched a movie. It’s not like the problems of the world are hidden from us.

      For another, the basis of discussion would have to be more a realistic scenarios than presented in these movies and books, and would require at least one of the persons to have some knowledge of parallel, if widely dissimilar, situations existing in the world. If not, the discussion will be centered on the extreme version presented, and of practical use in addressing real-world problems.

      Books and movies for me are entertainment, are escape from the real world. These are neither. Granted, I am speaking strictly from my perspectives, my needs, my expectations from books and movies.

      I can certainly accept people having different expectations from them, but I suspect there will not be a big swell of public opinion (aside what is there already) to put an end to child soldiers or dishonest/scheming politicians based on either of these efforts.

  • KLooDoo

    I think I was told to read “Lord of the Flies” in middle school (so the same age as little sis). It turned out to be one of my favorite classics as a kid.

    So is it too grown up with all of the violence? I’m a parent now, and really don’t think so. In these books, the violence and romance is controlled to some extent. They can find much much worse at their fingertips.

    As an aside, I thought you and your Hunger Games followers might like today’s picture puzzle @ KLooDoo: http://kloodoo.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/this-guy-was-huge-in-the-90s-and-now-an-entirely-new-generation-of-teens-is-falling-in-love-with-him/

    • Megan Hammer

      Never read Lord of the Flies, so I can’t say if it wierds me out or not. The only experience of Dystopian society books I had in Middle School was The Giver. And this weird book called The Wringer that, even now, I can find no redeeming quality in it at all. So I’ll admit that I’m biased towards “school books” not being the best thing in the world.

      Valid point about finding worse at their fingertips though. At least with a book, a parent, teacher, or even another child knows what is going on, and can prepare for questions that might arise, use them as a spring board towards other things.

      Thanks for your comment.

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