Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games Trilogy includes three young adult novels: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and The Mockingjay.  The books have been such a publishing sensation (a la Harry Potter and the Twilight series) that a synopsis is rather redundant. But here's my brief version: Our 16-year-old heroine Katniss Everdeen lives in Panem, the country that exists in what used to be North America. Katniss and her friend Gale hunt and trade on the black market to keep their families fed--a rarity in what are known as the Districts. Panem is ruled from the Capitol, a city of luxury and foolishness; all of the work needed to keep the Capitol going is done in the Districts, where the people toil away with inadequate food and few creature comforts, kept docile by the annual ritual in which two children from each of the Districts must participate in the Hunger Games. Only one combatant can survive the Games; the live telecast of the Games is required viewing throughout Panem.  When her sister Prim is chosen for the Games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place, setting in motion a series of events that will eventually bring down the Capitol. As if three volumes of treachery, violence, and death weren't enough, Collins throws in a love triangle (Katniss, her fellow "tribute" Peeta, and  Gale) to provide extra angst for Katniss (and the foundation for a corny happy ending). 

I don't read much science fiction, fantasy, or dystopian literature (not sure where among those genres The Hunger Games technically falls), but I thought the premise of the series was intriguing. At the same time, I was disturbed by the notion that Collins wrote this series for children (teenagers are, after all, still children).  I was creeped out by the idea of presenting kids with the specter of a society in which children are nothing but pawns for evil adults (okay, despite my sometime-cynicism, I'm essentially naive and over-protective).  And the level of violence, the horrible ways in which people are killed, and the number of killings done by children made me cringe.  

Of course, I thought Lord of the Flies was one of the best books I had ever read when I encountered it as a teenager, and it was about kids doing unspeakable things. But Lord of the Flies didn't, in my opinion, use violence as entertainment, which I feel The Hunger Games does. And make no mistake, the books are entertaining. I just hope my grandchildren don't read them until they are 20 or so!


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