The Hunger Games… The next big young adult series since Twilight. The first book of the three-book series came out years ago. The first movie came out last week. From the moment I found myself engrossed in the book I have had a love for The Hunger Games. And while I will admit that I was disappointed with the end of the series, I think this is an excellent young adult series. Here’s why…
The main character is female and she is not some simpering, weak-willed girl who relies on boys to take care of her and do everything while she hovers in the corner. She is basically the EXACT opposite of Bella from Twilight and is the answer to so much that is wrong with young adult literature these days. Why is it nearly every book has female characters that lack backbone and strength?
Katniss’s will to live and her decision to take the outcome of the games into her own hands sparks a revolution that her world needs. This is not some petty little revolt that would give more money to the rich and powerful. This is about demanding a standard of living that is at least deserving of the dignity of the person. This is about rising out of the ashes of the totalitarian regime that has regulated every aspect of their lives for years.
The main characters are not mainly provoked by self-centered motives. Katniss takes her sister’s place in the games because she knows her sister will never survive and she is the one responsible for protecting her family. It is the ultimate sacrifice to give your life for another. Peeta takes care of Katniss knowing he won’t live and he can at least spend his last days caring for the girl he loves.
Katniss isn’t out for blood. Katniss never hunts down a person to take their lives. She is in survival mode not hunter mode. Yes, the games are brutal and violent. She didn’t come up with the idea, she didn’t make the rules. She is a pawn in the government’s desire to exact complete control over the lives of others. (Disclaimer: This is my big bone of contention with the end of the series. Katniss opts for the games again. But I think a good argument could be made to say that her decision is the result of living so long surrounded by darkness. It changes a person, even one who is trying to restore peace.)
The revolution Katniss and Peeta inspire is something we could use today. If only more people would stand up for injustice, for life, for the human person the world would be a lot better place. I was blown away reading the series by the power of two people and what a difference they can make to inspire thousands. We need such inspiration for the battles we’re waging today.
Despite the brutality of the games, Katniss maintains a sense of the dignity of the person. She cares for Peeta’s mangled leg by putting her life on the line to get him the ointment that would cure him. She tries to protect Rue and then gives her a beautiful send off when she dies. At the end when she is basically instructed to kill Peeta in order to win, Katniss doesn’t give killing Peeta a single thought. Instead she devises the only plan that will work to save them both.
Katniss’s relationships with Gale and Peeta are chaste. Yes, as the series continues Katniss and Peeta do sleep in the same bed but there is no hanky panky written about or assumed. And if you compare that to a large percentage of current young adult literature this makes it revolutionary. When so many books feature sexual intercourse as something assumed and utterly ordinary between unmarried teens, usually with no consequences, this book stands apart.
The use of fashion to make a statement is genius. Cinna is one of my favorite characters. He realizes from the beginning that Katniss is different and that she is going to be part of something big. Instead of tempering her through his costume choices, as the capitol would like him to do, he allows her to shine. She is the ‘girl on fire.’ He risks his life to slip her the Mockingjay pin. Afterall, don’t we all make statements daily with our choices of what to wear? The frivolity and meaninglessness of the residents of the capitol are brought into clear light from the over-the-top outfits they don and the lengths they go to in order to alter their appearance.
I could go on and on…
With all this said, I do think this is a book that should be read jointly by parents and children. It is an EXCELLENT book for discussion. It opens the door for conversations about the meaning of life, standing up for things you believe in, the love of family, the value of self-sacrifice, the importance of surrounding ourselves with good influences, etc…