I’m definitely not usually the type of person to willingly jump into the next big thing just because it’s popular. So I understand why a lot of people might look at this explosive franchise and simply ignore it. I, for one, am always wary of the next fad and not so sure I want to become one of those millions of obsessive, squealing teenage fans.
But one day in 2010 I picked up a random book at a bookstore because the premise simply intrigued me, and it turned out to be a resonating, disturbing, and engaging story.
The Hunger Games is everywhere! I can guarantee that if you hadn’t heard of it before, you’ve heard of it now. It’s all over television and social media, and it seems like pretty much everyone is talking about it. It’s so big, people are calling this franchise the “next Twilight” (which, by the way, annoys me because HG is so different). People everywhere are buzzing about Suzanne Collins’ book series and the newly released movie.
So what’s the buzz all about?
Here’s the main gist of the story: In the future, the ruins of North America—known now as the country of Panem—are split into thirteen districts, and run by a totalitarian Capitol city. A rebellion brews, rallying up citizens and igniting chaos, which results in the apparent obliteration of District 13. In retaliation for the rebellious outbreak, the government sets up the annual Hunger Games. The remaining twelve districts are forced to send one boy and one girl—who are chosen at random—to compete in a televised fight to the death in a brutal arena. All citizens of Panem are forced to watch this twisted fanfare on television, and every single kid from the ages of twelve to eighteen is required to enter the drawing to participate. When the book (and movie) begins, it is the eve of the 74th Hunger Games, and we are introduced to sixteen-year-old Katniss, a girl from District 12. It is the Reaping Day, where the district’s tributes are chosen and then sent away to the Capitol. In anguish Katniss watches as her twelve-year-old sister’s name is called, and volunteers to compete in the bloody games to take the place of her sister.
Okay, I won’t give away much more, because I really think you should read it! And I’m not saying that just because the story is good. Yeah, it is quite good, packed with action and complex characters—an edge-of-your-seat read with an intriguing plot and gripping narrative. But that’s not the only reason.
I think the Hunger Games is so popular in part because the story feels so relevant in the present day. The deep, underlying themes teem with social commentary and ask some tough questions. Which, of course, was Collins’ intention in The Hunger Games series.
Yeah, this story is bloody. While the brutality of the games is well represented in the movie, the violence of the book would give a completely faithful adaptation an R-rating. The citizens of Panem are forced to watch a barbaric bloodbath every year from their family homes, hoping and praying their children won’t be picked for next year’s violent spectacle.
But how is that relevant today?
Think about reality television. Multitudes of people voluntarily tune in to it every year. It’s part of our culture. The media is all about fame and celebrity. So we relate to the idea of watching some ridiculous madness on our television screens. We absorb all this from our living rooms, and read all about it in tabloids and blogs.
But speaking of our culture, think about what we see every day when we flip the channel and the news comes on. We witness snippets of overseas war. We see death and despair worldwide in the form of crime, combat, and natural disasters.
What if things went so far that we all became desensitized to those things—to any social issues, for that matter? Or simply desensitized to death in general?
The author of the Hunger Games asks those questions, and after reading the story it’s likely the ideas will stay with you. It really makes you think hard about the value of life, of love, of friendship, and of family. The story is about the good and bad in human nature, and what happens if things go way too far.
If you give it a shot, I think you’d probably enjoy the story in this dystopian novel (and its sequels), whether you’re 15 or 50. I think The Hunger Games appeals to a wide range of people because of its thought-provoking themes and the humanness of rare heroine Katniss Everdeen. But okay, guys. I am an eighteen-year-old girl, so of course I’m gonna love the adventure, the romantic parts, the gut-wrenching suspense. And all of those are great! But I think that it’s the deeper stuff—disturbing ideas and all—that really make the story what it is. It’s different than a lot of young adult literature out there. I just have a warning for you. You might be staying up all night if you pick up the books.
NOTE: So I went to a midnight showing with friends for the Hunger Games, but today I’m seeing it again! So yeah… I am a freakish fangirl… but I’m not ashamed!! Hahahaha <3