I’m going to say right now, if you haven’t read the Hunger Games and you don’t like spoilers don’t read this blog post. We’ll see you on Monday, it’s fine But honestly, if you’re waiting to “just watch the movies” you’re sooooo missing out. Not that the movie isn’t good, because it is, and it’s a fantabulous companion to the book you need the rest of the story. With that out of the way, on with the review!
I chose to review all three together because I have to think of the Hunger Games as a whole, not as single parts. After seeing the movie and reading the first book I wasn’t sure how I felt. For certain I did not really think that they were YA (young adult) fiction. I think most teens, (and, let’s face it) the majority of adults even are going to completely miss the point of the books. One only has to look at the way they’re marketing the movies at us like we were Capitol citizens to know that. Add that to the number of “Capitol Couture” fashion lines cropping up and I want to just weep.
There are a few people who raise their eyebrows at these books. I admit, I was with them for starters. Even after the first book I reserved judgement. The content is horrific if you let yourself think about it. It’s violent, it’s difficult, and extremely moving. Despite every indication to the contrary these books do not glorify violence. They are violent, although it’s easier to read than watch as Katniss does not describe every gory detail, it’s the mind-violence, the stuff your brain fills in. But the violence is BAD, very bad. The way the Games change the children is not presented in a positive light whatsoever. Suzanne Collins manages to walk that line of writing about it without glorifying it. But don’t let the events of book 1 put you off the series. Wait, wait and be patient and see how it all unfolds.
I find it hard to breathe while I read these books. It starts when Katniss volunteers for Prim in the Reaping in Book 1 and I pretty much hold my breath through the end of Book 3. In only a few ways do these books turn out the way I wanted them to. The Capitol is overthrown, Snow dies, Katniss lives. That’s basically it. Everything else about these books makes me mad. That’s not to say I don’t love them, I do. But Katniss (and us the readers) can not catch a break!
Nothing, I repeat, nothing takes my breath away, goes straight in and shreds my heart like the two people above: Cinna and Rue.
The moment I met Rue I loved her. Confession: I saw the movie first with a friend. I hadn’t read the books because of all the reasons a lot of people are hesitant. I just really wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole idea. Anyway, so I met her in the movie first and she was adorable. Heartwrenchingly so, as you know her fate. Even now, sitting here curled up at home, enjoying the last bits of sunshine, thinking about her death, about the flowers, the song, and the three fingers raised in salute to District 11 who respond with a salute and a revolution, I tear up. She symbolizes the horror of the Hunger Games to me. Yes, there are horrible things like Careers and what the Games does to the Victors… but those are complicated many layered feels that I don’t really feel qualified to talk about. Rue’s death and the pointlessness of it can’t help but touch you. A beautiful, innocent, life crushed under the shadow of the Capitol.
The movies do not do Cinna justice, not even a tiny, puny, little bit. And in doing so I think they fail to recognize another of the most powerfully moving parts of the books. I could be biased, Cinna is my favorite character hands down, but I don’t think that’s it. The books reveal something the movies don’t touch, Cinna’s masterful hand in the Uprising. Without him there would be no Mockingjay, heck… without him I don’t think Haymitch’s drunk ass would have been able to get the sponsors. But, back to the Uprising. Cinna did nothing by accident. He was deliberate, intentional, and fully aware that his actions would lead to his death. (Side note: I have a headcannon in which Cinna, although badly beaten by the Capitol guards, lives and he and Katniss are besties in District 12 after the war). Even after his death his hand reaches in and moves me to tears. I can only hope and pray that movies 2 and 3 do this amazing man justice and portray him as the revolutionary that he is.
The books are a bit of an uncomfortable read. And they should be. Not because of the violence alone, which is disturbing, make no doubt. But because of how I walk away thinking how we are not so very different from the Capitol. The excess, the blind eye, the corruption, the reliance on others, it’s all there and then some. The Hunger Games are adisturbing look at a world that honestly is not all that much different than ours.
I would not suggest reading the Hunger Games as a book to enjoy, although it is very good. It is far better considered a political and social commentary meant to start a fire in us as it were. Personally I do not think it is a coincidence that not long after putting down Mockingjay I picked up one of my Urban Homesteading books and began to plan for a simpler life.
“But there are much worse games to play.”