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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm Not Hungry for The Hunger Games!

Finally. I finished The Hunger Games. I wanted to find out what the fuzz is all about. I am not going to give a thorough review just some of my literary thoughts about it.
The book takes places in a post apocalyptic North America much like Mad Max. Now it is called Panem with 12 districts controlled by the Capitol. The Capitol sponsors the hunger games as a result of an uprising by district 13 against the Capitol. District 13 was eliminated. Now all districts have to have two of their young ones (13-18) fight for survival in these games. The last person standing out of the 24 is the winner.
This concept isn't new. This is the idea of the Gladiators. They were controlled by Rome and they forced to fight till death. In the Hunger Games though, there isn't much fighting going on. It takes a long time before the action takes place and when it does it is very reserved. The main protagonist Katniss only kills two people out of 24 and the book isn't gory in any way. So we can call it Gladiator light. I don't think this is a bad thing, but isn't a new idea.
This concept raises the question of good and evil, especially evil by oppressive government. But this concept isn't new either. You find this in Orwell's 1984.

Another important element is the fact that the Capitol is watching every move by the competitors. This reminded me of The Truman Show. In The Truman Show, as opposed to The Hunger Games, the protagonist doesn't know he lives in a manufactured world and everybody is watching him. But the concept is very similar.

The first 130 pages gives the background and preparation of the games. The second half (131-374) involves the games. The author does a good job describing and setting the background with flashbacks in the first half and overall in the book. The training part moves fast and it is hard to believe real training takes place. I was expecting action in the second half, but it didn't come. There is very little of it, and the killings are kept very discreet. Much of the book is centered around Katniss' predicament and her discovered love Haymitch.

As far as character development, I wasn't totally convinced. The author description of Katniss was not well-developed nor believable. I couldn't buy that a sixteen-year old had become a skilled warrior on her own out of a survival need and able to defeat all other competitors. Her characterization is a bit shallow and besides Haymitch, all others are barely described.

What makes the book so popular? It is really a no brainer. First, there is the teenage factor. Teenagers are in the book which is the intended audience. Teenagers are attracted to teenagers, especially those who go against the "system." That is the second appealing feature. The concept of a teenager standing up against an evil system is attractive. It works with young people. Finally, the love factor is attractive. What's a book without a couple in love? (even a concept as ridiculous as a vampire in love is attractive to teenagers and young adults) Add to this the intrigue of one survivor and you have teenagers and young people hooked to find out how it will end. And for this you will have to read book 2 and 3.

So there. I probably made enemies after this. But you are free to disagree with me.

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