Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hunger Games, continued...


So now you’ve heard how I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to read these books and you are probably wondering – So what’s your assessment?  What did you think?

Here’s the problem:  I finished the last book yesterday and I still don’t know what to think.  If I had written this post halfway through the series I would have been jumping up and down yelling, “YES!  These are awesome!  Why did I wait?”  But, the second half of the last book was… so… not only sad, but depressing.  I mean, I was expecting sad (someone warned me part way in that “Most of the main characters die.”) but I was expecting it to be one of the guys.  You know, to make it easier for Katniss to decide who she really loves.  It got so crazy toward the end that I had to keep reminding myself that in a first person book the protagonist has to live through, but I didn’t ever expect her to lose so much… of herself.

I have to say though, I did find SO many good lessons in these books.  I can’t honestly ever think of Katniss as a Christ figure (like many before me have tried to do) because she is such a flawed human being that I’m not even sure I would label her as a “heroine”… “female protagonist” is the best she’s going to get from me.  But despite that, she did risk her life to save her sister.  And even though I won’t give her the title “heroine” I would have to say that she one of the most well-written female protagonists I have come across in the YA genre.  She is very complex, and that is not something you find in YA fiction very often. 

I think what I liked most about her is that despite the differences in Panem and today, she is just such a true 17 year old!  So many of today’s writers seem to take their own 35 year old self, dump her in a 17 year old body and call it a YA book.  That’s not how it works.  At 17 you don’t have everything worked out.  You don’t know who you are, who you want to be, or even who you should listen to in order to make those decisions.  That’s Katniss!  In the middle of a rebellion she is just trying to figure out who she is despite everyone who seems to have it figured out for her.

I would have to say that her biggest flaw is that she doesn’t know how to love.  “But, wait!” you say, “Didn’t she sacrifice herself for her sister?”  Yes, but I would guess that maybe Prim is the only person she has loved since her father died when she was 11.  She is friends with Gale, but the friendship, while real, is mostly one of necessity on her part, not love.  As far as Peeta goes… well, I hope that maybe, eventually, she did learn how to love at some point in the epilog (it would seem so). 

Back to the lessons… stand up against evil, despite the cost to your own life is probably the most recognizable one.  But too, there is the lesson that just because someone is fighting against something wrong doesn’t make them right.  President Coin may have been fighting the injustice of the Capitol, but in adopting the same principles and tactics as them she became no better than President Snow.  The world she created in District 13 (and would have continued into the rest of the country) was every bit as tyrannical as the Capitol.  So what if they made sure that people had food?… they didn’t let them think for themselves and in doing so, they didn’t really get to live. 

And then there is the repeat of history.  When President Coin asks the tributes what to do with the remaining Capitol followers and they vote to have “one last hunger games” … did they learn nothing?  How does - just because they did it to us - make it right to do it to them?  It’s the same lesson you have to teach your kids on the playground – just because someone does something bad to you doesn’t give you the right to do it to them.  

Final decision:  I think, despite the depressing ending, I’m joining the bandwagon.  I’ve waited a little while before publishing this, and I have caught myself talking about (and defending) the books based on the lessons they teach.  I don’t honestly think I’ve even scratched the surface of all the lessons in this post, but maybe I have said enough that you will want to read them too.  BUT, whatever you do, DON’T  judge this series by its movie!  

***NOTE*** I have also let my daughter (12yrs old now) start reading them.  She is LOVING them- though she is thoroughly annoyed that I won't tell her the ending, haha...!  Already we have been able to have a couple of very deep conversations.  Not just about what she has learned, but also what I hope she does learn.  And I think that's the real point of literature anyway... to engage, entertain and instruct.


  1. I really appreciate your thoughtful posts on these books, as I've been hesitant to read them myself.

  2. NotmuchgoingonupstairsFebruary 19, 2015 at 6:19 PM

    I've never heard Katniss referred to as a Christ figure. That's a new one to me. If anyone is a Christ figure in this story, I'd say it is Peeta. The boy with the bread who risked harm from his mother to giver her bread when she was starving. He was the one always in the background supporting her. I don't think the comparison is solid, but I like it. I also think Katniss was a fantastic, though realistic, heroine. She is spectacular, but she is also fragile and human. She fought and she overcame. Her future and happiness were marred by the trials she faced. I read commentaries in the past criticizing her behavior in the third book, but I think it was perfect. She rose to the occasion always and did what she needed to do. But there were consequences and she was damaged...and isn't that how it is for all of us? Life is hard and painful. It is full of trials and so many evils. We stand up and fight every day, but the hurts change us and morph us into something new. I know hurts have changed me. I'm happy, but I'm not the girl I used to be. It is on the skeletons of the painful past that we all live now...personal pain and the corporate pain of humanity. One of the most moving quotes of the whole book (for me) was this: "My children, who don't know they play on a graveyard." That right there is part of the reality of human existence. We are playing on a graveyard and the beauty of youth is perhaps that they just don't know it yet. But like Katniss, we all must come of age and endure the hard battles of life.

    1. Wow... I think YOU should talk to my daughter about lessons learned in Hunger Games :-) but I did say I hadn't even scratched the surface of all there is to learn here. I will say you make me want to go back and re-read them again!

      Oh, and Katniss as a Christ figure... When she takes the place of Prim I've heard that compared to Christ taking our place on the cross. Not something I came up with but definitely something I couldn't get out of my head. Honestly, that's probably a big part of the reason I was so hard on her... I'd heard that before I read so that was the pedestal I'd given her to fall from.