The Quarter Bin

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How The Hunger Games Captured My Heart

Posted by Sarah LeBoeuf On September - 9 - 2011

Though the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy came out in 2008, it wasn’t on my radar until last year, when the spectacularly amusing Mark Reads website chose it as its post-Harry Potter project. Based on Mark’s scathing summaries of the Twilight series, and his adoration of the aforementioned boy wizard, I knew I could trust his judgment, but still–young adult novels?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way too advanced or intellectually superior to read a good YA novel. In fact, I spent one of my poorest summers in Philadelphia post-college buying old YA books from thrift shops, and exchanging and discussing them with a good friend. It was fun, but none of the books we read made a lasting impression on me in any way other than humorous (which, I’m pretty sure, was not the intention of Up in Seth’s Room). I’m also not above following stories featuring teenagers doing ridiculous things; a quick peek at my DVR or movie collection could tell you that. Despite all of this, there are certain stigmas attached to young adult novels, like exceedingly saccharine storylines, young love, and typical teenage familial issues.

The Hunger Games trilogy takes these clichés and blows them the fuck up.

I’m not going to say the books are without flaws or tropes. There is a love story—in fact, it’s a love triangle. Some of Suzanne Collins’ writing is sloppy, heavy-handed, or both. Our leading lady, Katniss Everdeen, has parent issues, just like every other teenager. The trilogy is also addictive, ridiculously violent, and often quite heart-wrenching. I started reading days before I left for vacation, thinking that I’d move through the books at a leisurely pace, because they would be great beach reading. That plan didn’t quite work out, because two days later I was done with all three books, and talking about them to anyone who would listen.

I should probably admit that I’m a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic or dystopian future story, which is one of the reasons I was interested in these books in the first place. Suzanne Collins has built such an incredible and believable (not to mention depressing) world on the ruins of North America that I was instantly hooked. Then there are the Games themselves, the ones that randomly select one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 in each district and drop them in an arena to fight to the death. Not only did the immediate violence in the first book kill any concern I had that Collins was going to be too easy on these kids for the sake of her Young Adult categorization, but there were actual consequences that were still being explored at the end of Mockingjay. Win or lose, no one leaves the Games the same way they came in, and Collins builds on each traumatic experience, showing how characters are permanently affected by the Capitol’s treachery.

Before reading the books, I didn’t look at any reviews or the book jacket blurbs, because I wanted to go into each story having no clue what was supposed to happen. Still, there were chapters that made me think I knew what was coming next—only to be surprised over and over again. I thought I knew what was coming, and I was proven wrong over and over again. This happened more in the second and third books than the first, and I was completely unprepared for almost everything that went down after the initial Games. Too often, in almost every form of media, you can see the major plot points coming, either because of heavy-handed foreshadowing or a lack of originality in the subject matter. The Hunger Games didn’t end up where I thought it would at all, and I love the trilogy even more for it.

Much like when I finished the Harry Potter series, I was truly sad to reach the end of Mockingjay and realize I was done with the story. Only instead of having years to digest everything, I’d read the entire trilogy in two days, and it was over in a blur. Now all I can do is digest every new piece of information released about the upcoming Hunger Games film, complain about the casting choices, and look forward to seeing it on opening day no matter what. Oh, I guess I could also start speculating how long I’d last in a real-life Hunger Games. I’m thinking about five minutes.

[Image sources: 1, 2, 3]

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