Now, I know this is yet another review about the Hunger Games amongst… probably hundreds. Or that could’ve been exaggerated.
So this is just my humble opinion about the HG books. I’m not trying to start a fight. I don’t want to get in a big, sticky “comment war” over this. I don’t want anyone screaming and tearing each others’ hair out (okay, that *probably* wouldn’t happen…) I mean, feel free to express your opinions, whether you agree or disagree with me, but just…be nice, and respectful 🙂 I’m just a Christian, 16-year-old girl trying to give a balanced perspective of this new series.
For the longest time, I refused to read the HG series, despite the fact that it was “catching fire” (pun intended). I had read a Christian review by an author that I normally agree with on these kinds of things, and was persuaded out of reading these books.
But then, as you could probably guess, things changed.
No, I did not read them just because they were popular. No, I did not read them because I decided to rebel against this author for some strange reason. Actually, I read them because I read a different review, a review which caught my eye and my mind.
A review that really just made sense.
And here are the words of AnnaKate, from Because He Loves Me :
If you haven’t noticed, the Christian media has been bashing the Hunger Games quite a bit. This review, from a site I usually trust and respect, made me so mad that I was spouting to my dad (who had no idea what I was talking about) and I was only consoled by this other review, which encouraged me that not all Christians had utterly missed the point of this fabulous series.
Some have read the books. Some haven’t. Most haven’t seen the movie. Whatever the case, the large majority of the Christian community really hates the Hunger Games. It’s not that they thought it was bad quality or that they hated the acting. In fact, they all have to admit that it was a stellar example of a movie as far as the quality goes.
They simply can’t seem to get past the first impressions of this gritty, barbaric-sounding story and discover the powerful message and exemplary subtleties of humanity within. And so, without further ado, I am writing an open letter to the Christian media expression my view of the Hunger Games and its redemptive qualities.
Dear Christian Media.
First of all, a disclaimer– the movie/books are disturbing, and never pretend to be otherwise. They are not feel-good, happy movies in a Disney sense. What they do portray is a gritty, life-like battle between good and evil, between freedom and oppression. I left with a heavy feeling in my heart, like many of you, not because the movie/books glorified evil, but because it simultaneously showed it so plainly and yet so subtly for what it was. The violence was not gratuitous or gory– they sought to show the horror of the Games without turning us into those voyeurs called Capitol citizens. The action is not fun or entertaining but sickening (and still without being over-the-top) and the violence is very tastefully handled.
The best way to get a feel for the redemptive values of the story and appreciate it for the phenomenon that it is is to read the books– but I understand if you choose not too. I, too, put off reading them for some time after hearing them described as “the next Twilight” and very dark. But they are absolutely amazing for many reasons, mainly the impacting and haunting stories and messages that they carry.
They are a story of a girl who is motivated by love for her family and not lust for a boy to step into her sister’s place and thus enter a gruesome parade that can end only in death. But she plays the game by her own rules, trying to save the life of a girl who reminds her of the sister she volunteered for and also the life of a boy who gave her bread and hope so long ago…
It’s this boy, Peeta Mellark, who also seeks to play by his own rules, challenging the sick adherence to the Capitol’s mindset and desiring to “still be me” even in death. To show them that he’s more than just “a piece in their games.” Not only that– he has a deep, abiding, selfless love for Katniss and the moment his name is reaped, he chooses to save her life at the cost of his own, teaming up with the Careers to lead them away, fighting others so she can escape, and ready to give his life so that she can go home.
Both admirable main characters comprehend and appreciate life’s value, a thing which has been forgotten in Panem. And they both repeatedly put their own lives on the line to save others. Consider the contrast between the “Career pack” and Katniss and Peeta– the Careers whooped and hollered as they found yet another tribute to slaughter and laughed at their distress. But when Katniss ran into Foxface in the woods, both run away rather than kill each other– not from cowardice, but from humanity. Peeta would rather die than have any harm come to Katniss, and takes a serious wound to the leg to prevent her death.
What makes these books, even more than the movies, sheer genius, is that no one is perfect. Right and wrong are not clear-cut and black and white and utterly unambiguous, and the Capitol has to muddied purity that it is a constant struggle for Katniss to know what she should do. Catching Fire is Katniss’s search for peace and rest where there is none, and Mockingjay contains more grey areas than any book I have ever read.
The characters make frequent mistakes, but their intentions are consistently honorable and their greatest virtue is their courage. Courage to stand up to this government when no one else would. It takes a brave, strong, and intelligent young girl and an equally brave and intelligent boy with a tender heart to challenge President Snow and say, “I will not adhere to your rules, and I will not play this Game. I will not betray morality.”
This is a story of hope and humanity that survives in a voyeuristic, all-too-familiar world. Even in this corrupt world that is completely controlled by an even more corrupt government, the characters, after grappling with the very meanings of good and evil and truth and error, make upright, noble decisions.
And this is a story that is incredibly relevant in a world where reality TV and increasingly violent movies are called “entertainment” and more and more people gravitate to video games featuring torture and bloody killings. Didn’t the Gamemakers– those guys in white suits controlling the virtual panels that controlled the Games– look like teens playing video games? The Hunger Games carries a subtle yet poignant and decidedly un-‘preachy message that is direly necessary. I agree that to bring children and undiscerning teens to this movie would be unwise, but isn’t that true for every movie? This is a message that has long been necessary and has been previously pushed to the shadows by stories about wizards and vampires. But now Collins’ powerful writing and compelling story have thrust them into the limelight, and we must take notice. Haven’t we already seen a civilization flocking to worship their heroes and then throw them into a arena to fight to the death?
History repeats itself.
She words it way better than I ever could.
And one thing that I found from reading the books, was this point Suzanne Collins was trying to make.
She was trying to show how much America is like– and how much more it will become like– Rome.
This girl *definitely* did her homework.
At the school that I go to, I have learned a lot of Roman history. Which made the books much more interesting, to see all of the under-lying meanings in the story.
The country was named “Panem”. “Panem” in Latin means “bread”.
The Hunger Games are not a random idea she came up with. She was trying to reflect the games of the Gladiators, fighting each other, killing each other, for the sake of their onlookers’ entertainment. And she does not put this is a good light at all. She is not glorifying in gory, bloody violence. She is showing how awful, how ugly, and how inhumane it was. I read somewhere that what sparked her idea of writing the Hunger Games books was when she was sitting in a hotel, flipping through a bunch of T.V. channels, and she was disgusted with how much America glories in violence as entertainment.
It’s sickening, really.
And the “Capitol” (which is what the government was called), was controlling of everything in the people’s lives. Everything. They controlled the families. They controlled how much food each district (another name for their “state”). They controlled their lives. At least, until two young kids realized they needed to rise up against them and show them that they are *not* just another piece in their Games. The Games harden and numb the children to humanity and the value of life. And Katniss and Peeta retained their compassion and morality.
There is a lot of politics in these books.
And there are a lot more other parallels between Panem, and America, and Rome. However, I do not want to spoil the book 🙂
And another thing: I know Katniss and Peeta weren’t perfect. By any means. And, yes, they made quite a few wrong choices.
But isn’t that like anybody? In war, there are so many grey areas. Not everything is clear to these two what is right and what is wrong.
And that’s what makes the Hunger Games realistic. That’s what makes Katniss and Peeta human, I guess you could say.
And, yes, there were some things in the series that made me cringe. Why did she say that? Gosh, what were they thinking?! Nooo, Katniss, NOOO, DON”T DO THAT!!!!
And the like.
As you can probably tell, though, I do recommend these books, overall. But just… not to 9 or 10 year-olds. These books– due to the violence and detail and mature content (not in a bad way)– are for a slightly older audience. I would say at least 13 and up. And it’s better if the person knows Roman history, so that way they can contemplate the meanings, the names, and the little hidden messages throughout the story.
I do not recommend these books to those who are squeamish, and weak-stomached. I recommend it to those who can handle reading details about war and its consequences.
Suzanne Collins is sending a very clear message in these books, if you pay attention. Just like AnnaKate said…
History always repeats itself.