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The Hunger Games

June 11, 2012

One pleasure of being a parent in recent years is the explosion of interesting, well-written, thought-provoking young adult novels.  There’s no way to quantify the positive impact on families of something like the Harry Potter series—books that are read and re-read by children and parents alike, that provide an endless source of common reference points, of fond memories, of intellectually stimulating conversation, of challenging moral and philosophical discourse.

So too with Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  I’m playing catch-up with these books.  I’ve just finished reading Book 1, The Hunger Games; but I loved the almost breathless pace of the book, heightened by the immediacy and narrow focus created by the first-person narrative of heroine Katniss Everdeen.  Katniss’ partial awareness—of her own emotions and skills, of how others perceive and react to her, of the ways in which she and other participants in The Game are manipulated—creates a thrilling and suspenseful edginess that carries throughout the book.

And yet Richard Alleva’s review of The Hunger Games movie, in which he observed that “there remains something morally dubious about The Hunger Games” in its shying away from the full consequences of what killing does to the killer, struck a chord with me.  Collins’ choices remind me of J.K. Rowling’s decision to soften the ending of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows to read, “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years.  All was well.”

I understand the impulse (she put those children through enough pain and suffering), but Tolkien’s ending of The Lord of The Rings—in which Frodo is permanently scarred by loss of a finger and ends up not being able to return home after his quest-jouney—strikes me as more true to life.  Killing, however morally justified, does not leave the killer unscarred.  There’s no way to overcome evil without being changed in the process (partly because evil is never just “out there”, it’s also within us).

Having said that, I’m hoping some of you have read The Hunger Games and will carry on the conversation in the comments section.

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From → Books

3 Comments
  1. I certainly do not want to give anything away about the next two books in the series for you, but I think RIchard Alleva should read the books because the scars that killing another person are certainly visible on Peeta and Katniss, and will definitely be addressed in the next films. It would have been difficult for the writers to include scenes showing the damage Peeta and Katniss suffered in the first movie, since the movie ended right after the Games. But in Catching Fire the issue is addressed. Both suffer from nightmares. We learn Haymitch has to sleep holding a night, even twenty-five years after his Games. And many of the new characters encountered in Catching Fire have clearly suffered after killing others.

    I very much appreciate your post because I hear adults saying far too often that teens shouldn’t be wasting their time reading novels such as the Hunger Games, which they class as ‘junk.’ This gets me mad because these naive adults do not consider the alternative: that teens go home and watch TV instead of reading anything. Any books that get young people reading, thinking and discussing, as you said, are valuable.

    • Thanks for this great comment! I’m just starting “Catching Fire” and looking forward to seeing what happens.

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