Post number forty-four is for Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, a required reading title for my Fantasy Lit course. My friends have been recommending this book to me pretty much since it came out and I never read it. I am not really a fan of dystopian fiction, although I have read a few books that I’ve enjoyed, and while this book was exceedingly well written (a few personal grammatical/punctuational issues aside) the topic was really dark and bleak and just … I don’t know. Not a favorite, let’s just say.
Brief spoilerish things follow.
The entire world that this book is set it – a new country that’s risen out of the ashes of the US (called Panem) – is very dark. The country is divided into districts that each produce one thing of value. The main characters are from District 12, which is coal mining country (in the former Appalachian Mountains), and as a result, is very poor. A lot of people die from starvation. Katniss and Peeta are selected (in a random drawing) to compete in the annual event called The Hunger Games, in which two people from every district, one boy and one girl for a total of 24, compete to the death in an arena. The competition is televised to the entire nation. (The competition is a reminder by the Capitol that they can and will control every aspect of your lives, and that it’s useless to rebel – and in fact, rebellion is not tolerated at all.) To give away the ending (which is pretty obvious considering it’s a trilogy), Katniss and Peeta survive, but only because they refuse to kill each other even when they’re the last two remaining.
While I liked Katniss (and I pretty much loved Peeta), the willful ignorance of Peeta’s feelings for her – even when he specifically spells them out – was irritating, and the ending was dissatisfying because of it. She maintains this ridiculous idea that he’s just pretending, and her comments about how great he is at the banter and how great he is at playing that he’s in love with her were so annoying that they made me want to reach through the pages and strangle her. HE’S SO GOOD AT IT BECAUSE HE IS IN LOVE WITH YOU, YOU MORON. And she has feelings for him, too, but is caught between them and what she maybepossibly (but not really?) feels for a friend of hers back home, who’s named Gale. (And the only reference we get that he might have feelings for her in return is when he makes a comment that they could run away together and be able to survive. That’s it.) I get that she’s just dealt with this huge traumatic experience, and the country itself has Issues, but her blindness towards what Peeta is feeling just really really got on my last nerve.
Plus the book sets itself up for the last two parts of the trilogy, wherein Katniss has been told that she needs to keep playing the star-crossed lover in order to keep her and Peeta alive, because they basically defied the Capitol and now the President wants revenge for making him look stupid. I already know a lot of what happens in the final two books, and know that the Drama and Angst is just really not for me. This book was heartwrenching in other ways, too, because in the Hunger Games you are living through Katniss’ eyes, so get to see so much death and destruction (and the final scene where Cato dies is just horrendous), plus there’s just the overall bleakness that is life in Panem and just … yeah. Not for me.
That being said, it’s nice to see a really competent female character, and Katniss (her emotional stupidity aside) is definitely that. She’s resourceful and clever and strong, which was awesome. But the topic of the stories itself just aren’t my cup of tea, and I won’t be reading the next two in the series.