Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hunger Games Discussion

Well hello there!  I am hoping to get a good discussion going on The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  Why?  Because I think this is a series that needs to be discussed and not just read.  I will say up-front that I am not the biggest fan of this series.  I think each book got worse for me.  Here were my thoughts when I read the books.

Here are my reviews from Goodreads -

The Hunger Games Review

I will have to give this book 3 stars for now - I did like it, don't know if I can say I really liked it and certainly can't say I loved it. Yes, it definitely is a page turner, but I was very uncomfortable with the whole idea of the Hunger Games. I also felt that the book leaves too many issues unresolved - I realize that was certainly intentional as the author wants her audience to read the next book in the series, but I would like to have felt the knot in my stomach release a little bit after reading the last page. I will be interested to see how I feel about the next book.

Catching Fire Review

I know this is on everybody's favorite book list right now, but it just doesn't do it for me. I find the story very compelling and as with most other readers I feel that it is extremely hard to put down. I guess my problem is how I feel after I have finished reading it. I don't walk away feeling better nor enriched. I'll finish the series and will reserve judgment on everything until I'm done.

Mockingjay Review

I am having a hard time knowing what to write. I know that just about everybody I know loved this series. But I really didn't. I would give this book 2.5 stars if I could. The story is extremely compelling but I was very uncomfortable with the amount of very graphic violence and the teenagers that are witnessing and are part of it. I hope the author's intent was to shock readers into abhorrence of such violence, but I am not sure that quite happens because readers are so focused on the love triangle, the intensity of the story, the other subplots, etc. In the end I didn't understand why Gale was ever made to be a rival for Katniss's love. It just didn't make sense and then at the end when he just disappears from her life without a word? That didn't sit well with me for a lot of reasons, including how Katniss has always called him her "best friend". (Additional note:  Why wasn't there any character development for Gale earlier in the series? We don't learn anything about him, really, until the last book and even then we still don't understand his motives, etc.) The end seemed to be pretty abrupt for me for a book that is wrapping up such an intense series. I had been worried that Collins would end the series by seeing Katniss and Co. help to form a new society that was basically just like the one they fought to destroy, so I was relieved on that count. In the end I think this series is very disturbing even though it "ends well." I hate the fact that the characters are teenagers, if they were even college-aged it would have been easier for me to handle. After I finished reading I felt relief. I wasn't happy that the book ended well, that Katniss ends up with Peeta, that she is able to have children, etc. I just felt relieved that I had finished. Not happy or enriched, or really very good. So, for me it's an OK read, but it's not really a series I can recommend.

I think most of my friends who have read this series love it.  If you are one of those people, I'd like to know what you loved about it.  If you didn't love it, I'd also like to know why you didn't.  Does anyone have any response to the things that bugged me that I mentioned in my reviews (violent topic, age group, weak ending, Gale's character, etc.)?  We talked about the first book in our book club, but I almost wish we could discuss the whole series so I could come to a better understanding, get additional insights, etc.  So...I'm hoping that we can discuss it here.  Thanks all!


Amira said...

This is your old neighbor Erica from Rexburg. I kept meaning to comment on your reviews at goodreads, but I don't think I ever did.

Anyway, there were a lot of things I liked about this series, and some things I didn't (mostly what you didn't like too). But the reason I think this series is important is because it doesn't glorify war or revolution at all. I wish it had spent more time on the aftermath of the revolution (the ending was weak, although I don't know that I would have changed it significantly). But still, for me, the book was about war, manipulation, and bad government.

I didn't really care a lot about the love triangle, and I only liked a handful of the characters (never could stand Katniss), and it was way too violent, but I think it had a worthwhile message.

Doug & Jessica Hansen said...

I had the same overall feelings about the series!! It was a very disturbing story to say the least and I felt very unresolved at the end. I don't know if Collins' idea was to really show how that type of society destroys lives or what. Because in the end I came out feeling like 'Yeah I guess everything ended up OK...' but it felt so uncomfortable and like no one was really normal.

I also felt like the whole love triangle thing was way off in the last book. When we finally did get to hear more about Gale's character, them being in love didn't really make sense. I felt like his character was portrayed so differently in the last book compared to the first. And really how could they be in love, like you said they were teenagers!! Katniss' character made me so mad sometimes because she is so self absorbed and really doesn't deserve either of them.

And the last thing that really bothered me is when they were talking about making Pres. Snow's grandchildren do a hunger games. What??!! didn't they learn anything? And oh its all of a sudden ok for them to feel justified in doing the exact same thing that was done to them. I don't know not a very good message.

It was a very disturbing series. Well written, compelling and interesting yes, but not uplifting in any way! It picked out all of the horrible things about the world and society. But there are still wonderful things that happen in this world and we should focus on them.

Ok, that is all... : )

Amanda said...

I read the first one and probably won't read the next 2. I think you hit it on the head when you said that you didn't feel enriched by the book. I felt dark after reading it and did not like violent nature of the books. There are too many good, uplifting books in the world for me to spend time reading those that darken my spirit

Leslie said...

Thanks for your comments!

@Erica - thanks for pointing out that the series, while violent, didn't glorify war or revolution (at least from the point of view of Katniss - I think others were pretty war-happy, but since she is the main character and the book is written in first person, we read the book through her perspective). I think that point really comes across in the afterword when you learn that the people from 12 come back, that they tear down the stadium, etc. I hadn't thought about that too much so thanks for helping me to see more.

@ Jessica - I know, right, when they propose another hunger games it is totally crazy!! I think though that that is why Katniss kills Coin - she can see that she is no better than the Capital. So I think Coin hadn't really learned anything, but I think Katniss had - and that she actually didn't want to see another hunger games (which is why she shot Coin), even though she voted for it, and that part was so confusing and crazy and we should have been able to understand better what Katniss' motives were at that point because she is telling the story. But that part kind of goes unexplained. I think you are right about Gale too. He doesn't seem to be the same character in book 3 that he was in the other two. I really liked him in the first two books, and thought he was pretty lame in the last one.

@Amanda - Yes! There are so many uplifting books in the world! Great comment! It took me a while to decide to read the other two books. I think I'm at the point in my life where I would much rather read things that leave me feeling peaceful and good, rather than disturbed. The funny thing is I finished 4 books in weeks time (2 being the last two hunger games books). One of the other books was the first in an LDS series called The Great and Terrible and the other was Anne of Avonlea. It was just amazing to compare how each of the books left me feeling. While I do feel that there is value in reading books that leave me questioning and thinking and I am glad that I did finish the series so that I could really think about it, I will leave the "difficult" books to the side for a while.

Cheryl said...

[I haven't read the other comments, so I may repeat things...]

We actually discussed this in our book club last night!

I loved the series. Here's why:

1. It's post-apocalyptic fiction ala. 1984, Brave New World, Farenheit 451, Uglies/Pretties/Specials.
2. Because of #1, it shows us, once again, the ravages of war, "Big Brother", corrupt government/leaders opressing/repressing society.
3. It shows us that war really, truly, and utterly damages people for life.
4. These adventures have a very strong female protagonist. I love that. She's not your typical brooding teenager (like Twilight's Bella). And if she does brood, she has good reason to!
5. The ending of the third book, for me, was perfect because it shows us that after war and carnage there are no "happy endings."
6. It's another warning of how wealth, power, obsession with image, and war can destroy everything we love.
7. It's also a very startling (although subtle) jab at society's obsession with competitive Reality Television. Survivor, anyone? Granted nobody is dying, but still...

More stuff:

A. Gale was the one who called in the troops that killed all of the children, including Katniss' sister. The betrayal and loss of her sister (which was the entire reason she volunteered for the Hunger Games in the first place) went too deep. There was no way she could ever trust him again. Yeah, it would be nice if she could have had "the best friend," but it would have been too easy. Life isn't that easy.
B. The violence is intense. I know. It's pretty hard to read sometimes and I'm not saying it "good" or "wonderful" or "fun to read" because it's not. But I think it points out to what I was saying before: A very realistic view of war/carnage that may very well exist today.
For example:
*Any war (Vietnam, Iraq, WWII)
*Killing Fields in Cambodia
*Russia (Stalin)

As for the past:
*Imperialism (of any kind --Britain, France, USA, etc.)
*Any Empire (Persia, Roman, Alexander the Great, Atilla the Hun)
*Slavery in the United States

So, even though these books are not ones that leave most of us feeling "good" or "enriched" (as you said), they certainly made me think --and think hard. Plus, her characters were so well written!

I don't think I'd let my kids read them until they are older, though. But heck! If I read 1984 when I was 14, then why not The Hunger Games, eh? :)

P.S. Leslie, if you don't like these books, it's okay. You don't have to! That's what's great about having millions of books to choose from; we all like different things. So, no worries! :)

Cheryl said...

P.S. This will sound elitist of me, but I think a very good grasp of history and modern society (not just in our country --but our world as a whole) definitely changes the point of view when reading it. It's like when people try to hold others to the same living standards.

For example! When we were in China, I noticed that the "oppressed people under Communistic rule" were extremely gracious, kind, funny, and personable. And I LOVED China! But I asked somebody how they like China (she had gone a few years back) and all she could say was:
"It makes you realize how lucky we are to have freedom!"

I was like, What?? That's all? Yes, our country rocks, but it's NOT THE ONLY ONE. And people don't always know what they are missing --to hold them to the same standards and/or way of thinking is just ignorant. So, I guess what I'm saying is that although these books were hard to read, we have to imagine if there was a society that was truly like this. We can't hold their actions up to our idea of what behavior should be. Even if it is only fiction.

Wow! This certainly has spurred a few thoughts, that's for sure. :) :) Thanks for letting me rant, Leslie.

Leslie said...

@Cheryl - Good thoughts Cheryl. I wanted to hear what people think because I think that this is a series for discussing. I also realize that there is a lot of war and violence in the world and it's not going to get any better. Also, I realize that every book doesn't need to leave me feeling warm and fuzzy for it to be a book worth reading. In short, I realize that I don't have to like every book and every book doesn't need to be likable to be valuable. In fact, I feel very comfortable with my choices in what I read. I consider myself an educated reader (for many reasons, but partly because my degree is in English and have read literally thousands of books). So...I get that I don't have to like it, but I felt that these books needed discussion, which is why I wrote this post. On Gale...he didn't actually call in the troops as you suggested. He most likely helped design the bomb that killed the children and her sister. I know that they couldn't just go on like nothing ever happened and I get that she couldn't trust him anymore and beyond that I get why nobody could ever understand her like Peeta. Nobody who hadn't been through what they had could have possibly understood...but what I think was lame is that he leaves her life without a word. It just seemed like Collins took the easy way out on that - my opinion.

Chelan said...

Leslie- I also felt relieved after finishing the book. My sister sent it to me after she finished and when I asked her if she wanted it back she said "no way!" I won't be reading it again either. I think the author has an amazing talent but I just don't like to read books that make me feel depressed and speechless when I'm done. I think it really depends on each individual's personality whether they will like it or not. My brother LOVED it but he's a naturally happy person and isn't to affected by things like fictional books :-) By the end of the second book, I was really hoping that Katniss would find some sense of personal empowerment and become an inspiring character in the final book. Instead, for the entire book she was "acted upon" and spent most of her time hiding in closets, dealing with the mental choas and performing for the camera. It just didn't fit with the quick-thinking Katniss who had kept her family alive since she was 12 yrs old and made it through 2 Hunger Games. I suppose the point of the book was to show what war does to people. But it would have been nice to have at least a small sense of hope woven into the plot. Even at the end, she doesn't seem all that happy. ---I would definitely NOT rate Mockingjay as a YA novel. I'm not very eloquent when it comes to getting my thoughts typed up but this is just a snap-shot of how I felt about the book. Thanks for bringing it up!

raybee... said...

I am so thrilled to see you back blogging. I've missed you.

So - the books...I couldn't put them down, but I kept getting disturbed that I wasn't more disturbed by the VERY disturbing subject matter-that might have been part of the point. A bit of a wake-up call for me - I think we can become desensitized all too easily, if we aren't paying attention. Thanks for the interesting discussion, and - welcome back!!

Laura said...

Hi Leslie, I was interested to see what thoughts would show up here. It is always enlightening to gather a variety of viewpoints. Whether it enlightens or not, I will add a little of mine. I read Hunger Games at a student's suggestion, loved it, and used it as a read aloud in class last year. It was amazing! It was the catalyst for some awesome discussion, and a wealth of insights. Our biggest takeaway was this: The very things that made Katniss's life so difficult before the games...having to grow up quickly, learning independence, self-reliance, quick thinking...were the things that made it possible for her to survive. We juxtaposed it with The Giver (Lois Lowry) and the way that Jonas had everything handed to him with little thought. It was very easy for the kids to see that although Katniss had difficulties in her life, she was much more prepared for whatever came her way than Jonas was, (although he used his developing independence to survive and save others just as she did). We talked about some of the things kids deal with today...divorce, financial trouble, difficult friendships, learning challenges...and the way that we can learn from them like Katniss did, to help us overcome harder things we may face in the future. It created a very solid foundation for the year for my students. Even those who heard it last year and have finished the series are begging me to read it again. Personally, I didn't love the third book. I think the messiness of it was probably a metaphor for the messiness of conflict, but it felt rather hopeless even in its "happy" ending. I'll take hope anyday. That's my two cents. You are awesome! Hope to see you soon!