2013 Book #19 – The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

This is the first Book of 2013 that I’ve actually read before. Yep, I read The Hunger Games a couple of years ago. I loved it! Last week I watched the movie for the first time, and I was pretty impressed. Not bad for a Hollywood adaptation. But of course it filled me with a burning desire to re-read the book! So I set aside the book I was reading—which has now been bumped to 2013 Book #20 and may be bumped further unless I can resist the urge to read Catching Fire immediately—and rejoined the world of Panem.



They say that when you read a book the second time, you pick up nuances that you didn’t notice the first time. Yep! That’s absolutely true. I caught a lot more things about the emotions and inner lives of the characters, Katniss and Peeta especially, that I didn’t catch the first time. The first time through the book I was just too busy being blown away by the cunning and brutality of the Hunger Games and the societies of Panem that Suzanne Collins had created.

But let’s talk about that first time for a minute, because it’s worth noting.

When I first heard about The Hunger Games, the books were all the rage. Everyone was reading them. Some of my coworkers read the first one as part of their book club and I kept hearing them talk about it at work. (In fact, they gave away a part of it through their casual chatter). So what did I think? I thought, “Psht! It’s all hype! It’s the book du jour. I’m not interested.”

Ha! Famous last words! So what made me pick up The Hunger Games after scorning it? The fact that one of those little lightbulbs went off in my head and my inner voice of reason said “You know, you said the exact same thing about Harry Potter, and those are now some of your favorite books ever. Maybe you should give these ones a try.”

And I did.

And I loved them!

I’ll only talk about the first book today because there’s a strong chance I’ll be reading the next two again in the imminent future. The thing that struck me most the first time through was the stark reality of the unreal world Collins created. It was so three-dimensional! I loved the way she painted the situation of this dystopian future. It was so familiar, and yet so outlandish, and yet so believable! The decadence of the people of the Capitol, the brutality of the government, the fuming helplessness of the Districts…. Wow!

This time through, however, it was the intensity of the characters that got me. Katniss is strong beyond her years, but Collins justifies it with glimpses of her past. She’s also as vulnerable as a 16-year old would be, which is perfect. She’s both likable and awe-inspiring at the same time.

But the biggest difference in reading it through this time is how I perceived Peeta. I was always Team Peeta, right from the first time I read it. Well, I might have considered being Team Gale a bit in the beginning. Peeta is just such a likable character. He’s really a lot smarter than I gave him credit for in my first read. In fact, I’d say he’s brilliant on some levels. But on others he’s just a 16 year old boy. A boy in love at that. We always think of the girls as being the ones to love the strongest and the truest, but Peeta loves single-mindedly. That’s why I like him so much.

Setting these two loose in the game together was the best and worst thing that the Gamemakers could have done. Yes, they created high drama, but reading it through this time I got the impression that the games had never had two people who were so human in them before. Katniss and Peeta were neither single-minded competitors bent on winning the whole thing nor hopeless underdogs with no chance of survival. They had a chance right from the beginning, and they also had strong moral compasses and senses of self.

The thing that I really appreciated this time was that both Katniss and Peeta really needed each other in order for the games to have the outcome that they did. If Katniss had been in the arena without Peeta, she could have won, but she would have lost her soul in the process. If Peeta had been in it without Katniss, he could have made his grand moral statement that the government and the games could not change him, but he would have died a lot earlier. Together they were able to fill in each other’s weaknesses and fulfill both of their purposes.

That’s what I got from this reading of The Hunger Games. The inevitability of Katniss and Peeta, and just how invincible they are together. Really, the books are brilliant in their crafting. The world Collins has created is amazing.

Now, I’m going to attempt to finish the book I was reading before my Hunger Games hiatus, but I’ll definitely finish the rest of that series this summer.


3 thoughts on “2013 Book #19 – The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

  1. I enjoyed the original “Hunger Games” novel. The movie was ok, and I think that in the latter two novels, Collins loses her grip on the propulsive suspense that makes “The Hunger Games” so good. The narratives are more fragmented and the heroine has a more passive role, which made them less compelling for me. I also re-read the “The Hunger Games” this year after Netflixing the movie, and I think it was about the same time that there was that horrible factory collapse in Bangladesh. So the thing that stood out most for me is that I think Collins wants us to point the finger at ourselves. Wealthy and middle-class Americans are the real-life Capital, and the third-world countries that produce our smartphones, clothes, and even food are the districts, working in life-threatening conditions just so we can pay $5 for a t-shirt at Walmart. That, plus the reality-TV and propaganda themes caught me most about the novels, not the teen love affair.

    • Huh. I totally didn’t see it that way. I think that my writer’s brain reads novels as stories first and fills in any political or real-world correlations later. Has anything been written about those ideas being Collins’s ideas as she wrote the series?

      • I’d be surprised if it hadn’t. I was thinking of writing about this myself, but assumed I wouldn’t be the first. Since Collins’s story is framed as a futuristic look at North America, instead of having a totally fictional setting, I assumed it was some kind of comment on our society’s trajectory. I think our different reactions to the book are probably a pretty typical novelist/journalist split and it’s great there are always multiple ways of looking at a work of fiction.

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