Archers are cool now ( #amreading The Hunger Games)

Posted on September 12, 2012 by

The things I read after Are You My Mother? were all three The Hunger Games books, by Suzanne Collins, in rapid succession.

I can’t remember the last time I read something super-hot and popular. But Kelly and I had seen the first movie and the arena/political concept was compelling. I dug the savaging of reality TV (competition porn, as M.K.Hobson calls it) and the 1984 overtones. And I found the Katniss/Peeta cynically-motivated romance kinda cool. It’s sort of got an “Aliens made them do It“, flavor, but I mean that in a good way.

Anyway, I hoovered up all three books one week not long ago.

The further I went, the less happy I was with the whole story. I’m not saying the writing fell off or that anything big changed, just that my reader satisfaction decreased as things got darker. Sure, what happens in the first book is awful, but somehow there’s enough snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat–enough balance–that I was okay with the dystopian future and I like me some high-fiber hurt/comfort content. But as the revolution unfolds and things get worse and worse (and I’m not saying this is unrealistic in a war story, mind, just depressing) I started to disengage. Ultimately, I felt Katniss took one body-blow too many. Too much hurt, with no comfort possible. Those of you who read to the end can probably guess which loss I mean.

I thought Collins did some decent SF worldbuilding. I didn’t much care for District 13, but their existence made the revolution a more believably fair fight. And I am all about pure true love, so I was Team Peeta all the way.

A question I’ve seen raised about Katniss is whether she is a kick-butt go-getter heroine and an inspiration to the youth or if the only real choice she makes, like many a girl protagonist, is about Which Boy?

To this: prior to the novel’s initial incident, Katniss transforms herself from a starving child to a person who’s feeding her family. She makes the big decision to save Prim. Then, yes, she’s swept up in a game that’s much much larger than her. Her choices become limited… but I don’t think one can argue she doesn’t play the damned game to the best of her ability.

In the following books, there’s a lot of believable freaking out and PTSD and mourning of things lost. It was a bummer to read, but, again, I thought pretty realistic. And even as she flips out, Katniss does things–when choices are available to her, she does make them. I’d say characterizing the trio of books as one big romantic angstfest with a passive main character is a tad unfair.

The Hunger Games trio has flaws, and certainly there are plenty of times when Katniss is swept up in the flood of war, paddling just to stay afloat. But whenever she has her feet on solid ground, I would argue, she tries to work out the move that will rebound to the best advantage to herself and her beloveds.

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