Mar 11, 2012

The Hunger Games

My book club just read a young adult novel, The Hunger Games. Our group is rising one-by-one into AARP eligibility, so evidently we don't read at grade level. Remedial classes for us! In recent years we've also read The Golden Compass, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Twilight all with a much greater readership than we usually get. (Please, please note I refused to read Twilight.)

One thing you should know about our group is that it's 'reading optional.' Here's our normal meeting: chatting, chatting, laughing, eating, more eating, drinking, chatting, more laughing, much more drinking, more eating, simultaneous talking with no one listening, until finally someone raises their voice to shout over the fray,"Who read the book?" Three people out of ten raise a hand.  One or two others chime in that they read the first two chapters and may or may not finish the book at a later date.  If you didn't read the book, that's just fine, no ostracism or staring down of noses, just don't get in the way of the Chardonnay or the triple-cream Port Salut.  Then we talk about the book for an embarrassingly short time and get back to drinking, eating, and not talking about the book. This policy has kept us going for eleven years and I hope it keeps us going for another eleven.  Meetings are fun, just not very educational.  And you'd be surprised at how many people have opinions about books they haven't read. Just ask any censorship bureau.

But, I have digressed from The Hunger Games (which had unanimous readership in our book club) and our other young adult picks.  What makes them so compelling?  They are often page turners, much different from The Scarlet Letter I had to read in high school.  Yawn.  It seemed so dated, dry, and irrelevant. At about the same time I was trudging through The Scarlet Letter, my sister's friend moved in with us when her family kicked her pregnant ass out of the house. The irony was totally lost on my adolescent pea brain.

Now it seems I see people daily, all adults, reading The Hunger Games. Maybe this is just new car syndrome, in which you suddenly notice your new make of automobile everywhere you go, but I don't think so. The Hunger Games has taken the country by storm, in large part because the upcoming movie has brought attention to the book that birthed it.

If you haven't read The Hunger Games, I won't spoil it for you, I'll just say that it's very, very dark.  It is set in a dystopian future in what was once The United States.  The main character, Katniss, is a feisty teenager who faces need and danger on a daily basis.  The fact that the main character is a girl is a large part of what makes the book so compelling to me. I tried, but never could read The Lord of the Rings when I was young; it was just so male.  But The Chronicles of Narnia, with two girls in a family of four siblings, now that was grand.  Susan and Lucy were brave. They fought and ruled alongside their brothers. Earlier I was addicted to The Borrowers, published in 1952, which had Arriety at its heart. The adventures she had!  Evidently strong female role models have been around longer than we thought.

My advice to anyone is to read The Hunger Games. I went on to read the other two books of the trilogy.  The second is the weakest, I think, and the books have flaws, but Suzanne Collins' vision and execution are absolutely worth the read.  In our troubled, increasingly two-tiered, country, The Hunger Games is definitely relevant.


  1. I've been thinking about picking this book up. I love love love young adult novels. They are some of my favorite books. It's going on my list!

  2. I bet you read the whole trilogy!