When I started reading The Hunger Games around 9pm today did I intend to read the whole thing straight through? Nope. Not even a little bit. I figured maybe an hour of reading and then a blissfully early night. Obviously, that’s not how it went down.
The Hunger Games tells the story of a future America where things have gone very wrong. After disasters, rebellions, and wars the country is split into 12 districts and one ruling capital. To punish the rebel districts, the country requires that each give up two children a year between the ages of 12-18. Once these kids are picked they’re forced to fight to the death on national television.
Before I get into all my whining about how it’s just trying to be Battle Royale, I’d like to say that I liked The Hunger Games. I liked The Hunger Games a lot. Suzanne Collins has written an amazing engrossing book with a challenging message behind it. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve been up this late because I could not put a book down. I like the main character of the book, her love-triangle isn’t exactly a new feature in plot design but it is interesting, and of course I’m all about anything that challengers readers to take a look at how we live our lives and consume media!
It’s a poor man’s Battle Royale. For those of you who don’t know and don’t feel like clicking on the link, Battle Royale is a Japanese novel published in 1999 by Koushun Takami. It’s set in a future Japan where every year a middle school class is chosen for “The Program”. This class is sent to an island and forced to fight to the death.
There are a lot of differences in the novels and I can definitely see where parents would be more comfortable handing their teenager a copy of The Hunger Games as opposed to Battle Royale. Battle Royale is one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it is also by far the bloodiest and most horrifying. For weeks after reading it I had nightmares. The Hunger Games doesn’t go into nearly as much detail with the deaths.
So why did I even like Battle Royale so much, you ask. I’m not typically the kind of girl who gets excited by blood and gore. In Battle Royale the blood in gore is a very prominent feature of the story, but it takes a backseat to character development. Takami takes you through every character and lets you know what they’re thinking and why they’re thinking it. You get back story for everyone, making the reader feel every death. The Hunger Games doesn’t get anywhere close to that. There was only one character’s death that made me sad, and his/her death really did not come as much of a surprise. Compared to Battle Royale it was very soft on the characters.
The Hunger Games weakness is that it just sticks with Katniss. We see everything through Katniss’ eyes and we are 100% always on her side. She’s a compassionate character and she doesn’t relish the idea of killing anyone, but there’s only so much an author can make you care about other characters in a set-up like that. I like Katniss. She’s smart, resourceful, she isn’t cruel. However, sometimes she is little too perfect. I think fiction in general suffers because we don’t want the major characters to have any flaws and that gets boring. I want flawed characters! I want them to make mistakes and do some real damage. I want them to be normal, like me and everyone I know.
I very highly recommend The Hunger Games. It’s hard to put down and it will get you thinking. I think it’s a great book, despite it being so close to Battle Royale. It’s different enough to still be interesting, and unlike Battle Royale it isn’t going to traumatize anyone. If you do read The Hunger Games, keep in mind that the next book on your reading list should be Battle Royale!