The Hunger Games Hype

The Hunger Games Trilogy.I’ve never been one for reading a book or series of books because of the hype surrounding them.  Harry Potter? No. The series with the sparkly vampire? Negative. The Hunger Games? Yes. I read those books.

I read those books but not because of hype or popularity. I actually avoided reading the books for several months for those reasons. I wasn’t about to start caving to the pressure of popularity. I only read the books because several of my friends – many of whom have degrees in literature – praised the books. I began to wonder if the books deserved to be read.

My curiosity eventually led to my reading of the books. They were enjoyable. That’s all I really can say about them. They weren’t great. I don’t think they’re deserving of many of the accolades being given to them. Because of that opinion, the books will not be taking up residence on my bookshelf. I have other books that deserve those spaces.

I know my reaction to The Hunger Games is mostly due to having unmet expectations. The praise being given to the books caused me to expect some sort of satire or an insightful introspection of society and culture. The books occasionally work in those veins, but they can’t compare with what I consider to be good satires and introspections: Gulliver’s Travels and Changing Planes.

I can’t even praise the books for the quality of writing. I actually struggled to read the books because of the editorial voice in my head. I managed to mute it, but I was expecting strong, streamlined writing. I didn’t receive that. I received writing that might have satisfied a fourteen-year-old version of myself.

That complaint may not be deserved, although I probably could argue my case. I know that the books were written for a younger audience. I’m not sure that’s an excuse. Several fantasy and sci-fi books – The Chronicles of Narnia or The Hobbit – work on multiple age levels. I don’t notice a lack in the writing when I read Lewis’ or Tolkien’s works.

To be fair, The Hunger Games do have some thematic elements and imagery worth studying. A few of the characters are intriguing and could be deserving of character sketches. I’m still not sure the books are deserving of the praise they’re receiving. I don’t know that I would want to see a literature class dedicated to them, but I don’t have any control over those things. I’m just one person who’s decided not to give The Hunger Games a home on my bookshelf.


  1. DanielPapke says:

    I must agree that the intentional choice of frequently fragmented sentences was a bit irritating at first. I believe the usage is intentional due to the first-person viewpoint of the novels.
    Regarding the content of the novels, I think there may be more meaning present than you have stated. I certainly caught only the basic structure on a first reading, because I was reading for surface details. However, I still saw a few things that piqued my interest. Let’s cover a few examples:
    1. The Capitol: Is the Capitol US? The United States certainly does its (un)fair share of meddling with other countries, but that’s only because the US depends on their resources. … Wait, does that sound familiar? While the US does not use such brutal tactics as putting children into a battle royale, we do use food and aid as a tool to enforce our goals. Do we only use these tools in pursuit of good (inhibiting dictators, for example)? I am not so sure. Finally, the US is not a gross exporter any more. But we do export something: culture, particularly in the form of media. I think the books very clearly showed the power and danger of the media as a device to effect control of people.
    2. Transformational symbolism: Katniss is transformed throughout the series; in one respect, the series is more about her refinement than a triumphant rebellion. I read a very interesting post about this subject. I won’t pretend that I came up with any of these ideas myself, so I’ll just link it here. Be warned: it is very long. I may need to re-examine some other books on my shelf as a result of this post, such as the Brothers Karamazov and Perelandra.

    •  @DanielPapke I agree that the books do have some possibilities for further study. I tried to allude to that in my final statements, but I probably didn’t do the job well enough. The transformation concept is interesting. I would agree with it to a point. I think I have difficulty with it because Collins tidies the ending quite a bit. If she’d left Katniss in her fallen state, I might be more prone to agree that the story is more about Katniss’ devolution. 
      Is the Capitol the U.S.? I don’t know. I don’t think the books make that very clear. The Capitol seems to be more of a setting in which to explore other concepts, such as the media one to which you refer.
      For me, the main problem was that I had high expectations for the books because of the things my peers were saying. When those expectations were disappointed, I responded with criticism. I would need to re-read them in order to offer a better critical view. I’m basing my thoughts on readings that occurred several months ago.

    •  @DanielPapke I vote for re-reading Perelandra first. I love the space trilogy, although I might be an oddity in that I like the third book the best. I’ve only met one other person who liked that one.

      • DanielPapke says:

         @Erin F. We’ll see. I found the third one a bit odd myself, but that may be due to the fact that I do not understand British culture. The series is worth another read, though.
        The tough thing about literature analysis is the personal nature of interpretations. I’m not trying to hold to a postmodern view of literature, because that precludes just about any shared interpretation. But readers do tend to develop their own views, and discussing those views can be difficult. I always feel a bit awkward discussing literature in depth, because there are two types of responses I commonly receive:
        1. The other person does not care. After discussing possible deeper meanings below the surface reading with this type of person, that person now thinks you are a loony or thinks you are “really smart”. For that reason, insightful conversation with that person is difficult because they tend to shut down their faculties when the conversation begins.
        2. The other person cares too much. An argument may or may not ensue.

        •  @DanielPapke The third book is odd. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it. I like some of the more bizarre tales.
          You make a valid point. I was in some of the classes where people cared too much. It was best not to say anything. I’ve also met the people who think you’re “really smart.” That always strikes me as funny because I don’t feel that smart. I’m bumbling along, trying to make sense of something and attempting to correct my viewpoint as needed.
          As for the personal nature of analyses, I suppose it’s true. You have to have a slant on the story in order to argue a point. I try to remove myself from the equation as best I can – not with this piece, of course, but with actual essays and papers. If the text proved my point, and I had some critics who agreed and disagreed with me, I was ready to go.

  2. 🙂 I get you. That’s the problem with modern best-sellers. Too much praise and not enough um….substance. But then, that’s what the public wants, it would seem. I am not sure I like the concept of The Hunger Games – I’d much rather curl up with a good mystery thriller or comedy or light-hearted fiction. But who knows – I might cave in and read it some day. It is the same with movies – so much hype and then, turns out to be mediocre.

    •  @Vidya Sury I think, for me, the problem was that the books didn’t reach me on an intellectual level. They did occasionally, particularly with some of the concepts @DanielPapke mentions below. Maybe the real problem is that I’m just too critical or am incapable of reading for pure pleasure. My English studies have scarred me for life. 

  3. Well, now that is swimming upstream……….:).
    Somebody recommended them to my wife and when she saw they were in the young adult section she wouldn’t have anything to do with them. She’s in a book club so I guess she didn’t want to look silly. However, this was probably 6 mos ago before all this hype. I still doubt she will read them at this point, but I think my curiosity is piqued. I was going to say why don’t you send me yours but if they aren’t on your bookshelf that might be hard to do, huh? 

    •  @bdorman264 Isn’t it? I thought I’d start my Monday by making some trouble.
       @DanielPapke raised some interesting points about the books. I might have to rethink my position, but I feel a little better about it after reading jasonkonopinski ‘s post about reading.
      It would be a little hard to send you the books since I don’t have them. Actually, I do have the first one, but I don’t have it with me. It didn’t make the cut when I moved to Austin and had to decide which books were going to accompany me. I only bought it because I was tired of waiting for the library to get the first book (almost four months or so), and I didn’t want to start the series with the second or third book and have to backtrack. 🙂

      •  @Erin F. @bdorman264 @DanielPapke I enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy because I went into it *knowing* that it is YA fiction and my expectations were framed appropriately. Reasonably good example of dystopian fiction written for a younger audience – the premise alone is chilling.  
        For me, the best examples of dystopian fiction (and the ones I use as measuring sticks for the rest of the genre) are ‘Brave New World’ and ‘1984’. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @bdorman264  @DanielPapke  I guess I fell for the hype created by some of my friends who have a similar literature background to mine. My expectations weren’t framed properly, so my lack of enjoyment or praise is more my own fault than anything else.

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @bdorman264  @DanielPapke …and that is a huge disappointment for me. I should re-title or subtitle this post, “in which I stick my foot into my mouth.”

  4. frozndragon says:

    I guess I am the middle man for this subject. I enjoyed the books, one of those turn off the brain and enjoy. What I didn’t realize that the books are written to show how culture controls someone. Katniss was the case, she went from being poor and not liking the capitol to being intrigued by it. She didn’t however let the capitol control her, they might be trying to sell her beauty but in the end, deep inside she was Katniss, the girl who wouldnt let herself be controlled. Now for the capitol, it is the United States in the books. It brought itself to another civil war and the fallen US is now the country of panem.

    •  @frozndragon The book is an interesting commentary on media and culture. I probably should re-read them for that reason. The only problem is that I don’t own them, and I’d need to own them because I would want to write notes in the margins. 🙂