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.