Week 9: The Hunger Games


Hello, book that got me into reading YA. It’s lovely to see you.

The nostalgia is real. I read this series for the first time in 2012 during spring break of my senior year of college. The quarter was over and I was done with finals, but my husband and I were newlyweds and didn’t really have the budget to do much. So I borrowed the Hunger Games box set from a friend and binged the entire series in a matter of days. It was the first time I’d had to read a book for myself in along time. (Being a college senior and a newlywed is not for the faint of heart. That year was the busiest I’ve ever been in my life.)

Funny enough, my husband binged the series too. We both loved the books, so we went to see the movie when it premiered that week. This series is special to me partly because of the time in my life that I first read it, and the fact that I got to share the experience of first reading them with my favorite person.

I hopped between hardcover and eBook on this reread, and also listened to it on Audible. The narrator, Carolyn McCormick, is wonderful. She just sounds like Katniss to me.

Is listening cheating? I hope not, since it’s my blog! It’s actually my favorite way to reread. I own very few books in multiple formats, but I just can’t get enough of this series.
[Warning: this is going to be full of spoilers because I assume most people have read this book and/or watched the movie.]

Katniss Everdeen is one of my all-time favorite female characters. Yes, she’s a strong female character, which is always awesome, but I love that she’s strong because she has to be. She had to learn to hunt to feed her family when she was still a child. She knew what hunger feels like, so she found strength in the determination to never feel that way again. 

In so many books, female characters are “strong” just because they’re violent or brash or not traditionally feminine. (Don’t get me wrong – those are all perfectly good character traits, but often I think they feel stale or contrived without further motivation for the character.) At times, Katniss is all of those things, but it never feels contrived. She’s the way she is because she’s a survivor. And she kicks ass because of it.

Collins makes us care about Katniss from the first page. The stakes are so high, and when Effie Trinket calls out Prim’s name I literally start shaking. It works every time. And every time, in the last moments in the games, I’m afraid that Katniss is going to swallow those berries.

I’m not going to summarize the stuff in between because there’s a perfectly good summary on Wikipedia and the Hunger Games wiki, and I’m trying to watch my word count.

Katniss gets a lot of hate for her treatment of Peeta in this book – for pretending to be in love with him in the arena. (Although I think even at this point she clearly battles with her feelings for him.) This is always frustrating to me, because her act literally kept them alive. Who wouldn’t do the same thing in a life-or-death situation, if it was the difference between a gruesome on-camera death and going home to their family? And who expects a sixteen year old girl to be completely certain about her romantic feelings? Katniss is spending all of her energy trying to stay alive. Give her a break.

I also just adore the worldbuilding. It’s really impressive, and I think it’s part of the reason these books are so popular. On every page, we’re pulled into this twisted (hopefully alternate) future of our world. The setting is clearly developed and effectively vivid – and horrifying. The seam is devastating, the capitol sparkles, the spectacle of the games is aptly disgusting but fascinating in its depth.

Rereadable? Heck yes. Problem is, now I really want to reread Catching Fire. Don’t judge me if that’s my next post 😉