‘Hunger Games’: Harsh Tale With a Valuable Message

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My oldest son has decided, after a hiatus of a couple years, to play spring soccer.  Being that the last time my 6-foot, 3-inch behemoth of a boy played soccer, he still wore kid-sized clothing, and had to lift his chin to look me in the eye, this decision necessitated a trip to Fashion Island, so we could visit Dick’s Sporting Goods (a place that ,as a mother of three boys, I should definitely own stock in) to buy out the soccer section.

Lucky for me, directly across from this shrine to fields and courts, there lies something a little more my speed: Barnes and Noble.  So, I did my motherly duty: after I made sure that we had procured all the proper footwear and gear, I enforced my motherly prerogative to make my child accompany me while I checked out the latest books.

I couldn’t help but notice that they currently have a rather prominent display devoted to Suzanne Collins’ popular “Hunger Games” trilogy.  I have, along with half of the rest of the world, already read all three books, but the movie making its premiere in just a couple of short weeks seems to be serving as a call to the other half to hop on board and see what all the hype is about.

Collins’ books have been compared by many to the “Twilight” saga by Stephenie Meyer, but if teenaged vampires aren’t your cup of tea, don’t let that deter you from checking out “Hunger Games.”

While both series were written as young-adult books, and each has a heroine with feelings of friendship/affection for two boys, the similarities end there.  I found “Hunger Games” and its two sequels, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” to be well written and imaginative.

It is set in a post-apocalyptic country called Panem, where 12 “districts” are kept under the thumb of the Capital, a place of power where wealth and resources are controlled, and rations distributed.  Each year, districts are responsible for sending two “tributes,” one boy and one girl, to compete in the Hunger Games.  These games are a brutal fight-to-the-death competition, televised 24/7 to all of Panem, and serve as a reminder of the ultimate power of the Capital, lest anyone should want to revolt.

Unlike “Twilight,” which has been widely criticized for depicting a girl who is dependent upon a boy for her very survival, and is unable to be happy without him, Collins gives us a very strong female figure in the form of protagonist Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss is a girl in control of her own destiny.   From our first glimpse of her, she is taking charge, and doing what must be done to survive, despite the rules put in place by the Capital.  She, like everyone else, is subject to the brutality that is the Games, but she refuses to give up who she is, and become a martyr according to their terms.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a brutal story, but it is also one of a girl willing to sacrifice herself for others, and to protect her family at all costs – a girl who refuses to go down without a fight – and really, couldn’t we use a few young ladies like that, even if only on the page and the screen?

Violence aside, Collins sends a good message: no matter what challenges you face, you are always in control of the direction your life will take – something that is good to remember, whether you are a young person starting your journey, or a mom who just wants to go to the bookstore.


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