The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins: Reactions

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and once girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.

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I’m finally reading The Hunger Games series, and I’m quite impressed. Not that I thought I wouldn’t be, but the first one, at least, is deserving of the Hype Monster. I really got into it.

I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, so I think I’m just going to provide my reactions, as they happened. I’m reading the series with a crew who has already read the original series and we’re discussing the books on Discord. Here were my reactions as I read THG:

First, I had to look up the meanings behind Panem (the name of the nation that used to be North America), and Avox (the name given to the tongueless “traitors” who serve the rich people of the Captiol). I knew they must have meanings beyond Collins’ imagination.

From Wikipedia:

The word ‘panem’ is the Latin word for bread, and as the country’s name was derived from the Latin saying “panem et circenses”, meaning “bread and circuses”, a phrase attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal, referring to the use of entertainment and plentiful food to distract citizens into giving up their freedoms and political power.

So already, I’m glad that Collins was very deliberate about what she named the nation that came out of the (climate change-induced?) ruins of North America. But is the “bread and circuses” of Panem really fooling anyone? Of course the wealthy have everything they want and then some, so yeah, the Hunger Games and all that crap might be fooling them. But the more poverty-stricken the District, the more the people of that district really get what’s up. Just saying.

From Fandom:

The term “avox” is derived from the Ancient Greek prefix ἀ- ‎(a-, “not, without” – e.g. “amoral”) and the Latin word vox (“voice”).

Again, I’m glad that Collins was deliberate in her labeling of the people who have had their tongues cut out for being “traitors.” I’m learning all kinds of interesting things!

I think Collins has been very deliberate about the characters’ names, too, but beyond the obvious ones, I haven’t thought too deeply about them.

All of the technology in the Capitol kept making me think of The Jetsons.

Me, reading Peeta’s pronouncement of love for Katniss during the initial interviews: “OH, YOU MANIPULATIVE SON OF A BITCH.”

Me, reading a few pages further: “Oh. Okay.”

Except yeah, Peeta really is in love with Katniss, and I still think it’s a little unfair to lay that on someone right before you’re thrown into a situation in which your goal is to kill everyone else and survive. On the other hand, would Katniss have sought Peeta out once it was announced they both could live and be co-victors if he hadn’t said that during his interview? I don’t know.

And I was pretty grossed out about Haymitch’s whole “one kiss equals one pot of broth” message. What do those teenagers have to do to get more substantial food? Turns out they didn’t really have to go beyond kissing, but I was all, “Uuuuuhhhh…they’re kids. Don’t be gross.”

Speaking of food, even though Katniss and Peeta seemed to love it, the whole time they were being served all that fancy food in the Capitol I was thinking, “Man, that’s TOO fancy and not my taste at all. I’d need to ask if I could just have a bacon cheeseburger and some fries.” Hahahaha! I’m not about that fancy food life (so picky).

I wish Rue had spent more time in the book. I feel like she was a means to an end, plot-wise, and not really her own character. I want more Rue.

And the arenas…are they enclosed, terraformed spaces? They would have to be if the Gamekeepers (Gamekeepers, circuses, animals, etc., if you haven’t been keeping that in mind) can mess with temperature, water flow, etc. I want more information about the arenas and how they go about building those.

And then, of course, the Hunger Games themselves are disgusting…taking kids from their districts and making them fight to the death. Uuuuugh.

How did I feel about the characters themselves?

I’m not sure how I feel about Katniss yet. I don’t *dislike* her, but I’m not sure I’m her number one fan yet, either. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve finished the second book.

I *think* I like Peeta, but I’m still a little annoyed with him for declaring his love right before the Games started.

Haymitch is equal parts awful and deserving of my empathy. Alcoholism is no joke, and I’m not surprised that he’s turned to the bottle after everything he’s been through. On the other hand, he needs to get his act together and stop being such a surly asshole.

I don’t know how to feel about Effie yet, either. I *want* to like her, but as a Capitol employee, she’s part of the problem. Her ideas about the poverty-stricken Districts being “barbaric” really piss me off. I want to be able to say, “I don’t know her life,” but…I just can’t. I’m hoping she redeems herself somehow, because I like her goofy personality, I think.

I love Cinna. I know he’s also a Capitol employee, but I feel like he’s one of those people who can (and would) buck the system from the inside and do what he can, where he can, to rebel. He’s not one of the people in charge, and his life sucks because of that in other ways, I’m sure. I feel like he might be just trying to survive in his own way. He obviously really cares for Katniss.

We didn’t really get a whole lot of him in the first book, but I’m 99% sure President Snow can go fuck himself.

And those are my thoughts about The Hunger Games (or the most important ones, anyway). I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the original series and the prequel.

Do you have deep (or not so deep) thoughts about The Hunger Games that you’d like to share with me? Leave them in the comments!

25 thoughts on “The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins: Reactions

  1. I really enjoyed this series as well. It’s strange to think I “enjoyed” a book about young people killing one another in a game created by an awful President.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this, and I love your reactions. Have you seen the movies? I have a hard time separating what I remember from the books and the movies, which are almost exactly like the books. I just bought the prequel and I’m looking forward to reading it:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched parts of the first movie (because Lenny Kravitz, heh), but I have never watched them in their entirety. My daughter and I will be watching them together—one every Saturday (which assumes I have finished each book first). Looking forward to them!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. YES, I also like how deliberately Collins chose names — you’d think that would feel heavy-handed (get it, readers?? This is an allegory!!!), but it’s not. The fact that the government chose the name Panem shows that (1) they knew EXACTLY what they were doing, and (2) they were completely confident/cocky that the citizens would be too stupid, selfish, and/or scared to call them on it. And yet, these villains always forget, as you said, that the fewer advantages you give a person, the more clearly they can see through your act, and it’s only a matter of time before their anger outweighs their fear.

    At the risk of sounding like a total English Major, I also like the way Collins twists her literary influences to create this world in which The Lottery is even more cruel, because instead of a quick execution, it’s a precursor to The Most Dangerous Game.

    I’m also preeeetty certain she’s read a YA novel called The Hermit Thrush Sings, which is also about a girl who starts a rebellion in a post-disaster America that’s separated into districts that are encouraged to distrust each other, and there are mutant animals and also poisonous berries.

    See, it’s totally not just Battle Royale! 😁

    Re: Peeta’s declaration. The way I understood it, he was never planning on saying anything. Haymitch convinced him, behind the scenes, that pulling a star-crossed lovers act would give him and Katniss (but especially Katniss) a better chance to survive. I’m definitely looking forward to your thoughts on the romance angle in the next two books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I agree with you that Haymitch had SO MUCH to do with the whole star-crossed lovers thing, Peeta didn’t need much convincing. I was talking to my daughter about it, and she said that she felt that maybe another reason Peeta announced it when he did was that he’s been in love with her since they were 5, and here they are going into a situation where one or both of them would die (and Peeta thought he really would die), and he was like, “You know what? Screw it. I’m going to tell her now because I have nothing to lose and I can’t die without ever having told her.” Which I think is a really good analysis.

      Regardless, I still think there was some selfishness involved, so it annoyed me. Heh.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair enough. I do think, though, that he’d have wanted to tell Katniss privately, if Haymitch didn’t convince him otherwise…but then, maybe I’m making him out to be more altruistic than any person can be.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It was quite a while ago that I read these books, but what I remember is loving the development of Katniss and Peeta’s characters across the trilogy. I’m not going to say any more than that, I think.
    Except, I didn’t expect these books to stag with me like they have.
    Looking forward to your further thoughts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have this on my shelf and will be reading it next month! I love that you googled the terms. I am the way! I actually go and look stuff up when I’m reading a book!! 🙌🙌 Loved your review! I can’t wait to read it & compare thoughts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m looking forward to reading the prequel. I have so many questions about the backstory of Panem…I’m hoping at least some of them get addressed in that.

      Like

  6. I just finished The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (prequel to HG) and I loved it! It gave me all the nostalgia feels. I think I’ll be rereading these books soon now too because I want more of the HG. (Reread the books last year). When I first read the HG book I remember there was a lot of Roman & Gladiator vibes in the book.
    Can’t wait to see what you think of the next book. Last book is a hit or miss for some but as for me (fellow Navy Veteran) I can see and understand why Suzanne ended it that way. I was glad too.
    Ps the arena is enclosed. Next book explains it a lot more. Wish they showed more of Haymitch’s character in the movies, especially for the 2nd book! Would’ve been great to at least see the kids watching him survive the 50th HG

    Like

    1. I am reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes now. I haven’t had a chance to post my thoughts about Catching Fire or Mockingjay yet because I’ve wanted to just keep reading! And yes, the books explain a lot of the questions I was coming up with throughout the series, so that’s cool. My thoughts on the rest of them (including TBoSaS) will be up soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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