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.

Goodreads

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!