The Hunger Games Holds Up to a Reread

In preparation for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the prequel to The Hunger Games, I reread the entire trilogy. It’s been ~10 years since I first read the books and readers, The Hunger Games holds up to a reread. Here are some thoughts following the reread.

*Spoilers aplenty*

The Hunger Games & YA Dystopia

I loved these books when I first read them but I can’t account for all of my taste as a teen (*cough* Throne of Glass *cough*). There’s often a worry that rereading a book after a long time won’t live up your to memory but The Hunger Games absolutely does. This book brought in a wave of YA dystopia which I loved reading but most of those books aren’t as timeless. There were a lot of variations on The Hunger Games ‘formula’: totalitarian society + love triangle + ‘strong’ female lead. However, they often felt like thought experiments without the social commentary.

‘What if the government made all of our decisions?’
‘What if society was split into arbitrary factions?’
‘What if humans had arbitrarily short lifespans?’

The Hunger Games is political and relevant today. The charade of dressing up and getting the media to like you as they determine whether you live or die could not be more relevant in an age of social media influencers where popularity means success.

Twirl

Plus, the politics of the books are really accessible. Katniss is our window to Panem and is constantly commenting on the implications of her actions, her thought processes, what her opinions on the Capitol are.

It’s interesting, hearing about her life. We have so little communication with anyone outside our district. In fact, I wonder if the Gamemakers are blocking out our conversation, because even though the infotmation seems harmless, they don’t want people in different districts to know about one another.
The Hunger Games, Ch 15

Bread and Circuses

Collins’ worldbuilding is fantastic; there is a clear throughline from today to this future. Panem, built on the ashes of North America, following multiple natural disasters, has been built with intention. Each district has its own industry in a way that’s too deliberate to have come about organically.

Panem Industry
via Hunger Games Fandom

 

District 11 in particular is analogous of the slave trade with dark-skinned workers toiling in fields and singing songs. In contrast, the rich, capitalist populous lives in the lap of luxury, obsessed with their looks – to the point of grotesque surgical enhancement – and exploit the districts to get the best of everything. This critique of conspicuous consumerism and parallels between the poor masses working to benefit the rich minority is clear. And of course, throughout the books there is constant talk of food; savouring it, sharing it, a reflection of not having enough of it.

For a while, all conversation stops as we fill our stomachs. The groosling has delicious meat that’s so fatty, the grease drips down your face when you bite into it.
“Oh,” says Rue with a sigh. “I’ve never had a whole leg to myself before”
The Hunger Games, Ch 15

On a more individual level, the contrast between Katniss and the Capitol is made obvious at multiple points. From her prep for the first games where she is stripped and waxed, to the parties she attends as a victor where partygoers eat till they are stuffed and then throw up in order to eat more.

“You mean this will make me puke?”
My prep team laughs hysterically. “Of course, so you can keep eating,” says Octavia. “I’ve been in there twice already. Everybody does it, or else how would you have any fun at a feast?”
Catching Fire, Ch 5

Katniss and Peeta’s disgust is an obvious response, but interestingly Katniss is otherwise kind to her prep team. They are shallow and oblivious, but she treats them like children who don’t know any better. How much can you blame individuals for being a product of the society they were raised in? Her hatred is aimed at the people in power.

“It’s more complicated than that. I know them. They’re not evil or cruel. They’re not even smart. Hurting them, it’s lilke hurting children. They don’t see…I mean, they don’t know…” – Katniss
Mockingjay, Ch 4

Katniss’ Core Motivation

Katniss is not the most likeable protagonist. Despite being inside her head, the only time I felt a connection with her is when she mourns Rue and adorns her body with flowers, when she fights for Prim and is vulnerable with Peeta. Interestingly, these are also the points at which Panem’s audience empathise with her too. From the beginning, she has learnt to hide her feelings, to stay safe from Capitol ears.

Volunteer as Tribute

There’s also an emphasis on her father who teaches her how to hunt, use a bow and arrow and swim. His death is a shadow over her family, results in her mother’s depression and forces Katniss to grow up fast – or die. Katniss’ core motivation throughout the books is to protect Prim, Gale, her mother and then later, Peeta. She has no time for anything else and although she is not the most likeable character, she’s an understandable one.

Team Gale or Team Peeta?

I remember the love triangle being a big deal as a teen but in the reread it’s not something that concerns Katniss. Though she kisses Gale and has mixed feelings about her fauxmance with Peeta, at the end of the day her priority is to protect her loved ones.

It isn’t the most intereseting aspect of the story, but of course I have an opinion. I don’t think Gale gets a fair shot as a love interest because we mostly see him in Mockingjay in a wartime scenario, however I don’t think he is the best match for Katniss. Personality-wise, she and Gale are similar and they both have a lot of anger – too much anger. Gale is willing to take down the Capitol at any cost, including sacrificing Prim.

Peeta is a contrast to Katniss, he is selfless, emotionally open and strong but never violent, he compliments her harsher qualities. (Also side note, I think he’s way more charming in the books.) I don’t think Katniss deserves Peeta – he consistently puts her first whereas it takes three books, a hijacking and the death of her sister to convince Katniss that he might be worth it but it makes sense to me.

Something I felt shortchanged about initially was the epilogue in Mockingjay. Katniss doesn’t want children, she makes this perfectly clear and it felt like a defeat that she eventually has them with Peeta. Upon the reread, yes, Katniss makes this point, but they are within the context of her society. She doesn’t want children who might end up being reaped for the Hunger Games. She is afraid of increasing the number of people she cares about.

Mockingjay as a Symbol

Mockingjay 2

The reread highlighted how little Katniss is involved with the rebellion itself. She’s not really interested in rebelling. Sure, she bends the rules with her hunting and she threatens to eat the berries in the Hunger Games but her thoughts are purely based on survival. She’s not interested in making waves until not acting becomes being complicit. And it feels more realistic that there was a bigger picture, rebels, including Plutarch, who were waiting for an opportunity to start a rebellion rather than Katniss leading a rebellion herself. I also like that when she does takes action it is meaningful making the ending of the trilogy so satisfying.

“I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games” – Peeta
The Hunger Games, Ch 10

The 10th Annual Hunger Games

The_Ballad_of_Songbirds_and_Snakes_(Suzanne_Collins)

I’m not 100% sure how I feel about The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes. I was excited at first but, like others, when I found out that it’s about President Snow, it did put me off a bit. He makes a great antagonist but I have no interest in his past or potentially seeing him as a sort of redemptive figure. He murders his way to the top and keeps on murdering, does it matter how he become that person? It would, however, be interesting to see how Panem and the Hunger Games came about. I am fascinated by the Capitol and we never see the seats of power. I think Collins is a fantastic writer, and having written 1000 words gushing about The Hunger Games, I still want to read the prequel and then judge it.


Are you excited about the new Hunger Games book? Tell me what your favourite parts of the The Hunger Games series is in the comments!

4 thoughts on “The Hunger Games Holds Up to a Reread

  1. I agree 100% that this one holds up. In contrast to many other dystopias that came after it, The Hunger Games is so deeply researched and rooted in our history and culture that I wouldn’t be surprised if, down the line, it joined other classic dystopias like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Kudos to Collins for creating something long-lasting, rather than sensationalist.

    I smiled so much at this line:
    “I remember the love triangle being a big deal as a teen but in the reread it’s not something that concerns Katniss. ”

    I’ve always felt that way about the love triangle in The Hunger Games. I can make an argument for Team Peeta, but at the same time, that triangle is there for tension in the readers. Katniss couldn’t care less! XD

    I am actually looking forward to BoSaS because I find the deeper world building inherently interesting, and I have faith in Collins to deliver. We’ll see – I may be singing a different tune in a couple months! XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I definitely think the love triangle is something that the fans and the marketing for the movies especially played up because it did so well for Twilight. And it’s one of those things that people have opinions on and feel passionate about!

      Yes, seeing how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games on the reread and the couple of extracts I’ve seen for BoSaS, I have a good feeling!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s