BYOB discusses The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Welcome to our inaugural post here at BYOB!
This month it was Amitha’s turn to choose a book for our group to read, and she chose the action-packed dystopia The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Rather than labeling the book with a simple “we liked it” or “we didn’t like it”, we decided to post a little taste of our group discussions. Don’t worry we haven’t included any spoilers!
Livia: Did you think The Hunger Games was a page-turner? Why or why not?
- Rachal: Yes, I do think it was a page turner. There’s a level of shock, urgency and desperation throughout the book. The premise is so horrifying, you don’t quite know where the author is going next and that evokes a certain level of discomfort. I think one of the reasons I kept reading was in part, to find those moments of safety for Katniss. The stakes were high for all characters, (whom I felt a connection to) the premise was gruesome and unsettling (yet real) and the emotions were uncomfortable (yet I kept reminding myself that solders around the world deal with similar situations all the time). That’s why I kept turning the pages.
- Coral: The premise does make it exciting, no doubt about that. But I think it’s more than that. Collins trims out all the fat not much back story, limited description, minimal (if effective) world-building, only a handful of characters get any development (the ones that do are great, but most of the contestants don’t even get names). She sticks with the action, keeps us in the moment, very tight in Katniss’s (understandably) self-absorbed point of view. If she’d added other stuff, say about the politics & economics of the world, certain geeky people (like my husband) might have liked the book even more, but other people would have become bored.
- Amitha: I’m one of the people who would’ve grown bored! I love that there isn’t too much description and that she doesn’t overdo character descriptions. I like this sort of minimalist writing, though I do agree she could have gotten a little more into the politics, but it is a fine line since it is a first-person narrative. But back to what made it a page-turner: what does it for me is that she is good at leaving a cliff-hanger or a twist at the end of the paragraph so that you want to keep going to the next chapter to find out what happened. Case in point (don’t think this is a spoiler since it’s on the book jacket): in Chapter One, we find out that Prim’s name has been drawn despite all odds against it. I wanted to know what Katniss would think or what she would do. My heart went out to her and I was drawn to read the next chapter.
- Peta: As the others say, Collins is definitely a spare writer–she sticks only to the necessary details. I liked that, for the most part, but it also made the story a little predictable, because there’s a certain amount of weight given to the important details and specifics that makes them stand out as, well, important. For me, that stripped away most of the story’s surprises. As a page turner, there were really three reasons I kept reading, and action didn’t really figure in at all. Most of all, I was drawn to Katniss’ reactions–we’re so deep inside her head that I felt like I was following along with a friend, and I wanted to see how she’d cope and why. Sometimes, though, I think schadenfraude may have pushed me along more than anything else–some of Katniss’ decisions were just plain stupid, and I wanted to know if they came back to bite her, or if Collins let the story segue into Happy Fairy Land. (She doesn’t. Well, not much.) Finally, the book kept forcing me back inside my own head, making me wonder if I’d make the same decisions as Katniss, even when, from the outside, I think she does some stupid/naive things. Wondering how I’d cope in her place kept me awake a couple of nights, and made me a little more clingy with Baby.
Coral: Why do you think the author made Cinna the stylist such a cool character? Does having him be so likable and so good (both at what he does, and as a human being) undermine the critique of the shallowness of the Capitol?
- Livia: I think it was a smart move to have a sympathetic character in the Capitol. Otherwise, we would have ended up with a two dimensional villain. This gives us a more well rounded view of the Capitol and the people in it.
- Amitha: I agree with Livia. I don’t think it undermined the descriptions of the Capitol, but instead made it a little more real for us by introducing the idea that not everyone in the Capitol agrees with what’s going on.
- Peta: I think Cinna’s there for two reasons–like Amitha and Livia say, Cinna lends three dimensionality to the story’s villain. But he’s also a friend Katniss can rely on sans worry–everyone else she counts as a friend or family is someone she feels she has to protect, someone who, in her head, isn’t on equal footing with her. Cinna gives us another view of Katniss: when she’s with him, we see the person she might have been if circumstances were different.
Amitha: There is talk about a Hunger Games movie in the works. Do you think they’ll have to change the ages of the characters for the movie? Will viewers have more trouble accepting a 16-year-old Katniss than readers did?
- Coral: Maybe it depends on what rating they want. A lot of violence directed at and committed by children may be more likely to get a PG-13 or even an R than the same acts committed by adults. Otherwise, I don’t see why it would make a difference.
- Amitha: I’m also wondering whether they might cast older actors/actresses to play the “16″ year olds, kind of like they did with Gossip Girl.
- Livia: I don’t think the exact number will be an issue in the movie, since characters don’t usually come out and say “I’m 12, or I’m 16.” And since actors portraying teens usually look older anyways, it might not be an issue.
- Peta: I’m with Livia–I don’t think specific ages will come into it for the main characters, though I imagine the film will emphasize just how young Prim, Katniss’ sister, is. A lot of the violence in the first book happens off-screen, or rather off-page, too, so it could be hinted out without being shown outright. If the rating does end up being higher than PG-13, I think it’d be more to do with the themes in the movie than the violence, because there’s a lot of sophisticated material presented, albeit in a roundabout sort of way.
Have you read The Hunger Games? If so, what did you think? Let us know by posting a comment below!
Next time we’ll talk about Rachal’s pick, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Bring Your Own Book and get in on the discussion!