Friday, October 19, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Because of my disregard for modern day bestsellers, I never dreamed I’d be reviewing The Hunger Games on my web log.  But I was intrigued by a number of theological blogs that dismissed it as anti-Christian while an equal number of bloggers praised it for its Christian themes. I had to find out for myself.

Whether you like this book or hate it, it’s hard to put down once you start reading.  Collins has written a compelling story of a young girl who is battling for her life in her country’s yearly “Hunger Games.”  Every year teenagers are selected from each district in Panem to fight to the death.  When Katniss Everdeen’s 12 year old sister, Prim, is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

Is there any idea more biblical than self-sacrifice?  And that isn’t the only time that grace is extended.  Peetah gives bread to Katniss when she is starving. The baker promises to look after Prim while Katniss is gone.  Her friend, Gale, promises to feed her mother and sister.  Rue warns Katniss of danger.  Thresh refuses to kill her when he has a chance.  Katniss risks her chances of winning the games by helping Peetah when he is wounded.  And the list goes on.

Forgiveness is another theme in the novel.  While in training for the games, Katniss meets a girl who she had once seen fleeing from the Capitol.  Katniss feels guilty for not having helped her escape and wishes she could ask forgiveness.   After Katniss’ father dies, her mother abandons the family (in an emotional sense).  Katniss holds a grudge against her and later wishes she could have more clearly expressed forgiveness. 

As far as Book One is concerned, the positive themes far outweigh the negative ones of violence, revenge, etc.  Since I’m not a big fan of romance novels, I didn’t love the final chapters where Katniss and Peetah are trying to sort out their feelings for one another.  However, I am withholding my final judgment on the series until read the other two books. 

Sidenote:  I dread seeing the movie.  Katniss and Peetah pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend to gain audience sympathy (because the games are televised to the entire nation).  At one point she removes his clothing to clean his wounds.  Later they slip into the same sleeping bag to keep warm.  I can see how the movie version could be more sexualized.  Also, the killings are not graphically described in the book, but would be much more vivid and shocking on screen.  If you’ve seen the movie, let me know if my hunch is correct.


Karen G. said...

Don't fear to see the movie. The clothes-removing scene is omitted entirely--nothing *at all* sexual about the Katniss/Peeta relationship--not even the kiss.

And the violence is actually *less* graphic in the book than in the movie.
Case in point (and a SPOILER if you haven't read the book):

When Cato is attacked by the beasts in the book, he suffers all night and they hear him in the dark. Katniss is only able to offer him a mercy killing when daylight returns. In the book, the attack and the mercy killing take less than a minute. Other scenes that could be VERY graphic are much less than they might be. The cornucopia is the worst, but they used cinematic techniques (music, slow motion) that softened rather than intensified the impact.

The movie is not the book, but I'd say--don't be afraid of watching it.

Janet said...

I thought the movie was pretty faithful to the story, and as Karen says the sexual elements are omitted.

I enjoyed your take on the book -- I read it more as a critique of some aspects of our culture, so I appreciate this review of the Christian themes.

Corey P. said...

One of my favorite series. The first book is good, the second book (Catching Fire) is even more intense, and the third book (Mockingjay) is my favorite. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the rest of the trilogy.

Karen already said it well, but I'll say it again - don't fear seeing the movie. It's not as good as the book, but it's still a great film, and the filmmakers handled the subject matter well.

Carol in Oregon said...

"I never dreamed I’d be reviewing this book on my web log" - my response is: I never dreamed I'd be reading *HOPE's* review of the Hunger Games. :)

BerlinerinPoet said...

Yes, I think the themes of self sacrifice definitely stood out to me as well. I think sometimes Christians fall into two categories of over-reaction. They either take a popular book and say it is anti Christian or they try and turn it into a Christian book. I think we shouldn't really do either of those things. We should test everything and hold fast to what is good. There is a lot of good in the books, but there is also enough things that I wouldn't necessarily want to see a young person reading them without guidance from parents/mentors. You know?

JoAnna said...

Aunt Hope, I was so shocked to see you reviewing this! (and excited). I almost never read "current, trendy" fiction either, but I was persuaded to read the trilogy as well. I won't share my thoughts until you're finished. Excited to hear what you think!