If you have not read the first two books in the series recently, you should go back and review them or you might find yourself adrift for awhile. I read both in 2009, which put me at a disadvantage. The author does not do a good job of orienting the reader with subtle hints or memories of the first two books, so often, the reader will be confused about what is being discussed, or what is happening, or about some of the characters and the parts they played. They are only reviewed in the most superficial of ways. Like the other two books in the series, violence is no stranger. The characters do not seem to have matured from their experiences and although this is an excellent endeavor in science fiction, this book is the weakest link in the group. Katniss seems to have an unrealistic nine lives, surviving and escaping, again and again, when everyone else succumbs. She fights to kill her peers but then balks at killing her enemies with righteous indignation.
After a failed people’s revolution, the dystopian society of Panem, formerly North America, is ruled by the powerful residents living in the community called The Capitol where the power resides. Using the 12 slave communities to provide their needs, all things of value are at their disposal. The 12 communities, however, live in poverty, hand to mouth, without either many creature comforts, proper shelter or enough food to sustain them, except minimally. Each year, The Hunger Games are staged by The Capitol, as a reminder to them never to revolt against the authorities again. In the Hunger Games, two children from each community are pitted against each other in an arena in which they must all fight to the death, until there is only one survivor, in staged settings of horror and death.
This is a violent and bloody novel, horrific in the nature of the destruction, injuries and cruelty toward others, that it describes. Reading this final book, made me wonder why parents would allow young children to even read it. The concepts are too far above the emotional and mental maturity of a 10 year old, and yet many have been allowed to read it in order to feel cool, “in”, and to make themselves and their parents pseudo-sophisticates, after all, they are all bright enough to read this book, originally designed for young adults, defined variously as 10-20 and 12-17. One surely has to realize that the age range is too broad and parental guidance should play a major role before such a book is placed in the hands of a 10 year old, and yet they are even reading it with their parents’ blessings. How can the same concepts be appropriate for a ten year old and a twenty year old? It defies common sense.
This book gave me pause as I realized that we “hunger”, to use the author’s phrase, for such tragic and monstrous plots and then expose them, perhaps irresponsibly, to our young. What are we teaching them? Why do we want to them read this, creative and well written, as well it might be? What do we all hunger for? Do we want a form of escape or is it a form of wishful thinking? Do we want revenge; is it about class warfare; is it about fairness; is it about power? Whoever possesses it, is the winner, so perhaps, it is not really about righteousness and survival and a restructuring of David and Goliath, at all? Perhaps as Lord Acton (1834-1902), British historian, originally wrote: it is about the fact that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad man.” I thought that both adults and youths set a terrible example in this book. They all seemed self-serving and headstrong, thinking of nothing but their own needs, ultimately. That is a terrible lesson to teach the future of America.
I realize that this review may make me sound a bit condescending, but I don’t feel that way. I feel genuinely sad that our children are being forced to grow up before their time, to read books inappropriate for them when there are so many wonderful stories out there without blood and gore that have just as much adventure and excitement. There are wholesome stories that reinforce healthy family and community values. It makes me wonder, is it any surprise that we have so much violent crime against each other, student against student, spouses against spouses, parents against children, so many random unexplainable killings? What example are we setting for them with our films and modern literature?
I used to think inappropriate sex, which has become so prevalent in books to entice readers, was the problem, but I see it is more complex than that. Today, it would seem that anything inappropriate is deemed worthwhile if it gets readers interested, no matter what the future consequences may be. I am a bit surprised that Scholastic Inc. has promoted this for the young.