Hunger Games

I just finished powering through the Hunger Games Trilogy. It’s always fun to power through a book and I haven’t really done so since the day I read Harry Potter 7.

They’re fun page-turners which I will have no problems recommending to teenagers or anyone who hasn’t read many books or seen many movies. But for the rest of us who have been through a fair number of books and movies, the series ends up being an exercise in “name that plot.” Especially if you get into the post-apocalyptic stuff since it sort of borrows from the entire spectrum—The Lottery, to Watership Down,* to 1984, to The White Mountains.

*Yes, I consider Watership Down to be a post-apocalyptic book.

Not that this is a bad thing. If this series can function as another gateway drug into reading, who am I to knock Scholastic about peddling it. But yes, as I was reading this, my wife would periodically ask where I was and I would describe my location in terms of another book.

In terms of movies, I can’t help but see the comparison to Hidden Fortress—and by extension, Star Wars.* The main character of the series is, for the most part, completely clueless about the actual plot. We don’t have to worry about the messy details of how the plot is actually being advanced, we only have to worry about those things which affect Katniss.


So yeah, there’s a reason this is young-adult fiction. And I can say that I think it’s good young-adult fiction. It does enough to get you thinking but not enough to keep you from being frustrated by the limitations…

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

5 thoughts on “Hunger Games”

  1. I don’t mind the plot recycling aspect (I’m pretty tolerant of that sort of thing), but the first book (the only one I’ve made it through) seems like a missed opportunity. Our society is badly in need of some mainstream-consumable criticism of reality television, but I found it very hard to connect present-day America to the world of Hunger Games, and thus to experience any kind of useful thought-provocation regarding how people use tv today.

    Of course, not everything has to have a social message, but in terms of just being a good YA story, I think it also falls a bit flat. I.e., it clearly belongs to the “YA should be easier and can be sloppier than adult books” school of publishing, rather than the “YA should be accessible to young readers but should be written and edited to high standards and should be challenging” one.

    I mean, compare Hunger Games to Cynthia Voigt’s high un-fantasy books (Jackaroo, On Fortunate’s Wheel, etc.). Those are very similar to Hunger Games in terms of the kind of story they’re attempting (i.e., a story that broadly takes in a society — with lots of socio-economic/political food for thought — but does so through a narrow window on that society provided by the protagonist’s personal struggles. (Is there a term for this structure? If not, can we call it “pocket epic”?) They’re just much, much better than Hunger Games…

    (Man, I can get really Comic Book Guy about genre fiction…)

    1. Adult bookstores in Berkeley are clearly peddling different wares than adult bookstores in the South Bay…

      That said, yes, if you were expecting Hunger Games to be a critique of reality TV in America, then I can see how it would be disappointing. It doesn’t really understand or deal with TV/media well at all.

      It’s a little bit better with the concept of celebrity. But only a little bit—the main characters are still too thinly written.

  2. I’m twenty four and I loved the book. Maybe I’m less mature than the average adult or something, buy my spouse and I really loved it. I would recommend it not only to young adults, but anyone who likes action stories, and stories about inner moral battles.

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