By Madison Killen
My little sister is just like I was growing up–book obsessed. Always the one in the corner with her nose pressed between the pages, cuddled in the backseat during five minute trips to the store with the latest and greatest from Barnes and Noble. When I’m at college, I’m in a bubble. I don’t know what’s going on in a lot of the world, especially when it comes to pop culture. Movies, books, music, you name it; I have no idea what’s going on. So when I went home for winter break this year, I had my 14-year old sister give me a crash course on the literary status quo.
She only had one title for me. The Hunger Games. She had each of the installments that had come out so far. My baseline attitude towards young adult literature these days has been apprehensive ever since she introduced me to the Twilight series. (That’s a whole other blog post). Since I had finished finals and had no new books to read, I finally obliged her insistence that I read them.
I’d heard the name tossed around occasionally on Facebook and seen an occasional movie trailer for The Hunger Games, and someone had explained the premise once to me. Kids that have to kill each other? Bold. I read about 100 pages the first night. It was true; the characters would have to fight to the death in an arena. Naturally, the idea was intriguing–macabre, daring, and frankly, disturbing. I figured out pretty early on that the whole arena thing would actually happen; this wasn’t one of those stories where the unspeakable is somehow avoided. Ok, I thought. I have been thoroughly disturbed so far. I assume that this is the intention of the author. But why?
There were really two ways I could see it. #1, it’s great for making money. Yes, I am hooked. I am aware that I am hooked. I’m not sure if I like it or not, but there is no way that I will not finish this book to see how the author will handle a death arena full of children. So, maybe the author has to use this ploy to sell. Honestly, the writing wasn’t that great. I even hesitate in calling it good. The book was veritably carried by its dark allure.
After I got past this, though, I began to think that it could have another purpose. Maybe the shock factor is what we need these days; this author is speaking to young adults–she has great influence. She could harness this power to actually open the eyes of adolescents (and everyone else reading). This could be the next The Giver. The protagonist lives in a society that, at times, resounds with the shortcomings of our own. The elements of oppression in the government of the book and struggles of the citizens in various districts could easily translate to reality.
So I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. But no call to action came. The author danced around the potential for satire but was ultimately withholding. I read the entire first book. I got through descriptions of children killing each other. I was confused by literary digressions of romance. By the end, I realized what the author had done. She had left me hanging. I had to read her next book. I had to see if she would use her idea for a greater purpose or if she would actually dare to make me read another sell out. And I did. But that’s another blog post.