Warning, this is not a movie review but a book review of all three books. I have not seen the movie yet so I am not yet repulsed by how different it is from the book. But, I do plan to see it someday. I also hear a rumor that the guy who played Peeta in the first Hunger Games movie may not re-appear in movies 2 and 3. In any case, I finally finished reading all three books in the series. It was not at all what I expected when I first started. It was an easy read because the books are designed for teens or tweens but a warning for younger kids is that there are some disturbing concepts in this trilogy- alcoholism, cannibalism, death and despair, and killing others out of a forced desperation- a real-life survival, not just of people who live in the districts but the kids who are selected for The Hunger Games.
The background of the book is essential before you watch the movie. People who do not know the background tend to not like the movie. So, here is a brief background. Out of the wars and all the issues that the world faced, a new world of sorts emerges- a country called Panem – it is in the region formerly known as North America. As opposed to utopia, the type of future depicted by Panem is dystopian which is defined as: “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, and overcrowding.” The Government of this country called the “Capitol” is a totalitarian form of government. It is ruled by one dictator through a police state and is tyrannical and oppressive. The country is divided into 13 districts. However, as we are told in Book 1, District 13 rebelled and to quash this rebellion, the “Capitol” claims to have destroyed all of District 13. This was a measure used so the rest of the Districts would not join the rebellion or “get any ideas” While the Capitol has no resources of its own and essentially feeds, clothes, and shelters itself as a result of items produced in the districts, they still have control through brute force and a police state. The districts grow crops, hunt, mine, provide clothing and supplies such as oil, and provide police force known as peacekeepers, and the Capitol repays them by teaching them a lesson to never rebel again. The districts cannot keep their own crops or supplies, and to get food and rations, they have the possibility (in each district) of sacrificing their children every year to something called the “reaping” which precede the HUNGER GAMES. Most people live day to day, there is no waste, and there is no surplus except if you work for the Capitol. As far as the Hunger Games, the rich and well-to-do fare well and their chances of not going are better than those are barely making ends meet. In sum, the less you have, the more you give up, the less chance you have of ever escaping. All of the lottery entries for the hunger games are based on how much food your family needs and again, it is a game of life and survival in each district unless you are in the Capitol or part of the Government. Each district is required to provide 2 kids between the ages of 12 and 18, a male and female. The concept is really quite barbaric but allegedly is done to keep everyone in line. Once in the arena, the children have no choice but to try to survive against one another and all the booby traps, mines and other things the Capitol itself throws into the mix. The entire thing is televised all day and night, with each district’s members being forced to watch their own die. Some people put wagers on who will survive and are into it while others are outraged and repulsed but cannot say or do anything about it. It’s disgusting and makes you ill until you realize there is hope. Yes, HOPE!
Social media has helped spawn rebellions in a few countries recently which were former dictatorships. One word, one voice, one action can lead a country to revolt and revolutions can be brought overnight by the thoughts which are brewing for years, or even decades or centuries. A simple act of defying the Capitol, or doing the right thing can spawn change forever. The concept of always striving to be free is very prevalent in this series, and it’s not just about hope, freedom, and wanting more, it’s about love and sacrifice. In the end, the story ends just like it begins -with hope and love. The trilogy keeps you hooked and while it may make you sick at times, that is the whole point. If you got sick at the theater or wanted to stop watching or thought you wasted your money, read the entire series first. It may make it easier to watch — or, not.
But for me, it did get me thinking — think outside your own neighborhood to what happens in other countries still to this day. Yes, outside your own backyard, there are still, to this day, tyrannical, oppressive governments and/or dictators who still treat their own people poorly. Dictators who lie, steal and cheat or use their own people as human shields- or use their people as pawns in world politics. The poverty level may be high in these countries and while most people live day to day, without wasting a drop, the government lives in a lavish manner without regard to its people. Many of these governments believe there is a hierarchy, they believe in a concept of a class system and “survival of the fittest” and that the poor do not deserve to get more than fair share to survive daily. Health conditions are very bad, and black markets flourish so people can survive and help each other through an underground system. The Government, if they catch these people will publicly hang, flog, maim, kill, or stone them for deeds that go against its rules and regulations. There are no constitutional rights nor trials, other than public ones convicting them without any due process. Yes,there is a good possibility of why we do not like these books or this movie… because it’s true. It could be happening right now to children, to women, to men, to soldiers. And there is nothing you can do about it. The survival game? Seems very reality-TV-like – people made to watch these gruesome activities in large squares, some of them their own children and if they do not show up to watch, the guards kill the families? It is retribution from the tyrannical government saying, “we are in control and we will take your children and sacrifice them- so stay in line.”
Is it sadistic and sick? Yes, but that is what a totalitarian dystopia is. And now begins my commentary. I know this may sound extreme considering the books are fiction but even fictional countries like Panem are not formed overnight. You can just look at certain issues in our society today and how things are handled and see some similarities. For example, the issues I think of today which Panem reminded me of are an increasingly growing class system, a call to end all social programs of assistance, a “survival of the fittest” attitude among many in our country, and people not wanting to pay for things like education, food programs, and health care, while condoning tax breaks for those who make the most, and beefing up our defense. But the Hunger Games are so barbaric – that can never happen right? Why yes, it is barbaric, but then we are the same people who enjoy our reality TV while we push our government to be less, for lack of a better of word, “socialistic.” There are those who could argue on the other side too – too much government is what created Panem to begin with – its involvement in the districts, the brute police force, control, and taking from the districts (akin to States). I suppose it’s finding that balance in society between both sides which is key. In any case, decide for yourself and again, I digress but honestly, all three books in the series are a good, quick read and I definitely recommend doing that before you head out and watch even the first movie. And as you think too much into the book like perhaps I did, “may the odds be ever in your favor.”