The Hunger Games – why is a YA fiction book so popular?

The Hunger Games is an unbelievably popular series. Why is this? The books are darker than other popular Young Adult series such as Twilight and Harry Potter, which can be clearly seen in the ending of Mockingjay. We realise that Panem is better than it was but for how long? The ending reflects the dystopian nature of the text and the serious nature of the themes presented particularly that of power and its abuses.

The Hunger Games is of course a coming-of-age novel for Katniss and perhaps for Young Adult fiction. The series reminds us that like the citizens of the Capitol that enthusiastically watched the Hunger Games every year without thinking about the suffering involved that we need to think of others and take responsibility for our choices. The books make us think about our own world and issues to do with war, compassion, sacrifice and survival. We reflect on reality TV, the power of the media even the place of fashion in our world.

Here is what a ‘doubter’ from EW had to say about the novel:

For several years now I’ve politely ignored friends and coworkers who try to talk me into reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. A YA book about a televised contest where kids kill each other? It sounded both unpleasant and unoriginal (I’m enough of an old fart to have read Stephen King’s The Long Walk and The Running Man when they were collected in The Bachman Books in 1985). Who wants to read about a dystopian world where some evil police state makes kids fight to the death for everyone’s amusement? Even as mutterings of the book’s greatness started to rumble through the halls of EW, I just couldn’t get excited about it. I filed The Hunger Games away in the “not for me” part of my brain with stuff like Artemis Fowl and iCarly.

That was dumb. The Hunger Games has, of course, now blown up into a major cultural phenomenon, with countless copies sold and a big-deal movie in the works. Everyone in the pop-culture universe (or at least in our office) has read the thing, loves it, talks about it constantly. I felt left out. More than that, I started to wonder if my stubborn refusal to read it was standing in the way of something I might actually like, something that was every bit as exciting and entertaining as people kept insisting. Maybe, I finally thought, I should just get over it and read the damn thing.

So I dug it out of the pile in my office and forced myself to at least try the first chapter. At this point, you can probably guess where this is heading, especially if you’ve read the book: I absolutely loved it. Sure, the rags-to-riches, David vs. Goliath plot is formulaic, and there’s never any question that Katniss will end up [SPOILER ALERT] winning. But the book is still a total joy to read, an addictive rush that keeps you guessing even though you know exactly where it’s ultimately going. Collins knows how to spin a story, an old-fashioned yarn where twists fly fast and each chapter builds to a killer last-line zinger. End sentences like “It’s Primrose Everdeen” and “Because…because…she came here with me” gave me a genuine shiver. The book has its quirks — some of the future-world details seem a little too Jetsons, and what’s with her weird bread fetish? — but it turned out to be every bit as thrilling as people claimed. A couple of chapters in and I knew bedtime was canceled.

So yeah, I should have listened. I officially apologize to everyone who, when they pushed the book on me, was met with a vacant stare and a quick change of the subject. Now I’m off to pick up the second and third books, which I’m assuming will keep me up for the next two nights (I’m starting to get pretty tired). I’m combing the Internet for news of the movie, which I’m now of course desperate to see. And I’m suddenly finding myself accosting other people in the hall, asking if they’re read The Hunger Games and imploring them to do so posthaste if somehow they have not.

Read more here.


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