Why The Hunger Games is the best book ever published

One fateful day in fifth grade, my teacher decided that our class of 10-year-olds should come together as a class and read about children killing each other. And on that fateful day, my life was changed forever.

Here’s a summary in case you’ve been living under a rock because everyone and their mama has read this book (except mine cuz she doesn’t read):

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen is a teenage girl who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. Every year, the corrupt government aka The Capitol run by an old, white man called President Snow hosts the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is an event where one boy and girl from each of the 12 districts of Panem fight to the death. The sole victor comes out with lots of stocks and bitcoin and glory forever.

I read this book when I was around 10 and I’ve read each book in the series at least 10 times. Now, over a decade later, it remains my favorite book that I’ve ever read. I full-heartedly believe that this book series is a masterpiece. Here’s why:

  1. Katniss. Katniss is my girl crush. Katniss is THE BLUEPRINT. Every YA protagonist wants to be Katniss and yet no matter how many YA books with the same plotlines and personalities release, no one is her.

Katniss is a fighter. This is shown to us (not just told- very important). She provides for her family without making herself out to be a martyr (*cough cough ACOTAR cough cough*) while accepting her weaknesses. She will manipulate and kill if she has to because she has a family and a sister to provide for.

Katniss never wanted a revolution. Katniss never wanted to be the star. All she wanted was to survive the arena and get the hell out. She isn’t on some moral high ground, convinced that it’s her duty to save people. Rather than a character, she feels like a real person put in a sucky situation and just trying to make it out alive.

She isn’t like other girls. Non-ironically. Mary Sues begone.

So many times in YA novels, I see this pattern of the protagonist being an “unattractive” young girl (who happens to have all of the features of a Parisian model) who has no friends even though she’s perfectly nice because she’d rather stick her nose in a book. Katniss doesn’t have a lot of friends but not because she’s mysterious and untouchable. She has a soft spot for people she cares about. She’s human. But her personality is abrasive and she understands that it’s dangerous to get close to people when it’s hard enough to get by.

All of these features make Katniss a sympathetic, admirable character with real flaws. This is her. She doesn’t feel like she’s been written to be a protagonist.

She comes from nothing and rises to destroy a corrupt government. If that isn’t girlboss, idk what is.

2. Peeta

First off, let’s get one thing straight. Katniss does NOT need Peeta, at least not to physically survive. She is independent and her life definitely doesn’t revolve around Peeta or Gale or any other man. That being said, I refuse to accept Peeta slander.

How many times do we see a non-toxic, non-emotionally abusive love interest in YA books? Considering the audience’s age range and impressionability, it should be a lot more often than it is. Let’s say the love interest is a stand-up guy. Even then, so many books have the female protagonist mooning over this guy, suddenly unable to make her own decisions because she’s so in love. This is not a healthy relationship.

Peeta keeps his space. He’s there to support Katniss but doesn’t force anything that she is uncomfortable with. But he isn’t stereotypical or bland either. Peeta is charismatic and smart enough to charm a crowd. He’s soft. He has a personality different from the typical brooding-I-have-daddy-issues-bad-boy we usually see in YA books.

Their relationship is one that builds over time. You see how they balance each other out and how they’re the only ones who truly understand each other. Their connection is far from purely physical and we can truly see the difference between lust and love.

3. The parallels to real life

THIS. This this this.

Panem is future North America and I’m scared to say that I see the parallels between the 21st century and Katniss’s dystopian universe. Granted, the novel was inspired by history but let’s take a deeper look at this:

Katniss is an (arguably) POC girl living in the poorest district of the nation ruled by an old, white dude.

A small elite has EXTREME amounts of wealth meanwhile in District 12, children are sacrificing their lives to eat gruel.

The “Peacekeepers” are the ones who inflict the most control and violence contrary to their name and intended role.

Protests against injustice. Nuff said.

Propaganda. Nuff said.

Finnick Odair’s s*xual slavery.

I’ll stop there but you get the idea.

4. Trauma is addressed

I think a lot of us get caught up in the escapism in books (I know I do) and tend to forget that killing people is an EXTREMELY traumatic event. Although THG is a series for young adults, it still acknowledges the consequences of such violence. Katniss and Peeta nightmares throughout the series, Haymitch is an alcoholic, the Morphlings are addicts. These are people and PTSD doesn’t discriminate by age.

5. Complex characters

Except Gale – f you, Gale

The characters are multi-dimensional. No one is written simply to be a stereotype.

Haymitch is a side character but he’s given personality and depth. They have dimensions and it’s for a reason. Katniss’s stylists, for example. Even though they’re members of the Capitol, Katniss ends up becoming slightly fond of them as time passes. It is not a black-and-white situation of “this person is bad, this person is good.” They have layers.

Even characters that enter later in the series or only for a short time: Finnick, Johanna, Clove, Rue. I remember thinking I could imagine an entire other plot simply based off the bits and pieces given to us about Finnick and Annie or Clove and Cato. The reader falls in love with each character – or at least appreciates their role. Each one is memorable. They have their flaws but they have their soft areas. That is brilliant characterization.

6. The true villain

In the first book, Cato is made out to be the primary villain. However (SPOILER ALERT), we see a bit of humanity in him in his last moments. We are reminded that he is a boy and his actions are the result of the society and ideals in which he was raised. He’s not the true villain.

Honestly, neither is President Snow. He is a villain but not the true villain. President Snow perpetuates the horror, corruption, and oppression of the Capitol. However, he is just a piece in the system.

Which leads me to:

7. The ending (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Let’s say President Snow died and that was that. The war may have ended momentarily but then President Coin would’ve stepped in and the cycle that we thought was ending would’ve revived itself. When the victors and Coin vote on whether to host a Hunger Games with children of the Capitol, we catch a glimpse of this. Killing President Snow would not resolve the ultimate issue of a corrupt government and inequality in power.

This is why it’s SO important that Katniss kills Coin instead of Snow. She realizes that although she’s been the Mockingjay and she’s been the face of this revolution, she’s still a pawn. It was never up to her to end the oppression of the Capitol. It was up to the people all coming together to rebel. That message is so much more powerful and nuanced than what would’ve been conveyed if Katniss has killed Snow and that was the end.

Now, beyond the plot, what else?

8. The iconic-ness (yes I know that’s not a real word)

The Mockingjay pin. The whistled tune. The three-finger salute. The side braid. The girl on fire. These iconic symbols will forever be connected to the THG world and THG world only. These details that Suzanne Collins made up are so creative and unique. Collins created a world that feels real. If you say The Hunger Games, my mind bursts with images of fire and dystopia. It has its own aesthetic and flavor, which Collins MADE. ISN’T THAT INSANE?

9. The simplicity of it all

What makes THG so special is that it’s not the most sophisticated, prose-filled book in the world at all. The language is very straightforward (but by no means amateur) to the point where 5th grade me could understand it. Political corruption, social inequity, etc. are all very complex topics that young students often aren’t introduced to until later. THG manages to present these topics to young people in a digestible fashion with room to grow.

10. It lives up

As I grow older, I continue to unravel deeper, more nuanced aspects of the book. It grows with me. I’ve reread so many books I loved as a preteen and they just don’t hold up. The writing is too childish or the plot is too conventional for me to still enjoy it as more than mindless fun (which is also important in reading). I’ve read this series an uncountable number of times and it never disappoints me. Ever.

11. An extra note: These are my favorite quotes from the series.

“I just want to spend every possible minute of the rest of my life with you” – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

“If we burn, you burn with us” – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I’ve quite literally been writing this for an hour now so I’ll stop there. The movies aren’t my favorite so if you’ve watched the movies and haven’t read the books, give them a chance.

I will also mention that since I grew up with The Hunger Games books and movies, I am definitely biased as they hold a special place in my heart. That being said, I genuinely adore this series and I think it’s worthy of the hype.

Thanks for reading and make sure to comment or follow or whatever u wanna do to become part of the community πŸ™‚

K bye lol ❀

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