Watch as I devour The Hunger Games

On the winter holidays that I’m not working, or watching Schindler’s List alone in my apartment with a six pack, I visit my Grandmother in the States.  A highlight of these visits, beyond mocking people on Judge Judy, is that I’m left with many hours of reading time. This year my obsession was the Hunger Games trilogy. No spoilers ahead.

Though it’s been on the New York Times best seller list for quite a while most people I speak with in my peer group haven’t heard of the series. I had not myself until my neighbour suggested them once she heard that I was a fan of His Dark Materials.  It may seem like an unusual thing to write about in a feminist blog but there are a number of issues with the books that I think are unprecedented for popular teen fiction. Since I’m a fan of bullet points:

  • Written by a female author who didn’t get pressured to use initials to make her name gender neutral. Yes, this is why J.K. Rowling is not Joanne Rowling. (Though, I’m sure it’s thanks to Rowling’s success in particular that Suzanne Collins isn’t S.K. Collins)
  • Female main character who is strong, complex and moral. This may seem not too revolutionary but let me tell you that I’m so used to reading adventure, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic style books with a male lead that even though, at the very beginning, it’s revealed that the main character has a long braid and an attraction to a male friend, before my brain even let me consider that a girl could be the protagonist, I was thinking “holy shit this adventure book is going to star a gay boy with a braid!”
  • A diverse range of female characters are very present throughout the series, even as political and military leaders. Holy female representation Batman!
  • The first popular teen marketed books, that I’ve read, that have overt and subtle progressive politics on capitalism, consumerism, colonialism and poverty.  In the world of the have and have-nots (the parallels to current society are not lost) the young readers are grimly exposed to a brutal reality of inequalities.  A scene that stands out to me is when the main character from one of the poorest ‘districts’ views a meal from the wealthy ‘capital.’ She marvels at how much energy it takes to get together one dinner that is common place for the wealthy. Because she knows what it’s like to hunt, gather, cook, and scrounge. I imagine myself reading this series at 15 years old having never passed a thought on where crops are grown, who farmers and labourers are, what animals are hunted or even the origins of virtually anything I ate growing up.  This would have made an even greater impact on me than reading about The Boxcar Children earning money to buy their own milk.

Most importantly, I think, is considering teens/young adults as capable of understanding grim social injustices.  This is the world we live in and kids especially shouldn’t be completely sheltered from this reality.

Kurt Vonnegut has a good quote from one of his novels which summarizes my sentiment on the importance of speculative fiction. Vonnegut doesn’t get an A+ from me for his representations of women in his books but this rant by a character directed at authors of the genre is one of my favourites:

“You’re the only ones with guts enough to really care about the future, who really notice what machines do to us, what wars do to us, what cities do to us, what big, simple ideas do to us, what tremendous misunderstandings, mistakes, accidents and catastrophes do to us. You’re the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distances without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell.”

3 Comments on “Watch as I devour The Hunger Games”

  • Bort

    haha boxcar children

  • Ellie

    I’m glad someone liked the boxcar children reference.

  • Carl Rosenberg

    I was pleased to see your quote from Vonnegut’s novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. it’s one of my favourite quotes on my favourite genre (SF and fantasy).

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