I Keep Trying to Fight Through The Hunger Games and Failing

I can’t get into it; help a sister out? Also THERE WILL PROBABLY BE SPOILERS.
Publish date:
March 21, 2012
movies, books, the hunger games, being like heather duke, ya fiction

Confession time: I just can't get through "The Hunger Games." I give up. I fold. I surrender. I'm SORRY. Please don't berate me.

I have begun this book multiple times over the past couple of years, but have consistently failed to get more than a hundred pages in. I don’t understand why. It seems like something I would like. I like stories about badass chicks. Especially badass chicks with archery expertise and the will and resourcefulness to survive in an unforgiving dystopian landscape against impossible odds and with the boot of an evil oppressor always on their necks.

This should be my kind of story, and yet, it is my white whale of YA fiction, unconquerable, always just out of reach.

I have even dared to publicly doubt that it is actually a good book. This was as much to mask my own discomfort with feeling left out on the whole Hunger Games excitement, I’ll admit. Some folks have suggested -- with more patience than I probably deserved -- that it can be a good book, but just not a good book for me.

I suppose that's possible, it's just that I rarely have trouble reading. Whenever I fail to appreciate a story that has gathered such a passionate following, I start to wonder if something is wrong with me, or if the Internets have finally killed my ability to quietly lose myself in an epic tale, something I am convinced will eventually happen.

I've recently abandoned "The Hunger Games" for the third (fourth?) time, in favor of Kristin Cashore's "Fire" (Simmons College CAS Grad alums represennnnnnt!) which has mostly resolved my concerns. My reading muscles seem to be fine. Also, "Fire" is excellent. Maybe "The Hunger Games" just isn't for me.

People sure are excited for the movie, though. Truth be told, the trailer makes it look pretty good, and I will probably see it because at this rate there is no other way I’m going to get the story, aside from reading about it on Wikipedia. Apparently there’s a lot of dead kids in it! And ROMANCE sustained by the extreme stress of the situation in which these maybe-soon-to-be-dead kids find themselves! God, it’s just like high school.

And I guess there’s also some sex? The ALA put The Hunger Games at number 5 on its list of the most banned books of 2010, the reasons given being that it is “sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence.” (That’s not parallel construction, but I took it directly from the ALA website, so blame the librarians.) This is yet another reason why I should dig "The Hunger Games": I LOVE banned books! Also on that list: Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and, weirdly, Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” for being “inaccurate.” I thought that was very funny.

But getting back to it: I’ll admit the movie -- out this Friday! -- looks appealing. I do think it’s a shame they didn’t cast a woman of color as Katniss; nothing against pretty white girl up there, but frankly we don’t see enough women of color as capable heroines and this strikes me as a missed opportunity.

But then again, what do I know? I haven’t read the damn books. From hell’s heart I stab at them! “Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale!” (That’s from a book I can actually read. More than once. "Eskimo.")

So I ask for your help, dear readers: should I just see the movie and call it a day, accepting that when people at parties are expressively raving about Katniss’ exploits I will have to smile and nod in polite silence? Should I try to slog through the first book AGAIN? Tell me, what do you love about this story? Why does it grab you? BE SPECIFIC. Like if there’s a talking dog involved even briefly that will probably motivate me to give it another go.

Or a whale. I like whales.

You could have heard all this Hunger Games handwringing before, albeit with fewer words and more profanity, if only youfollowed Lesley on Twitter. It's like seeing into the FUTURE.