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Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

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Read Along: The Hunger Games

When a section is called “The Victor,” it’s pretty safe to assume that the book is wrapping up and someone will survive. It seems an obvious statement but as a reader, I can’t say I trust Suzanne Collins. I wouldn’t be happy about a twist wherein Katniss was killed or somehow didn’t actually win herself, but I also tried to keep my mind open for that possibility.

I don’t think I can say that part three was any more upsetting than the previous parts, but the tension was certainly more obvious—both in the plot and in my reactions as a reader. Would there be serious injury “on screen”? Was there going to be (another) uncomfortable declaration of feelings from Peeta? Would the intellectual connection between Haymitch and Katniss be weakened as her physical resources were drained?

In addition to really feeling anxious for the first time, this was also the first time I became fully aware that the Hunger Games were taking place in a tightly controlled arena. Though I knew that elements could be adjusted by the Gamemakers, I wasn’t truly aware everything within the realm of the games had been created and crafted. Once I digested this fact, everything that had happened and everything that was about to happen took on a much more sinister tone. Frankly, I didn’t think things could feel worse, but they did.

This final segment was another one where I was painfully aware of the challenges for the players—and for Katniss in particular—in balancing their public and private personas. With no time off screen, every breath can make or break them; every choice can alienate or endear them to the audience at home. This tied in with the thoughts I had about identity and self in part two, but in the final pages it seemed even more blatantly about truth, practicality, and manipulation.

Ultimately, that’s what I believe the book is about. Though survival is the goal, is it more important to remain true to yourself or is it more important to walk out of that arena? I’d like to be able to say that manipulating the audience is dishonorable, but I don’t know that I can. And with the reverse take, I’m not sure dying is the most honorable way to leave the games. In short, I’m not convinced there’s a right answer.

As you may know, in addition to comments of support and tweeted suggestions, one reader posted a question on Facebook. He asked how I thought Cato got the armor he was wearing when Thresh had stolen the backpack. In my read of the book, I think that Cato attacked Thresh and stripped the armor from him before he died. As we saw when Rue died, the hovercraft doesn’t come until after the tribute has completely died, so there would be time for that kind of retrieval. Because we don’t see that scene directly, I’m sure there are other options (maybe there had been another alliance Katniss was never aware of?) but that’s what seemed the most logical to me.

Note: Because of sophisticated content, The Hunger Games is suggested for readers aged 12 and up.

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August 2, 2013