Favorites February: The Hunger Games

Welcome to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m reading The Hunger Games trilogy, and had an absolute BLAST kicking it off with the one that started it all. I can’t believe it’s been a DECADE since I discovered this series. And I was already an adult… Geez Louise, I’m old aren’t I?

I’m assuming that everyone who is ever going to read The Hunger Games probably already has, so spoilers in the discussion. You’ve been warned.

Synopsis

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.

Why I Love This Book

  • Compulsively readable
  • Katniss is such an unusual protagonist: cold, calculating, and ruthless.
  • The complexity of the love story
  • Of all the dystopias I’ve ever read, this one is the most eerily plausible.
  • Rue! My broken heart will cry forever.
  • The elimination-style competition has turned into a kind of bad trope, but it is so compelling and convincing in this book.

Songs from District 12: Tomorrow Will Be Kinder

For the Hunger Games movie, in addition to releasing the instrumental score they released a “soundtrack” titled Songs from District 12. These songs weren’t featured in the movie, though a few did run during the credits. Instead they were inspired by the book and film. The first installment was mostly inspired directly by District 12 and its Appalachian roots.

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder is one of my favorite songs on this soundtrack, mostly because it feels so authentic. The Secret Sisters are an American folk duo, and they remind me a lot of my favorite folk group, The Wailin’ Jennies. And the instrumentation for this song is actually done by the Punch Brothers, one of modern bluegrass’s all-star groups.

This sorrowful ballad has an almost lullaby quality. You could certainly imagine women humming it while they work in their gardens or singing it to their babies. The harmonies are just lovely, and combined with the sparse instrumentation help you imagine the song is as old as time itself.

“Tomorrow will be kinder.
It’s true, I’ve seen it before.
A brighter day is coming my way,
Yes tomorrow will be kinder.”

Discussion Questions

Discussion questions taken from Scholastic. Feel free to play along in the comments. 🙂

1. Describe Katniss’s relationships with Gale, with Prim, and with her mother. How do those relationships define her personality?

Katniss’s relationships prior to leaving for the Games are relationships that I think most people can relate too. Her loving but very protective emotions for her younger sister, her complicated relationship with a mother who has let her down, a close friendship with someone she trusts that might, maybe?, be more. Yet those relationships really define WHO Katniss is. She has turned her entire identity into the hunter who provides for her family. So much so that at one point she wonders, who is she if she wins, and you take that all away?

2. When Peeta declares his love for Katniss in the interview, does he really mean it or did Haymitch create the “star-crossed lovers” story? What does Haymitch mean when he says, “It’s all a big show. It’s all how you’re perceived”?

I think that as you’re reading it becomes incredibly obvious that Peeta is really in love with Katniss. BUT. Haymitch is also fully aware of how beneficial this is for Katniss in terms of getting sponsors. Because, of course, The Hunger Games is literally a giant television show. And the more entertaining you are, the more sponsors you will get.

What I wondered this time around that I hadn’t thought of before is that I wonder if Peeta has already made a “deal” with Haymitch, the way Katniss does in Catching Fire, that he will keep her alive. No matter what. That would sure explain why he decided to work separately with Haymitch once the training as over.

3. Before the Games start, Peeta tells Katniss, “. . . I want to die as myself . . . I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.” What does this tell you about Peeta? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games?

One of the things that I find the most fascinating about this series is how Katniss … isn’t a revolutionary. Both Gale and Peeta ARE. But somehow she becomes the face of the revolution.

Peeta both understands and internalizes something that Katniss hasn’t. Just because he is being forced to participate doesn’t mean he has to be a pawn. He can, in his own way, refuse to play their game. He does this by protecting Katniss instead of killing her or merely avoiding her and hoping someone else takes care of one or both of them. While Katniss is trying just to survive and get home to her sister, Peeta is selflessly protecting her.

4. What do you think is the cruelest part of the Hunger Games?

Oh gosh, I don’t know, the whole thing is pretty horrible. Forcing kids to kill each other is pretty bad, but I think the constant fear everyone lives in that they or their loved ones might be subjected to it could be even worse.

I take it back, I figured out the worst part. That the people at the Capitol actually enjoy The Hunger Games. They are somehow thrilled by CHILDREN killing one another. The bloodier the deaths, the better. When things get too boring for them they throw fireballs at twelve year olds or sic monsters on them. Ugh.

5 thoughts on “Favorites February: The Hunger Games

  1. Great post, this is so fun! I’ve only read this trilogy the one time when it was brand new, and am looking forward to rereading at some point. I think making such an elaborate game out of the killings is where the dystopia feels most theatrical and least realistic to me, but otherwise I agree, the politics of this world and the sacrificing children as a sort of payment to the capitol (some of whom are raised to think it’s an HONOR to compete) feels so eerily plausible, and it helps that the characters are great.
    I really like the question about whether Peeta is telling the truth about being in love with Katniss in the interview; I don’t remember questioning his sincerity in my first read-through, but now the writer in me really likes the idea of it being a lie or exaggeration that Peeta just fell into perfectly anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I find the pageantry and spectacle to be the MOST realistic part. It’s like reality TV to the max. It has a little bit of everything: action, violence, glamor, fashion, personality. I didn’t find it to be a stretch at all. The technology was the biggest place I had to suspend *my* disbelief.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not exactly the pageantry that I find hard to believe in, just… the elaborate game-like aspect to it. The “puzzle” that they make out of the arenas. Puzzles always have solutions, or loopholes, as we see in Catching Fire, for example. Maybe my world view is just too negative, but I feel like if people were really brutal enough to pit a bunch of children against each other they wouldn’t bother making it… fair, especially in a way that probably requires spending a lot of money.

        Ooh, and I do agree about the technology! I was willing to just go with that while I was reading but no, it doesn’t always feel very plausible!

        Liked by 1 person

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