The secular sensation series The Hunger Games caught my curiosity when almost all my friends, including many Christians, sang its praises. It made the New York Times’ Best Seller list. I read almost all of the trilogy, and the impressive effects Suzanne Collins has on her readers through these books was not lost on me. But I am about to give it much less than the five-star rating I’ve seen from others. In fact, I deleted the trilogy from my Kindle app because I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Slow down, here, and I’ll explain that bold statement. It was awesome, indeed, if awesome truly means “worthy of awe.” I truly felt that I was the main character, that I did all the things Katniss did, and that I was the object of love for the “Romeo” of the story. It’s an accomplished writer that can attain such effects. The plot was well-developed until the sharp cutoff ending, and the suspense was enough to keep me hooked, but predictable to keep me yelling at the characters. Well done, Collins.
But now I’m about to hone in on the problem. It was too good. Collins did too good a job pulling me into a new world. When I put down the book (or iPod, as the case may be), I still was waiting for Peeta (the “Romeo” I mentioned earlier) to come home. I still wondered how Prim (the main character’s little sister) was doing. Everything around me I related to my life in my new-found country of Panem. The subtle horrors of the book, the murderous Games, the lying heroes and the giant and growing character flaws of the main people all worked into me without me noticing. Because I read all three books (excluding about 15 chapters from the third one) in three days, I had little time to process my experiences or think about what I was doing. What’s wrong with that? It’s a sign of good modern writing, is it not? Well, “good,” isn’t the word I’d use for it.
In my Lit class, my teacher calls it “Escape Literature.” You know, the kind that’s not meant to teach anything, but merely as entertainment? There is no such thing. You cannot write without sending a message. I know this, and I hope everyone who has read my blog knows it from my communications. The Hunger Games teaches people beyond the surface of the words on the page. It teaches to lie, because both the main characters, Katniss and Peeta, protected those they loved successfully by doing so. It teaches to take desperate measures to stay alive, because that’s what everybody did and only those who were desperate enough to really do it lived. It teaches that having “spirit” is good and a hot temper can save your life, if you have a good liar at your side to cover up your mistakes. The trilogy was meant to entertain, yes, but it does so much more.
Many of my friends have tried to get me to read Harry Potter or Twilight. I have a feeling they are just as sensational as this trilogy was. But I’m not interested. People complain that my generation is lazy, that we are handicapped. But can’t you see why? It’s those desensitizing television shows, the sensational books without a point, the role-playing video games—they all pull you away from reality. Each one is an addiction in and of itself. When we have to put down the strong heroes we have become on the plasma screen thanks to our Xbox or close the book in which we have a passionate lover and see that we actually have to do something with our lives to become a person of influence, the obviously easier path is to pick that book back up or the controller.
This is not a book review. This is a rally cry. These books, and I’m sure many others, were wonderful, yes. But is it really worth our real lives to feel like heroes in a fake one? Is it really worth our character to watch a fictional person evolve on paper? There’s nothing wrong with reading books, but when they are written to take control of our minds—with moral or immoral motives—it’s dangerous to every aspect of our lives.