Our copies have been out all summer. The requests keep coming. One of the local schools assigned The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for summer reading. Some of the young readers have even liked it well enough to ask for the sequel Catching Fire. I felt that I should read the teen novel, too, to learn what it was all about. So I got the audiobook and listened while doing yard work and household chores.
Within the first half hour, the caution flag was waving high. I sensed Lord of the Flies in the background. I was wondering whether I should continue. Brave reader that I am, knowing that all those teens were having to read it, I did. The results of my decision are mixed.
The Hunger Games is a pretty well told story. With fifty years of reading behind me, I was able to predict the outcome of each characters' roles, but some of the details of the story were surprisingly clever. (I almost typed "cleaver" which would fit this gruesome story, too.) The mixing of action and thought worked well, and I wanted to know what came next.
But I was unhappy at the end. Nothing was resolved. Some characters had temporarily escaped peril with their lives, but the unexplained evil that brought about the games was still in place. The stage was just set for sequels that I do not want to read.
I am not opposed to sequels, but there has to be some glimmer of hope at the end of the first book. We are given no reward for making it to the end. There is just a promise of more dreariness.
Still, I would rather continue The Hunger Games than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I suspect both will be popular for years to come, but I'd prefer to read something less dismal.
Maybe the schools can free their students from assigned readings next summer.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008. ISBN 9780439023481