Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, 2008-2010
Published by Scholastic

From my Mom:

The trilogy of the Hunger Games was a real treat. I think it’s classified as young adult/ or adolescent fiction but I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a quick read with a really great heroine in Catniss Everdeen (not to mention one of the best names I’ve ever met in book or life). It should be enjoyed with a kid if you have one and on your own if you don’t.

From Jess:

When I first read The Hunger Games, I thought it borrowed far too heavily from Battle Royale, a 1999 Japanese novel by Koushun Takami, in which a classroom of teens is forced to fight to the death each year to demonstrate and solidify the power of a totalitarian government. Sound familiar? The New York Times quotes Suzanne Collins today: “I had never heard of that book or that author until my book was turned in. At that point, it was mentioned to me, and I asked my editor if I should read it. He said: ‘No, I don’t want that world in your head. Just continue with what you’re doing.'” The Times goes on to reported that “she has yet to read the book or to see the movie.”

I’m not convinced she stole the idea, but I find it hard to believe that no one with whom she shared early drafts had read or seen Battle Royale. Writers write within a tradition; they pay homage to the work of the authors that came before them. They are inspired. They borrow from and engage in literary discourse with their forebears. If Collins hadn’t read Battle Royale, she should have. She should have been conversant in Takami’s work, as she should have been other works of dystopian fiction — 1984, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Running Man. Creators are influenced in ways large and small, the subtleties of which they may not even recognize, and they should be as conscious as possible of the traditions within which they dare to create.

All that said, I enjoyed the Hunger Games books and would certainly recommend them. Catniss is a well-developed heroine who brings strength and grace to an often male-dominated genre. Collins writes well; her books are challenging yet accessible for young readers. Read the books. And read Battle Royale.

The thing that has been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
– Ecclesiastes 1:9

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.
– Shakespeare, Sonnet 59

No idea is original, there’s nothing new under the sun, it’s never what you do, but how it’s done.
– Nas, “No Idea’s Original”, The Lost Tapes

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