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Selina Wilken Headshot

Is It Possible to Dislike The Hunger Games?

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The Hunger is upon us! You can't go anywhere these days without hearing talk of The Hunger Games premiere, and all the raving about how amazing the books and movie are. Only a few valiant souls still resist the madness, but us who've already caved know that it's only a matter of time. Right?

We've all had that amazing feeling of getting into a good book, wanting to share it with the world and being devastated when someone didn't like it. Even Harry Potter has its critics. But for some reason, The Hunger Games seems to appeal to absolutely everyone. Of course there'll always be exceptions, but I've never in my life experienced a pop culture work with such widespread appeal. Which begs the question: What does this series have that other books don't?!

I got into The Hunger Games a few years ago when nobody knew what it was, and have been slowly tracking its progress as the film adaptation has been making the whole world aware of the series. As with Potter and other book series I love, I expected a lot of backlash from the general public - the kind of people that don't get as intense about fandom as I do and who dislike YA and sci-fi in general - but the backlash never came. And this has really surprised be, because as much as I love the books, I sure wasn't expecting everyone in the entire world to love them too!

Maybe you know someone who has read the first book and didn't like it. But then you're one of few. In my life, I have only encountered positive reactions, including some from people I really didn't expect would enjoy it! A few examples:

Case study #1: My friend who doesn't like to read

Saying "I don't like to read" is kind of like saying "I don't like fruit" or "I don't like technology," sweeping generalizations that are really annoying because they're so constricting. But when it's your friends saying them, you just have to smile and nod and occasionally slip them a grape/a really good book. I gave this friend The Hunger Games for her birthday, telling her, "So yeah it's gonna be a film and it's pretty cool... check it out." You can imagine my surprise when she texts me the next day saying, "I stayed up all night reading this!!"

Case study #2: My mother

This isn't so weird, considering that my mum is almost as big of a Harry Potter fan as I am and has an entire room of the house filled up with books, but she's not into gory stuff at all so I really wasn't expecting her to enjoy The Hunger Games. But lo and behold - it took her three years of me nagging her, but as soon as she started it she couldn't put it down!

Case study #3: My entire university class

The biggest sign of Suzanne Collins' epidemic is this: my entire class is now in the process of reading the series, and they all love it. Every single one of them. I think there's a few people still staunchly resisting (not for long though, I suspect the obsession is airborne), but over the past few weeks I've been hearing more and more fervent whispers around me of, "Oh my god, did you get to the part where-" "No! Don't spoil me!" "Just wait till that bit there, I cried so much." "I love Foxface!" and so on. I'm pretty sure they're all gonna be dressing up for the premiere, and I have to admit, as the person usually voted most likely to do crazy fandom stuff like that, I'm pretty weirded out by all of this unanimous enthusiasm.

All this leads back to the big question: What is it about The Hunger Games that gives it this mysterious, all-encompassing appeal?

Surely, it's not the series overall (it takes most people a while to accept the ending, if they ever do). And I'm not sure I believe it's the appeal of Katniss as the protagonist; at least that's not what drew me to it (after all, the book begins with her talking about drowning a cat, and I'm a cat person!). And as much as I love the writing style, The Hunger Games is in no way a perfect series. Many people, for example, have a problem with the love triangle, and take issue with various character- and storyline developments over the course of the three novels.

My best guess is that it's the way in which Suzanne Collins structures chapters. What most people say about the first book is that they couldn't put it down, and I think this is what makes everyone love it. The story overall is amazing, yes, but it's just the fact that everyone who reads it actually reads the whole thing because once they've turned that first page, they're hooked and reeled in by the suspenseful techniques used by the author! This, I think, is The Hunger Games' true quality, and is what sets it apart from every other book on the planet. As much as we all love Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game, Pride and Prejudice, The Fault in Our Stars and so on, anyone who isn't into the story or the genre will put it down. No matter what you really think about The Hunger Games, there's no putting it down once you've started.

Another thought I had as an afterthought was that one of the key reasons the series grips people is because of how angry we get when reading about what the Capitol is doing to its people. It sparks such indignation in us, because we feel just how unjust it is, and honestly I think part of the reason why the series is such a page turner is because we just want to see the bastards get what's coming to them.

Why do you think everyone loves The Hunger Games, no matter their age, gender or usual genre preferences? Or are you one of the ones who has read the first book but not liked it?