The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, a young adult novel set in the very sad future of the United States of America, is a fantastic story. Suzanne Collins obviously knows her apocalyptic fiction, as she crafts a story with characters that remain human in an inhuman world. The novel fits very nicely within the grand tradition of life after the end of the world under a dictatorship.

I really love the characters, especially Katniss. Her emotional growth and conflict rise about the brutal conflict we watch her struggle through. Much like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, I care what happens to the narrator, even as I am confused by the world she lives in. The optimist in me thinks that this world could never come to be, but the realist sees the world of George Orwell’s 1984 becoming reality and knows that it just takes the right conditions.

Why this novel isn’t a 5 star for me is because of the length. I wish that the trilogy was condensed to 1 book. This is a great first part of a story, but as I was ending it, I found myself looking for the end of the tale. And not in a “Ooo! There’s 2 more books!” type of way, but more of an annoyed with the process that didn’t cut this sort of way. I haven’t read the completion of the series, and I may change my mind about the annoyance. To be completely fair, I fell the same way in the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Really, this series got me thinking about the current trends in novels, and I realized so many new stories are spread out over several books. I know that this is probably for money, both for the publisher and to a lesser extent authors. I still think back over the 20th century notables that I studied in school and so many of them are single books, with no extra volumes.

I wonder what we will do with these sprawling stories as we move further from the anticipation of their arrival in stores. Will the stories fall by the wayside? Will we shift our appreciation of them to a different focus? Will our stories continue to spread out? Will we move to a shorter, focused format again?

As the stories get longer, I read more studies about shortened attention spans in general. But if tweens and teens are the main market for the Twilight books (which are not short books), and kids are the main audience for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone, what is it about the novels that draw in these attention deficit kids? And why are best-sellers so long if adults suffer from the same lack in their attention?

Could it really be that if something is engaging, we will stick with it, regardless of length? Perhaps what makes us flip the channel or click to the next screen isn’t that we can’t pay attention, but that the content isn’t engaging enough.

I don’t know. These were the questions I had after I’d finished the novel and thought through it. I love the issues and topics Collins covers. I would definitely recommend this novel to most mature readers. Probably not the best book for someone who does not enjoy reading stories that contain horrors. But I would still recommend they try. The discussion makes the content worthwhile.

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