I love to read, but I’m quite a picky reader. Unless it’s within the genre I like, has some relation to my interests, has been recommended by an opinion I value, or I’ve read the author’s work in the past, I’ll finish the book from the start to finish. Books as gifts are always welcome, but half of them, I never bothered to finish. The one time I actually got a novel I embraced from the beginning was from my former editors, Eugenides’ Middlesex. They based it on the titles I initially posted on the Kris Kringle/Secret Santa, none of which were available in local bookstores. The books I picked out for myself, Murakami’s Underground, Jane Austen’s never-gets-old Pride and Prejudice, I remember thoroughly. My number one source for literary titles–my dear sister–is another good source for similar tastes. Thanks to her and other valuable opinion’s praises, I finally got into reading Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games.
Collin’s dystopia universe brought me right in, almost making me late for work. It’s a story you can’t leave smack in the middle of a chapter. As soon as the clock hits 5:30 on weekdays, all I can think of is settling into my bed and finishing the book. The dystopia setting is similar to the movie Battle Royale, but executed much differently. What was once North America is now Panem, which is divided into poorer districts. A boy and a girl are randomly picked from each district to participate in the hunger games, a fight to the death. Only one winner can emerge alive.
It wasn’t just the suspense of the games themselves or the vibrant characters begging to come out of the pages. Panem, as the front cover blurb puts it, has unsettling parallels to our present world. It is an exaggeration of today’s world, but not an impossible future either. The author’s “inspiration” from today’s reality shows and their ability blur the lines between entertainment and honesty are obvious, making you question how genuine emotions are conveyed through the screen. Of course, I’ve always had the suspicion that these shows weren’t reality at all–simply staged to up ratings and increase sales. I may work in the printing side of media, but even there the influence of advertisers is obvious. The media is a business and money is what runs our capitalist society. Is it a good thing or bad thing? Reading through the book, I began to question if creating needs and marketing all these products just erased the value of living in itself. A bit of an extreme perspective for a lover of shoes and clothes, but I guess we’ve lost ourselves in diversions–whether it be gadgets or heels–that the things which truly last, are taken for granted. Not only do we leave the less privileged deprived–we also forget about what really matters. It’s not a matter of being spiritual or religious even, when it comes to these material things. It’s more of, what have we gotten ourselves into? And why are we buying it all (literally and figuratively)? What real purpose will we have, once all these material aspirations are taken away?
I’m obviously veering away from an actual book review, but such is the power of her work. It takes you beyond what’s on the page, and rethink what is happening around you. Maybe a teenager going through the book will be after the romance or action. But it’s the kind of novel you back to as you get older, and revisit the crucial moments that make you go “a-ha!” with a more adult perspective. How would your world be reshaped after reading such striking work? No better way to find out than to read it for yourself.