The Hunger Games/mainstream novels

“ALRIGHT ALREADY! You were right and I was wrong. Yes, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a fantastic book, and you have full rights to mock me because, after complaining about how this book wasn’t deserving of all its accolades, I am now in love with it.”

Or at least, that’s what I would have said to my friends if they weren’t so sweet and gracious enough to forget my annoying rants about The Hunger Games and refrain from saying “I TOLD YOU THAT ALREADY, SUCKER!” Instead, they just gushed with me about the amazingness of The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a fast-paced read that deals with a dystopian society, which seems to be a meld of reality TV and barbarianism. I don’t want to give too much away for those of you who still haven’t read it yet, but it’s certainly thrilling and gripping, to the point where I didn’t do any homework, study for any tests or go to sleep at a reasonable hour (read: stayed up until 2 am and only fell asleep because the iPad ran out of battery) because I was so engrossed in it. I even contemplated skipping school so I could read it.

However, it’s just that—just a book that’s exciting and filled with action. It doesn’t have any deeper meaning, and that is just as it should be since it’s a YA novel and doesn’t need to be packed with motifs, symbols and deep ideas…. which brings me to my next point.

In my English class a few days ago, my English teacher started talking about The Help, a book I found to be a wonderful and nice read. Apparently, she thought otherwise. Without explaining why, she told the class never to read The Help, and that it was not at all a good book.

Yes, we’re all entitled to our own opinions, but I had a feeling that the reason she didn’t like it was because she was reading it with the wrong mindset. The Help, while fabulous in its own way, is not a particularly deep or intellectual novel. It’s not even that historical, since many people from around that time state that the situation was much worse than the author, Kathryn Stockett, portrayed it to be. But besides all that, it is a good story about empowerment and finding your own voice.

That said, mainstream novels are not meant to be analyzed or critiqued the way classics are. I would never spend days poring over each color mentioned in The Hunger Games or ruminating over possible symbols in The Help. In fact, I finished The Hunger Games in just over one day, and I listened to The Help on an audiotape. I wonder if this is why my teacher didn’t like the book, and I wish that she had read it with the right mindset, because it is a good novel. Yes, it isn’t a work of art, but it’s a nice book that I enjoyed reading (or listening to, I guess).

Of course, I didn’t say that out loud because she’s an amazing teacher and I would never want to seem like I’m disrespecting her, but I did feel a little sad that we didn’t share the same opinion.

What about you? Have you ever read a book with the wrong sort of mindset and then revisited it later only to find that you love it?

The Hunger Games Rating: 3.5/5


8 thoughts on “The Hunger Games/mainstream novels

  1. I agree she probably had the wrong mindset. A criticism of the book is that it was written more sympathetic to the white perspective as a hero who empowers the Help when the real heroes are the maids. I can understand the criticism. However, it is also a compulsively readable book (listen).

    In answer to your question, I confess that when I first read Bridges of Madison County as a young woman, I thought it was awful. Then last night I caught the movie on TV and I loved the story. I guess I was in the wrong place in my life.

  2. The Hunger Game is on my list of to-read, and I have done a good job staying away from spoilers. I did the same with A Game of Thrones. Spoilers are everywhere for everything!

    As far as The Help, I can’t comment on that specifically as I haven’t read that either, but one thing I do know is that English teachers do approach books very differently from the average reader. They became English teachers because they love the written word and literature – when they realized this, they fell in love with certain books, and any book that comes along that gets a lot of hype is suspect to them. It must meet the same quality of standards of the books they fell in love with. As teachers, they simply want to make sure their students understand the difference. This isn’t a bad thing, we need the English Teachers to critique what is deemed literature and what is plain fun. Literature still comes out today, it’s just rare. Most of it is just fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I suspect, if you dig a little, you’ll find your teacher has her own “guilty pleasure” reading, whether that be mysteries, pulp fiction, whatever. I say that in quotes because they know it’s not “real literature,” but they like it. They just may not like to admit it.

    • Wow! I don’t know how you stayed away from all of the spoilers since they are everywhere! Major kudos to you for being able to do that.

      That’s true, and I definitely would not classify The Help as literature. But the thing that bugged me was that she told everyone not to read the book based on her own opinion. I understand that it was the kind of statement you don’t really think about, like the kind you just whip out to make your point, but I was a little peeved because I think that everyone should make their own opinions and not base things off of other people’s opinions.

      Again, I have the highest respect for my teacher, and I agree with you that English teachers have a higher standard than their students when it comes to literature, simply because they have read more than their students. I also agree with you that it is essential to have people who can critique books and determine what is literature and what isn’t, but I think she went a little far saying that we should never read The Help.

  3. I’ll start reading the Hunger Games tonight. Before it hits the cinemas here in the Philippines. Weee! Many of my friends have read the book, and just like you, they all said the book was fantastic. Hmm

  4. It’s all about expectations, and in that sense I’m happy with the way The Hunger Games positions itself: not high literature, but a dystopian-lite page-turner that isn’t stupid. And that’s what it delivered for me. It won’t become one of the dystopian classics, but a gateway leading younger readers to those books, and that’s enough to put a song in this guy’s heart.

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