Everyone complains about reality T.V., even those who watch it, and sometimes especially those who watch it. We’ve all heard it or said it ourselves how sleazy, how exploitative, how demeaning it is to everyone involved. Yet the truth is, if we don’t like what we see on television, we can always just turn it off. But what if we couldn’t? What if the life of a friend or a family member depended on the outcome? This is the premise of the first book of Susan Collins The Hunger Games series, whose third and final installation Mockingjay came out August 24.
Set in post-apocalyptic North America after war and natural disaster have torn it apart, the series’ heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old girl from District 12, the smallest and poorest in the country. Every year, one male and one female teenager from each of the twelve districts are picked by lottery to fight each other to the death on live T.V. in the Hunger Games. The games were created by the wealthy, oppressive Capitol in order to remind the districts, which once rebelled against it, how powerless they are. Katniss is swept up into the world of the games when her 12-year-old sister Prim is picked for District 12’s female representative, forcing her to volunteer to go in her place.
Part of what makes The Hunger Games such an enthralling read is the romantic tension between Katniss and District 12’s male competitor, Peeta Mellark. From the beginning of the games, Katniss and Peeta put on a show of being starcrossed lovers in order to win the financial support of the viewers, who can have things like food, medicine, or weapons airlifted to them for an exorbitant fee. At least Katniss thinks it is a charade, but as she and Peeta become closer as they struggle together to survive together it begins to develop into something much more complicated.
While some have compared it to Twilight, series is actually much more smartly written. While on the surface it may seem like The Hills meets a Roman arena, The Hunger Games poses deep questions about our celebrity-obsessed culture and the way we often split ourselves into a public and a private persona. Without a doubt, Mockingjay will be a must-read for anyone who wonders why, even when we say reality T.V. disgusts us, we can’t seem to change the channel.