Recently, a friend and I were talking about the proliferation of a phrase common to our generation: “I feel that…” as in, “I feel that so and so presented his best work early in his career” or “I feel that this certain website is just trying to get a rise out of me.” My friend’s argument that it was a term put in front of a slightly-argumentative statement, a safe way to present a strong opinion; that you’re willing to throw the argument out into a public discourse, but you don’t want to be held responsible for any interpretations other than an opinion. It’s a symptom of a culture increasingly hesitant to fully-commit.
Once you’re aware of it, you’ll begin hearing it everywhere.
The Hunger Games is written much like an “I feel that” statement, and it’s infuriating. Something that has had such a huge cultural impact as The Hunger Games is always going to draw some backlash, from the much-discussed Battle Royale-stealing plot to the poor quality of the writing (you’re really going to use the adverbs thirstily and grouchily?) But these books are for young adults, and so holding them up to the quality of something literary and well… adult says more about your own pretensions than it does with your reactions.
(Blah… following could contain some spoilers about this stupid book)
However, the reason that The Hunger Games is a difficult book is because it never trusts its own statements. The way that it presents exposition through the main character’s (Katniss Everdeen) constant, internal theoretical questioning is an insult to an audience’s attention span, no matter how young they are. These occurrences happen every four or five pages. For instance, on page 241 (which I randomly flipped to), Katniss thinks:
Who knows where the Careers are now? Either too far to reach me or too sure this is a trick or… is it possible? Too scared of me?… Figured out I blew up their supplies and killed their fellow Career? Possibly they think Thresh did this. Wouldn’t he be more likely to revenge Rue’s death than I would? Being from the same District? Not that he took any interest in her.
And that theorizing happens all. the. time. Not only does she reiterate past actions (in case you forgot), but she assumes other characters assumptions. How many questions in that one paragraph? Four? Just to make sure the reader and Katniss have thought about every possibility. By the time you’ve finished the novel, it feels like you’ve read it twice.
The thing is, the Hunger Games is written in the first person, which is a stylistic choice that grants the author subjective power. When characters experience things in the first person, it can be wrong, it can be misinterpreted, it can be exaggerated. These are the powers of using first person, which can make an incredibly-dynamic read. But there is no point if you’re going to spend the book second-guessing your audience, or, not willing to commit.
As popular art becomes increasingly inconsequential, it would have been nice to have read something as fierce and dark as people keep saying it is, but the Hunger Games never makes a statement stronger than an easily-retractable opinion.