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Monday, May 16, 2022

The Librarian is in: 'The Hunger Games'

Okay, okay. I know I am literally 10 years+ behind the world in recognizing that this series is cool. A white, bow-and-arrow-wielding heroine in a fantasy region didn’t exactly “resonate” with me in 2008 or when the cinematic adaptations of this work made it to the big screen. But, in an effort to get to know how to use go/overdrive/ and our audiobook platform, I downloaded “The Hunger Games” and got to know its central character, Katniss Everdeen. 

So, for those of you who might have missed it, “The Hunger Games” is a three-part book series that tells of a fictional, dystopian society, Panem, in which the powers that be exercise control by forcing 12 districts to offer up their children to compete against one another to the death in deadly, outdoor arenas. In theory, 12 enter into the arena and one exits alive and victorious. When protagonist Katniss’ beloved little sister, Primrose, is selected to compete, Katniss volunteers to take her place, believing her sister would never survive. The tale, then, over the course of three books, is of Katniss’ harrowing survival as she battles for her life navigating relationships, dangerous terrain and the precarious whims of the people who play with her fate.

Truth be told, I likely would not have ever picked this book up on my own. I mostly deal in memoirs, have a penchant for graphic novels and choose works with a social justice slant. However, as a librarian, I needed to be able to teach others how to use Overdrive, so I played with the technology until I got it right. It was a bonus that the audiobook format gave me an exciting narrative that I could listen to while performing mundane tasks like stretching at the gym or chopping vegetables in the kitchen. And if ever I was unexpectedly interrupted, Overdrive allowed me to rewind in 15-second increments to recuperate my place. This was the first audiobook I’ve listened to on this platform and it’s been well worth the adventure. 

If I have one critique, I think Collins relies too heavily on making Katniss’ self-doubt a factor of appeal. It seems to suggest, regretfully, that confidence is not an attractive quality in women. Katniss is always questioning herself, her actions, her choices and her plans and this shakiness of thought is supposed to make readers like her. It’s not enough that she is a sharp hunter, a reliable provider or that her male counterparts are hopelessly in love with her. She has to be unaware of her beauty and skill to be “worthy.” Katniss is self-sacrificing, passionate and vulnerable, too. But, for me, the excessive insecurity surrounding her competence is not endearing. Women can be confident, effective, self-knowing and attractive all at once.

Other works in our collection that may feel similar include the “Harry Potter” series (found also in some foreign languages) and “A Handmaid’s Tale” which is also dystopian and centers women.