Final Thoughts on The Wounded Heart

Sexual abuse is not a subject that people really enjoy talking about. It is a complicated, messy, and very painful subject. However, that is also the subject of the book that I’m looking at today. I’m looking at The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dr. Dan B. Allender. So fair warning that we’ll be talking at least to some degree about sexual abuse, since that is what the topic of the book is.

The Wounded HeartBefore getting into my thoughts about the book I feel I need to make a couple things clear. First, this is a book geared towards those who have experienced sexual abuse, and that is something that I have never experienced. I have also never known anyone who has divulged such abuse to me. So I’m coming at this book from a very outside perspective.

The second is that this book is geared towards Christians. The title doesn’t really indicate that in the least, but it views belief in God as the ultimate way to have hope. I am a Christian so this doesn’t bother me, but I simply think this needs to be made clear at the beginning. With these out of the way let’s proceed.

To be honest, I had very mixed feelings about The Wounded Heart. I found some of it useful, but other aspects of it very troubling. I’ll start with what I found helpful and move to some of the things I disliked.

First, I give him kudos for tackling such a difficult topic. Reading some sexual abuse stories over the past few years, Christians tend to be pegged as people who avoid the reality of sexual abuse and offer few resources to help those who have experienced it. Yet, here was a work that was originally published in 1990. So I give Allender a good deal of respect for offering this resource, even if the execution didn’t set well with me for the most part.

The other aspect of the book I found helpful were the sections where he was focused on the psychological and very little of his theology was evident. I found learning about the dynamics of abuse and also the damage that sexual abuse could do enlightening even while difficult to read and comprehend that such abuse and damage to others happens. When he focused on the psychology side of things, I found him to be more professional in tone. That said, these positives give way to the negatives way too quickly.

The major problem I have with the book is the way he injects Christianity into this process. It seems that his major goal is to make the victim of abuse realize that they are sinners who need God. While admittedly we are all sinners and I understood where he was coming from, the way it was presented troubled me. I could see people who have experienced abuse recoiling from the way it was presented as more burden being placed on them. I also questioned some of the things that he was labeling as sin.

One such example was regarding a woman who was waiting for her father at an airport. They had agreed to meet during a two hour layover she had at the airport. She was looking forward to this meeting and was disappointed that he didn’t show up. This led her to be ashamed of getting her hopes up in the first place, because it appeared this was not new behavior for her father.

Dr. Allender declares this exchange idolatry. That the woman’s worth was being tied up too much to her father’s appearance. I found this very troubling. To simply look forward to a meeting with a parent is idolatry? To feel bad and silly for looking forward to it when it falls through is idolatry? This seems dubious to me. Yet so often this is the way he handles the theological side of the book, with questionable connections like these and a heavy hand. As I said it is not that I disagree with certain aspects. It is just the way he presents them that I find troubling given who he is trying to help here.

I think his work would be much more helpful if it focused on the positive aspects of God’s love for us, his grace, his mercy even for those who have experience abuse. He seems to focus on the victim understanding their sin as the only path towards receiving God’s healing. I don’t find that in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus healed, but you don’t see him requiring a confession of sin before he acts. That doesn’t mean that our sin never needs addressed, it means that God can heal us before our sins are realized. It may even be from that healing that we are able to then confront our sins.

All this to say, that while I found The Wounded Heart helpful in understanding some of the dynamics and damage from abuse, I wonder if it is really that helpful of a book. You may find healing in the pages, but you could also find more pain. I probably wouldn’t really recommend it, but unfortunately I have no other books on the subject I can offer in place of it as of now.

Fear Makes Everyone An Enemy

After focusing on Lot and the events at Sodom in Genesis 19 last week, we move again to Abraham. Strangely, despite moving back to Abraham, we are not really concerned with the promise of Isaac. Genesis 20 instead deals with an incident involving Abraham and Abimelek that is reminiscent of the incident that takes place in Egypt in Genesis 12.

What we see here is Abraham moving on from the trees of Mamre to Gerar. When relocated Abraham once again tells Sarah to pretend to be his sister. The position of this scheme is rather interesting. We see Abraham imploring God to show mercy to Sodom a couple chapters ago, with Brueggemann even going as for to say that Abraham was trying to teach God. Yet, here we have Abraham lying and scheming because he was afraid that Abimelek would not fear God.

Due to this lie, Sarah is taken in by Abimelek. This is strange in itself because we’re seeing Sarah as being rather advanced in age, at least if we take the story as chronological. That Abimelek is taking her in as a potential wife/concubine is a bit odd, but that’s not really where I want to focus. I’m wanting to focus on Abraham’s fear.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen it. We saw it in the similar incident in Genesis 12. Abraham feared these outside figures more than he trusted in God. The schemes that he hatched not placed Sarah in risky situations both times, since she’s taken in by the Pharaoh in Egypt and Abimelek here. Here though we also see that Abraham’s lie places Abimelek in danger as well.

What is particularly interesting here is that God speaks to Abimelek warning him about what he has done. Abimelek responds in earnest and is found innocent by God. When Abimelek confronts Abraham about it, Abraham gives a rather weak excuse that basically boils down to the idea that he was afraid of Abimelek and his people. This fear led Abraham to lie, or at least half-lie as Abraham was trying to spin it.

What we see is a rather strange role reversal in this story. Abraham is supposed to be the righteous one, yet Abimelek is acting much more righteous than Abraham. Brueggemann says that “Here Abimelek models faith lacking in Abraham, the father of faith.” It’s a strange irony.

Yet, I wonder if that irony doesn’t play out far too often in our own lives. I think we’ve all known fear. Fear is something I wrote about not too long ago. Yet, fear is a terrible motivator. It motivates us to do things like Abraham in this passage, to lie, twist, or hide the truth. It makes us look at others with suspicious eyes worried that they will hurt us or are out to get us in some way.

The trouble I often have in sorting through this is that often our reactions made in fear are due to the wounds people have given us in the past. We are often afraid of how people will respond when we say, act, or do something because we’ve been hurt before or seen other people hurt before. Our reasons for being wary are often not entirely unfounded.

We’ve all been burned by people we’ve trusted, whether parent, pastor, teacher, or even friends. We can look at statistics regarding abuse and sexual abuse and understand that there are people who are deserving of fear. I don’t think we should live life in a perpetual naivety thinking that everyone is friendly and will never ever hurt you. Yet I also think there is a danger of fearing everyone as well.

I think when fear is the first reaction to every person we meet we turn them into an enemy. We may not even know much about them, like Abraham and Abimelek, but we make assumptions and turn them into enemies who are out to get us. I think that this can look many ways.

We fear other parents who may look down on or disagree with our ways of parenting, so we go in with defenses raised and treat them as we would enemies.

We fear people who may look different than us because for some reason we think that looking different and coming from a different culture is a reason for viewing someone as an enemy.

We fear fellow Christians, no matter where they fall on the spectrum, because we worry we will face judgment and condemnation when we disagree. So we keep everything close, don’t share our own thoughts, and in our own way look down on them.

We fear people who aren’t Christian because we worry they’ll hate us or deride us for our faith. So we attack and make generalizations about them so we never have to worry about anyone like that getting too close.

We can fear pretty much anyone. If we let those fears take control than everyone around us can be turned into an enemy and I’m not sure we’re meant to look at those around us like that. In all honesty though, I’m not exactly sure how to approach people.

There is a dual reality underneath this whole incident. One can’t hide the fact that there are people who will attack, harm and judge us for little to no reason. They may be Christians or non-Christians; co-workers or strangers; they may even be people particularly close to us like family and friends. We have a reason to be wary, not every person is trustworthy, and simply being naive about that isn’t the answer.

Yet, at the same time if we begin to fear everyone we run across, we isolate ourselves and take a pretty harsh stance on the people around us. Not only that, but we may miss relationships that are positive for both us and the other person involved. We may even fall in the trap of Abraham, where our fear becomes great enough that we begin to lie and twist the truth because we are afraid of those around us.

This puts us in tension. Not letting fear or complete naivety control us. To understand that there may be people out there who will hurt us, but being careful that we don’t hurt others or shut them out due to our own fear. It’s a tricky balance to strike, but I do think it is a balance that reflects reality.

Final Thoughts on Mockingjay

How does one end a well loved series? That’s a question that haunts television, movies, and of course books. It seems like it is often difficult to have a series end in a satisfying manner. I’ve been giving my thoughts on the Hunger Games series throughout the year, and now I’ll be looking to see how the trilogy ends. Is it an ending that satisfies or leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth?

MockingjaySince this will be regarding the third book of a series this will contain spoilers from the first two books, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, so you’ve been warned. I’ll try to keep it light on the spoilers for this book, but can’t guarantee anything on that either.

Plot

The last book ended with a number of obligatory cliffhangers to make you anticipate the next book. Katniss and two of the other tributes of the 75th Hunger Games escape with the help of a still existing District 13, but three others are captured by the Capitol including Peeta. To make matters worse after Katniss wakes up from her injuries from that ordeal, Gale is there to let her know that District 12 has been bombed and destroyed, but he has managed to rescue her family.

So this sets up where the last book starts. Katniss finds herself in District 13, which lives underground. The new surroundings are quite foreign to Katniss as District 13 runs on a military like efficiency. Everyone is dressed similarly, has a set daily schedule, and only uses the basic necessities.

Now the plot of this book doesn’t revolve around a Hunger Games, but rather the war that is raging across the nation of Panem. With the Capitol leading one side and District 13 leading the other. What District 13 wants to do is find a way to unite the districts against the Capitol, and the best way to do that is to get Katniss to be the symbol (mascot?) of the rebellion.

So no problem right? The Capitol is evil and standing up against them should be no problem. Things aren’t quite that simple, the fact that Peeta has been captured by the Capitol and that the leadership of District 13 seems a little iffy makes Katniss unsure of what she should do.

So that’s the basic setup. The plot has a good amount of tension that makes you want to know what’s happening next. However, at that same time there are a number of things that are just kind of over the top. Some that spring to mind are bows and arrows that can take down hovercrafts and the whole last section of the book where the Capitol is revealed to be pretty much a Hunger Games arena.

Characters

A lot of the characters return for the final installment, so if they’ve survived the previous books they’re pretty much in this book. The thing is that there are a good number who haven’t survived. Even the ones that have been in previous books have undergone certain changes in Mockingjay. These aren’t changes that are against character necessarily, but rather changes that have come out of the circumstances in previous books. Let me give a few examples.

The first is Katniss. Just like with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Katniss is our guide to the world of Panem. I’ve always thought that this choice was largely a strong point, with some minor weaknesses. In Mockingjay, I think it starts to become a larger weakness, maybe not more than a strength, but up there.

With each book the conflict has escalated. In the first book it was just about surviving the Hunger Games so telling it from Katniss’ point of view made a lot of sense. With Catching Fire we have another Hunger Games, but there is also this whole alliance thing trying to break out of the arena and keep Katniss safe that she doesn’t know about.It makes her view point miss a good amount, but it’s still small enough to work well.

Now with Mockingjay there is no Hunger Games, the nation is at war and one person’s perspective on a whole war is going to be lacking. Plus add in the physical and emotional trauma that Katniss has sustained in the past two books and it leads to a character who is still strong, but unable to carry the whole load of a war (even if she was still physically and mentally unaffected by the previous two books). This also means that some parts and aspects of the war are just unknown to Katniss or only heard about later.

This may lead you to think that Katniss isn’t as strong as the previous books but I don’t think this is the case. I’ll admit to understanding this view since she spends a fair deal of the book wandering around some hospital or other building in a wounded or emotionally unstable state. I’d say though that it is more about one person coming up to their limits in terms of what the strength of one person can accomplish. So unless Suzanne Collins was wanting to turn Katniss into Rambo or something it seemed like a fairly natural progression to me.

Gale also has a shift in this book. In previous books he was more of an anti-authority, voice of the people character and really only seemed to trust Katniss. In this book we see him gravitating towards the authority of District 13 and putting quite a bit of distance between him and Katniss (which to be fair Katniss has contributed to over time). This makes sense as Gale is more anti-Capitol, but it seems to cause him to not see the flaws in the authority system he is embracing. It makes for an interesting shift, but made Gale an even more unlikable character in my mind.

Peeta also has a pretty drastic shift in this book. I won’t give too much away, but circumstances kind of change Peeta into a cold person, at least towards Katniss, for a good portion of this book. We see this kind of change in a few other characters like Finnick who removes his brash confident exterior for a more vulnerable and humble picture of himself at times. So we have development for a number of the characters that we’ve come to know.

We’re also introduced to a number of new characters some major, others minor. Since it is a Hunger Games book, there is also no guarantee that any of the characters are going to survive the book, whether they’re new blood or not. You’ll go through a number of characters in this one, some that you’ll miss and others that you won’t.

Themes

To me it also seems that the themes of this book have shifted just a bit like the characters themselves. The theme of survival is largely absent. However, the theme of corruption and abuse of power is all over the place. This has been seen throughout the trilogy through the Capitol, but Mockingjay adds another player to the corrupt and power hungry. That is the leader of District 13, President Coin.

So you have the whole rebellion against a corrupt Capitol going on through the book, but as you travel further on you have real questions about the morality and goodness of President Coin and District 13. It then becomes a struggle of who does one support if both options are corrupt. Positions of power and authority are not viewed favorably in these books.

In addition to the themes of corruption and abuse of power, you also have the theme of morality in war. What is morally acceptable and unacceptable in war? Is war even a time to be asking that question? These kind of questions are explored through the book. Katniss seems to think there should be morals and that certain lines shouldn’t be crossed, but sadly both the Capitol and even District 13 don’t seem to agree with her.

One last theme I’ll touch on that I mentioned earlier is the idea of the limits of one person. Katniss as the Mockingjay symbol for the revolution does more than most people would do for a war effort, but you constantly see Katniss run up against the limits of what she can do on her own throughout the book. While one person can have a more significant impact in a small arena battle, as the conflict spreads to all out war a person’s impact may be less noticeable.

Overall Impressions

This was another book that I read rather fast once I started getting into it. Like the other books it hooks you into the story and you want to see how it all ends. There are weaknesses that come from having Katniss being the only point of view that are stronger in this book. She misses some fairly significant moments because she’s not there to witness them. This fact also leads to some slower parts of the book.

The book just kind of seemed all over the place in some ways. It has slow parts and fast parts, but then has setting or circumstances that just make you scratch your head (which is what I was thinking about for the last quarter or so of the book while in the Capitol). The ending I found mostly satisfying. I didn’t like some of the parts about how it ended, but overall I don’t object too strongly. At the end of the day The Hunger Games is still the strongest book of the trilogy. The whole trilogy is still worth your time to read, but the follow up books never seemed to capture the focused story that the first book presented.

Final Thoughts on Catching Fire

Trilogies make for interesting situations. You may hook people with your first book, but it is hard to make a middle book that doesn’t feel like it is doing more than treading water up until the inevitable cliffhanger. It can then also be difficult to make a final book that ends the whole series in such a way that people are happy.

Catching FireToday though I’m giving my thoughts on Catching Fire which is the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy. How does it fare in regards to this fate? Does it work well enough on its own or does it simply set us up for the last book? Do we see it building on the themes of the first book, setting up new themes to consider, or simply meandering around to simply get where it wants to go?

Understand that I’ll be going into the plot and such of the first book when talking about the second. You just have to in some regards, so if you haven’t read the first book maybe you’d want to start with my thoughts on The Hunger Games.

Plot

The plot of Catching Fire picks up pretty much where The Hunger Games left off. You have Katniss and Peeta as winners of the previous Hunger Games, a fact that is rather controversial since there is only supposed to be one winner of the Hunger Games. Between this and a number of other aspects regarding the last games, the spark of revolt has been developing in a number of districts.

Katniss’ actions during the last Hunger Games were unintentionally that spark. The Capitol is not happy with her and wants her to put out this spark she started. She is to try to do this while on a victory tour that involves visiting each district as well as the Capitol itself.

As Katniss soon finds out, the spark is beyond her control. Coincidentally though, this year marks a special Hunger Games called a Quarter Quell that happens every 25 years. This involves having a Hunger Games with some special modifiers added. For the 75th Hunger Games it is that one male and female from the previous winners in each district will go back into the arena to see if they can survive again.

Now I’m trying to keep the plot as bare as possible. Overall though, I thought the plot was an interesting setup. To me the plot moved along rather quickly. The tension that goes on at the beginning of the book keeps the first half moving along fairly quickly and then moving into the Hunger Games itself is of course going to be more action focused and interesting.

Admittedly, one could argue that it is basically a rehash of the plot in the first book. I certainly understand that criticism, but I think that there is a shift that is pretty significant between the first and second books. In the first book, the Capitol is doing business as usual. In the second, it feels like the Capitol is focusing on getting rid of Katniss and stamping out any sign of rebellion that they can. It is not business as usual, but a reaction to stop what has been set into motion using ways that are already part of how the Capitol does things.

One of the worst parts of the book is also similar, that being the love triangle. Maybe it’s just because I never really like Gale from the first book and he felt like he was the forced love interest in the first place, but it’s even more annoying here. Oh well, it’s there and not much we can do about it.

Another weak point of the plot this time around is that it is definitely not a stand alone story. It ends with a fairly dramatic cliffhanger. Maybe it’d be better to say several dramatic cliffhangers. While the first book had the foreshadowing of more to come it wrapped up most of the story and stood alone well. This one doesn’t. I can’t fault it too much for that, since it is often the fate of the middle book in a trilogy, but it’s disappointing mainly because it makes you want to read more.

Characters

Like the first book you experience the events of Catching Fire from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen. Also similar to the first book this is both a strength and a weakness. You wind up knowing Katniss and her thoughts quite well with her as the only perspective you get. The negative thing is that Katniss doesn’t know it all, which allows for mystery and twists, but this also gives you the feeling that you know something is going on, but not quite sure what.

In this book though, it doesn’t seem like Katniss is quite as good as putting things together as she was in the first book. She was able to figure out Haymitch ‘s thoughts in the first book and able to play things according to plan. In this book though, it feels like she doesn’t have much of any clue what is going on during the Hunger Games.

Many of the District 12 characters return and they’ve all of varied importance. The most important are probably Peeta and Haymitch, but Gale, Prim, Madge, and Mrs. Everdeen all play some significant roles as well. Peeta winds up back in the Hunger Games this time around as well, but winds up feeling a bit more like one always needing rescued this time around.

In addition to that you also get to meet all the other tributes from the other districts. They are a bit more important to know and remember for the most part in this book since they play more of a role before the Games and during than just being people to watch out for and kill before they kill you. That’s not entirely true of all of them, but there are more significant people to remember than the first book.

Katniss also gets to meet President Snow and have a conversation with him as well as a few other shorter interactions with him. All in all he sets himself up to be a person you can dislike pretty quickly a good villain to root against. There are a few other Capitol characters that are of interest too. Cinna and his stylist team returns and Katniss also gets to meet the new head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee who is somewhat of a mystery to her.

So overall the cast of characters expands quite a bit in this book. Where the first book focused mainly on the District 12 team of Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch with exceptions like Cinna and Rue, this book makes most of the characters seem a bit more important. That’s not to say that everyone you’re introduced to makes it out alive, but just that there is a bit more interaction with a wider number of characters.

Themes (May Contain Spoilers)

Really I’d say that many of the themes from the first book transfer over to this book, but maybe in different amounts. The theme of abuse of power increases. Here we see the abuse played out stronger as the Capitol is starting to lose control over its districts. People are killed for the slightest provocation, it’s heavily implied that the setup for the 75th Hunger Games is in order to get rid of Katniss and remove her from influencing people to rebellion any more. The abuse of power only increases as the power is now being challenged in an intentional way.

Survival is also still there as a theme, but I think that this time around the focus on this is reduced. Katniss seems more focused on the survival of those around her rather than on herself necessarily. She wants to make Snow happy so that he doesn’t kill her family, she primarily wants to help Peeta win the Hunger Games and survive, and so on. I guess you could say the theme transfers more to protection than survival.

A theme that is somewhat new with this book is the idea on who to trust. Can Katniss trust President Snow if she does what he wants her to do? Who can be trusted in the arena as allies? How far can they be trusted? In Katniss’ mind the answer is typically that nobody can really be trusted at least not for any length of time, with the exception of Peeta.

So overall, this book has similar themes, but the focus is slightly different. Instead of Katniss being solely focused on her own survival, she’s instead focused more on protecting others. She’s also more willing to be actively antagonistic to the Capitol as the book goes on, although still most of the time it winds up being unintentional than intentional.

Overall Impressions

I’ll admit, I didn’t quite like this book as much as the first one. The first was groundbreaking but so much of this book seemed like it was retreading the ground the first book did. This wasn’t all bad as I mentioned earlier, but I’m not sure that is was necessarily good. There were aspects of the book that were better like the arena being rather interesting and having more interaction with other tributes, but it just wasn’t quite enough to make me enjoy it more than the first.

Now I still read through this book rather quickly and was looking forward to the last book after I was done. It’s just that this wound up being a middle book of a trilogy after all. A story that really didn’t end, cliffhangers galore, and getting us ready for the final conflict and the final book. Catching Fire is still a good book, but I think I liked The Hunger Games a little better.

Final Thoughts on The Hunger Games

I’m sure that most of you have already heard of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy. There are even movies made of this book and the sequel. Obviously, I’m a bit behind the curve and have just started reading the series. Unlike the last fiction work I read which took me a couple years to get through, this one took me less than a week.

Hunger GameIt’s funny when something like The Hunger Games comes around there are always those who love it with an undying passionate love and those who seem to despise the book with an undying passion of their own. Sometimes it is hard for me to figure out if the hatred for a book is simply due to the love other people have for the book (as some kind of self-imposed balancing force) or due to honestly thinking the book is terrible.

Personally, I really enjoyed the book. It was easy to read and had a plot that sucked me in. I would say the book does have a few flaws, but nothing to really hinder it too much. However, let’s look a little closer at what The Hunger Games is about and what it has going for it and against it.

Plot

The plot focuses around the titular Hunger Games. The Hunger Games take place in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem that is built on the ashes of what we call North America. The country has twelve districts and is ruled over by The Capitol. The event known as the Hunger Games is where twenty four tributes aged 12-18 from the twelve districts are forced to fight to the death in arena combat. Now if this wasn’t morbid enough, the games are also televised and treated like we treat reality television competitions like Survivor.

Our window into the world of The Hunger Games comes through the main character and heroine of the book Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is a 16 year old girl from District 12 who finds herself in the 74th Hunger Games and trying to survive. Of course this will be no easy task as there are twenty three other participants that are trying to do the same thing.

I may be oversimplifying the plot a bit, but this captures the essence of what the book is about. I must say though, that while the plot seems fairly simple, it also always feels like the plot is bigger than what we’re seeing. Perhaps that seems obvious since the Hunger Games is part of the a trilogy and everything. Even so, it does a good job of keeping a tight plot in a stand-alone book while still creeping it’s tendrils out in such a way that I wondered if there is more going on than we’re privy to.

The plot and world that is presented is an interesting one, even if it isn’t maybe the most original. I’m sure many people can find books or short stories that this will remind them of. I had thoughts of the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson while reading it, but truthfully this did little to cause me to dislike The Hunger Games, but more wonder if there was any inspiration from it.

I’ve also seen criticism of the plot being that it wouldn’t be possible because something as horrible as the Hunger Games would be resisted against too much. I’m not sure if I buy this as part of what keeps people doing it is the oppressive, totalitarian nature of the Capitol. They appear to be better fed, resourced, and armed than at least District 12, so it all seems a bit one sided.I don’t underestimate the power of fear and oppression. However, even if it is still unlikely, I’d say that I don’t really require “realism” in my fiction of this type.

One negative I do have about the plot is that it tries to shoehorn a love triangle into the works. Which, I must admit, is not the most convincing plot point in the book. It seems like included because it was needed to gain traction as a young adult novel and not really because the plot needed it.

Characters

The character that you spend the most time with and come to know the best is Katniss. After all the novel is told from her perspective in the first person. While I’d hold that this is an overall positive choice of perspective, it does hold a few weaknesses. The strength is that you get to know Katniss really well. She’s a great character. She’s strong, smart, but still real enough to do very stupid things in the midst of everything too. She seems like a well fleshed out and very human character.

The problem with this is that the other characters are only able to be known to the extent that Katniss knows them. This leads to weaker characterization of the supporting cast. While I think that the cast of supporting characters are still presented and developed fairly well, there isn’t nearly as much development of them as their is of Katniss. This makes it easy to see other characters as perhaps more one dimensional than they really are, simply because that’s primarily how Katniss perceives them.

Another potential negative is that Katniss really doesn’t know a lot of what’s going on during the book and neither do you. She doesn’t understand the thoughts and motivations of other characters unless it is later divulged; you don’t know what’s going on elsewhere until she gets the information. This isn’t a terrible thing as it helps create a tense atmosphere and has you trying to figure out what’s going on too, but I could see how some might get frustrated with it.

Themes (Some Spoilers Possible)

The Hunger Games is an interesting beast. I found it to be an enjoyable book, but it deals with subject matter that is a bit uncomfortable, like the whole teenagers being forced to fight to the death thing. I’ve seen some try to make it seem that the book glorifies violence and is an endorsement of what the Hunger Games in the books represented. I’d have to disagree with this assessment.

In fact I’d say one of the main themes of the book is the misuse of power and violence. While the other main theme is survival and the willingness to disobey the authority in order to survive. These two linked themes can be found all over the place in the book.

We see the misuse of power underneath the reasoning for the Hunger Games in the first place.The reason for this terrible event is to remind the districts of a time when they tried to rebel against the Capitol. It is a reminder of who is really in power and what happens when that power is resisted. It is the pinnacle of power and violence being abused.

As you proceed through the book, this abuse of power is highlighted again and again. While many people in the districts go hungry, we find that in the Capitol there is plenty of food to go around. Both the quality and quantity of food in the Capitol far exceeds the meager portions that can be found in District 12 where starvation is a very real fear.

To make matters even worse the citizens of the Capitol are so self-absorbed and separated from the plight and abuse that takes place in the other districts. The Hunger Games are presented as some spectacle complete with stylists, parades, and even televised interviews.They present the Hunger Games as if those participating were doing this for some noble cause, or as if the majority weren’t going off to their deaths.

The other main theme is that of survival and that sometimes defying the authorities is necessary in doing so. Again this is a theme that is present from the opening pages to the end of the book. We first see Katniss getting up and sneaking out of the boundaries of District 12 to hunt in the nearby forests. This is something that if she was caught she could face severe punishment, but hunting was a way that she could provide food for herself and her family. Survival was more important than obedience.

This continues in small and large ways throughout. Even Katniss volunteering for the Hunger Games in place of her sister could be viewed as defiance to the status. It is also an example of another significant theme in the book, which is self-sacrifice. Katniss is willing to sacrifice herself to protect her younger sister. There are also other examples from Katniss and other characters that are willing to sacrifice themselves for others throughout the book..

Personally, I would say that these are the strongest themes of the book and carry the weight going forward. Katniss’ main focus is on survival, and while she does realize that her need to survive is because of the abuses of the Capitol, her defiance is not necessarily ideological as much as practical. She wants to stay alive and keep those she cares about alive. So she doesn’t always think too hard about the consequences of that survival when it is in defiance to the power of the Capitol.

Overall Impression

As I said near the beginning, I enjoyed The Hunger Games. It’s an engaging book that deals with themes and a plot that can be a bit disturbing, but that I feel ultimately serves a purpose. I certainly liked it a lot more than the last fiction book I read.