It’s been a while since I last read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, but I still remember how, back when I was only 16, it was one of those Young Adult books that took the entire world by storm. And although there has been an endless slew of Young Adult dystopian novels since then, The Hunger Games books are still buzzing on book Twitter, bookstagram, and TikTok. Which begs the question: why are The Hunger Games books still popular today?
3 Reasons Why The Hunger Games Books Are Still Popular And Relevant Today
The dystopian trilogy is based on an interesting yet disturbingly realistic premise: in a post-apocalyptic world, in the country of Panem, children are forced to participate in a fight for survival game. The actual story kicks off when our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to be a tribute in the games in the place of her younger sister, in an attempt to protect her and prevent her from getting killed.
Now before you call me out and say that it doesn’t sound like a realistic premise…think again. Here are three reasons why The Hunger Games books are shockingly relevant to the real world today…and why they are still popular even after more than a decade.
1. Wealth Is A Powerful Motivator In The Hunger Games
It might seem unbelievable that any district, city or town would just stand by and allow their children to be forced into games where they have to fight to the death…but The Hunger Games shows us just how powerful a motivator money can be.
The Capitol demands a tribute of two teenagers from each of the districts in Panem not just to show their dominance, but also to keep the other districts subservient–the champion’s district receives additional food supplies and other benefits, so it is very much within the interest of the individual districts to have a winner from their own locale in The Hunger Games.
And as we see in the books, for decades, this strategy of using wealth as a tool to control the districts and keep them in check have worked effectively.
When we examine the socio-political landscape of our real world–we see this happening all the time as well. Multinational corporations have always had a lot more power and influence in politics than the normal citizens because wealth is the most effective motivator–their votes have more value than the votes of ordinary citizens.
From BAT influencing policies on tobacco taxes in Uzbekistan during the privatization of a state monopoly to bank bailouts and unfair lending practices, it’s blatantly clear how large corporations can easily influence politics and therefore by extension, our lives too.
If a government in the real world is willing to encourage the consumption of harmful products by cutting down taxes for the companies producing them, in exchange for investments in state-owned properties, is it really too far-fetched to imagine they wouldn’t offer two youths per year to ensure the survival of the rest of the population?
An even clearer example of this is shown in The Hunger Games books, especially in A Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes: offering extra food and resources to the champion’s district is not the only way the Capitol maintains their control–rich citizens within the Capitol, and even those from the tribute’s own district, could sponsor any tribute by sending them gifts during the game.
In this way, we can see how the other districts participate directly in the violence of the games, in the hopes of getting a champion from their own locale and benefitting from the rewards.
This parallel between the fictional world of The Hunger Games and the real world must have resonated with readers, even if it is only on an unconscious level, because even to this day, the premise of The Hunger Games not only feels like an actual possibility, but it also feels relevant. And this is just one of the reasons why The Hunger Games books are still popular 10 years later, today.
2. Desensitization (And Sensatiolization) Of Abuse By The Media
The role that media plays in twisting different narratives have always been criticized. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some groups of people criticized the media for spreading mass hysteria, while other groups of people criticized the media for not being forthcoming or transparent enough with data.
Two things can be true at once, but I personally felt like the pandemic was an excellent reminder of how media can sensationalize violence and death and eventually make us desensitized towards it as well.
This bit of reality is at the very core of the premise of The Hunger Games. The appalling violence of teenagers fighting each other to the death is glorified by the media of the Capitol to the entertainment of the mass public.
In a very alarming mimicry of reality, the media sensationalizes The Hunger Games and the cruelty it perpetuates while making the viewers of the games desensitized to the horror of children killing other children.
3. Subtle Commentary On Pro-Choice Vs Pro-Life In The Hunger Games
Warning: this section contains spoilers for the second book of the series, Catching Fire.
One of the many subtle social commentary that cleverly exists within the plot points in The Hunger Games series is the debate on pro-choice vs pro-life. When Peeta falsely claims that Katniss is pregnant during the Quarter Quell, he successfully gains the outrage and sympathy of the audience.
But where was the sympathy and outrage when teenagers were being forced to kill one another?
The audience is horrified at the news of a pregnant woman participating in The Hunger Games. They are rightfully horrified by the thought of an unborn baby’s life being endangered, but they are not horrified by the thought of that same baby having to grow up and risk its life once more when it is inevitably selected as a tribute for a fight to the death.
The concerns over the safety of an unborn life is valid, but where does that concern go when the baby is finally born? Why does the concern for children’s safety and well-being end after they are brought into this world?
These are all just some of the many reasons why The Hunger Games books are still popular today. Despite being a work of fiction, these dystopian novels mimic our reality in a way that deeply resonates with us, while also reminding us the importance of refusing to conform to what society deems as normal and acceptable.