Why is The Hunger Games so Popular?

Since it was announced that The Hunger Games would be made into a movie, the series has become even more popular than before.  I don’t know about you, but ever since I wrote my piece on the allusions to the Roman Empire in The Hunger Games, I’ve been thinking about the series quite a bit.  And with the movie release only yesterday, I have decided to examine the reasons behind the Hunger Games phenomenon.

1.  Katniss is more of a unisex narrator.

Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series was (and still is) popular, but it will never reach the popularity level of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  Other than the quality of writing, the main difference is the target audience.  Twilight appeals to women, both young and old, but that means it’s only targeting 50% of the population at most.  This is because Bella Swan is a very helpless, extremely feminine protagonist that every girl wants to be.  Harry Potter, on the other hand, appeals to far more than just 50% of the population because he is a boy, but he is not so overly masculine as to turn away girls.

Do you see what I’m getting at here?  Generally speaking, protagonists must be written almost as if they are unisex if they are to achieve a high level of popularity.  Katniss is a female protagonist, but she is far from a damsel in distress and her point of view is not so overtly feminine that it turns off male readers.  And that simple fact is what contributes to the series’ immense popularity.

2.  It has universal themes.

Survival is the main theme of The Hunger Games, as I mentioned in my review.  Now, most of us don’t struggle for survival on the level that Katniss does, but we all do on some level.  We struggle to fit in, find our place in this world, and we pursue happiness.  This theme of survival especially appeals to teens, who are right in the midst of finding out who they are.  Violence and its consequences is another theme that is present throughout the novel and it appeals to readers of all ages.  Whether we like it or not, violence is prevalent in our society.  All you have to do is turn on the evening news to see the violence that happens every single day in our world.  Suzanne Collins is a great writer when it comes to writing about how children and teens deal with violence, so we all sympathize with Katniss on some level.

3.  The writing style and reading level.

Yes, The Hunger Games is a Young Adult novel.  But is it limited to teens?  Of course not!  The reason why so many teens love this book is the fact that Suzanne Collins does not try to simplify her writing style too much.  She recognizes that teens are not stupid and can actually read very well when they are motivated to do so.  Her writing style is not dissimilar to that of most adult mainstream fiction.  It will never be a “literary novel,” but it is written at a level that adults enjoy and teens understand.

The Hunger Games is popular for many reasons, but I think I’ve listed the three main ones here.  If you have any thoughts on why this trilogy is so popular, please let me know in the comments below.  I will update my article to include your idea (with full credit), if I think it’s a good one.

3 comments

  1. turnthrice

    I was thinking of checking out the movie with a my Hunger Games fanatic friends despite that fact I’ve never read the book, but I can’t help but feel I’ll be missing out on a lot if I do! I’m glad your review touches on the appeal the books have beyond teenagers. Part of the reason I hadn’t gotten around to reading the books was because I was afraid of it having a Twilight-esque level/style of writing (not to offend Stephanie Meyer in anyway), which I wasn’t too crazy about.

    • Carrie Slager

      You really have my sympathies. I tend to shy away from the current teen fads, but fortunately, I read The Hunger Games before it was popular. It’s actually a decent book and I think you’ll get a lot more out of the movie if you read it. Also, the writing is not nearly as bad as Stephenie Meyers’. I promise.

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