I just finished the first book in The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Hunger Games. I have also read the first Twilight book. I will be reading the next two Hunger Games books as soon as I can get them, while I read Twilight at the request of some students and parents in my student ministry four or five years ago and have never been remotely interested in picking up the next book. Christian parents and students that I work with are often confused as to why I despise Twilight with such vehemence, yet enjoyed the Harry Potter series, enjoy a great deal of young adult fiction (I strongly recommend anything by N.D. Wilson and Meghan Whalen Turner), and am currently enjoying The Hunger Games series. Well, having now read the first book of each series, I thought I would share some of those reasons.
1) The writing. Yes, it is a “young adult” book, which means it is supposed to be accessible to young adults, but it is still a book and it should not make people dumber for having read it. There are no scientific studies to support this, but I have a strong feeling that reading Twilight might have killed some of my brain cells. The dialogue and prose were just about unbearable. Even if the book had contained great moral teaching, I would have struggled to finish it. Read a few pages from Twilight and then read a few pages from The Hunger Games and you will see what I mean. Collins is simply a much better writer.
2) The story. The story of Twilight was not compelling to me. Maybe because I am not an angst-ridden prepubescent girl. It was just a cheap vampire romance novel. I’m really not sure why it became such a phenomenon. Meanwhile, the story of The Hunger Games was compelling and original. The pacing was excellent and the payoff was perfect. It had deeper themes than finding happiness in shallow romantic love.
3) Love. Speaking of love, the two books have very different ideas about it. In the Bible, love is marked primarily by self-giving and self-sacrifice for the good of the object loved, exemplified most clearly by Jesus. Both Katniss (in her giving her life for her sister, sacrificing to care for her family, etc.) and Peeta (by his humble love and determined protection of Katniss) exemplify this type of love. Love here is deeply intertwined with character and integrity, it has substance. Meanwhile, the “love” in Twilight reflects the shallow vanity of our culture. I could see the citizens of the Capitol in Panem (in the Hunger Games books) really enjoying Twilight. The love is surface level, really more lust than love. It reflects the worst of our personal ideas about love…that the ultimate purpose of it is our own immediate happiness and gratification.
4) The Hunger Games teaches lessons of courage and self-sacrifice. Even in the midst of the most primal and violent circumstances, Katniss and Peeta refuse to become animals. They rebel against the vapid and shallow culture of the Capitol in subtle yet courageous ways. While I have read some commentators making connections between this and the War on Terror (i.e. we are the bad guys and terrorists are freedom fighters) this doesn’t make sense when one truly understands Islamic radicals. It can, however, be a thoughtful critique of American decadence and hollowness. Christians should resonate with the desire to stand against much of modern American culture and stand for a simpler, more meaningful and ethical society. Twilight on the other hand is the definition of decadence and hollowness.
The Hunger Games is not a perfect book, only the Bible is, but it is worthwhile if you enjoy this type of fiction. Twilight is not worth anyones time. I haven’t even gotten into the weird Mormon theology, the disrespect for family (particularly the father) and other issues with the book. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Hunger Game series. Maybe I’ll have more to say on it in the future, especially as the first movie is soon to be released.