How the Hunger Games Made me Sick-Literally

by Daniel Johnston on February 5, 2014 · 4 comments

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Oh man, The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games. Pretty much the most read book series in the last few years. Pretty much the most talked about series. Pretty much the most hyped series. Also one of the few book series to make me physically sick.

When I first heard about The Hunger Games, I had absolutely no interest in it. I don’t know what it was about it, but it just didn’t appeal to me.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided to finally jump in and read it. After all, it’s hard to read a book review blog and not be able to talk about The Hunger Games. After having a discussion about books move on to a discussion about how I hadn’t read The Hunger Games, I decided to read it.

Below is a podcast where I talk in more detail about how The Hunger Games made me sick.

Reading the Books

Despite not having read The Hunger Games, I had a pretty good idea of what it was about. I wasn’t surprised to read about the adventure of Katniss, the narrator from District 12 who protects her sister by taking her place in the games. Taking her place in the relentless games set up by the Capitol as a reminder for the districts not to rebel. A game to the death.

Katniss has to say goodbye to her family, knowing very well that she’ll probably never see them again. She is going with another person from her district, a boy named Peeta who announces that he has a crush on her to the entire nation of Panem on live television.

Things are looking pretty good for Katniss when she steals the crowd with her fire dress prepared for her by her stylist and then scores an 11 out of 12 in training because of her skills of being able to fling arrows. She may not have much of a chance of winning, but she’s at least going to fight.

I don’t want to say exactly what happened, but suffice it to say that with the help of Capitol induced attacks of fearsome wolf-like muttations of the losers of the hunger games and tracker jackers, also muttations that are like bees and will kill people with a couple of bites.

Okay, so it’s no surprise that Katniss and Peeta end up winning The Hunger Games, playing up their fake (at least on the part of Katniss) romance to let the Capitol keep both of them alive. At the end of the games, however, the gamemakers announce that there can only be one victor and that Katniss and Peeta will have to fight it out to the death. Instead, Katniss outwits the Capitol, pulling out poisonous berries that will kill both of them.

Not wanting the both of them to die, the gamemakers intervene and Katniss and Peeta live as champions.

In the second book, however, we learn that the Capitol is very mad at Katniss for outsmarting them during the games. The President personally threatens her. She thinks of trying to flee to the woods, but eventually agrees with her hunting friend Gale that they’re going to have to stage a full-on rebellion against the Capitol.

That’s about when I stopped reading. And for good reason.

At the time I was taking a train home from a chess tournament (I got third place, by the way!). I had to take a combination of two buses and two trains in order to make it home, a grueling trip that took over four hours.

It didn’t help that I had a sinus infection and was feeling sick for a couple of weeks because of that. When I got home, well…let’s just say it was one of the worst nights of my life. I threw up about fifty times that night and could not help myself from crying and murmuring crazy things.

I was pretty much going crazy and feeling extremely sick. Luckily, I’m on an antibiotic and am feeling way better now.

How The Hunger Games Made me Sick

So why do I say that The Hunger Games made me sick?

It probably is an exaggeration. I may well have gotten sick without reading it. I do, however, that it weakened my mental strength as well as my immune system. It’s just such a negative and entrancing world. Terrifying creations of the Capitol, everyone in a horrible prison of a world. Misery and death wherever you look.

I don’t know if I’m describing it right, but I feel that when I open the pages of The Hunger Games, I’m reading a story from the worst part of the human psyche. Sure, I’m fine with dystopian books that show the evil of an oppressive government. But this is way too much.

What a Book Should Be…and what The Hunger Games Is

I think the main problem is that there is no purpose that I can see to the books. Books like 1984 are a little weird, sure, but the author has a clear purpose of what they want to convey. What I love so much about books is being able to convey my emotions in an understandable way. That is a form of perfection for me.

From what I understand, though, Collins had no clear message she wanted to teach the reader. The idea formed in her head to write the book and she wrote it…just that simple. But how does it grow to this gruesome of a scale?

Even if the Capitol does get overthrown in the last book (which I can pretty surely guess it does), and they are able to live in peace, that would still not bring a sense of relief to me. What kind of people should have to go through horrors so great as Katniss and other people in the districts? Why? And what does it mean right now?

If it had been just the first book, I could have done that. It wouldn’t have been my favorite by any means, but it would’ve been interesting to some degree. It would’ve been more than bearable for sure. But to add in another two books of misery is just way too much for me.

I know there has been and is misery in the world similar to one described in The Hunger Games. I know there is a dark part in all of us. I also know that there is no way that I as a writer would write a series like The Hunger Games in a million years.

I was trying to force myself to read the second book, and I could barely do it. I get a headache now just thinking about the books. I’m far from a perfectly happy person. I don’t struggle quite as much as I used to, but I still have all kinds of things stressing me. I don’t need for books to become one of them.

Books are for me a way to express my emotions, explore them, and feel better about them. The last thing I need is to read a book series that takes me to dark places and doesn’t take me out or help me cope. To be making me feel sick. While I was sick, I decided I would quit reading The Hunger Games. It is clearly not good for my health.

You’ve probably already read The Hunger Games. If so, I hope this was still an interesting perspective on the series. If you haven’t read it yet, well, I’d advise not to if you can handle the peer pressure. Part of me still wants to finish it some day, just to be able to say I did.

The more I think about reading it at some point, however, the more I don’t want to. The more I feel like I should lay this unhappy series to rest in my mind forever.

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Greg Pattridge February 10, 2014 at 11:37 AM

But maybe in 5, 10, or 15 years you’ll go back to it. That’s what’s nice about books. The reader is in charge. In the meantime, go read something funny or heartwarming – I always feel better after reading books along those lines. Congrats on the third place finish!

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Daniel Johnston February 11, 2014 at 12:03 AM

So true. Maybe The Hunger Games just brought up something within me…I don’t know. Either way, I’m glad I’m not reading it anymore!

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Amelia February 10, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Yes! Finally another person who doesn’t like the Hunger Games!

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