Monday, December 12, 2011

Hunger Games "Lives Up to the Buzz"

Stacy Nunnally, a member of the Read to Succeed Advisory Council, definitely enjoyed The Hunger Games. Here are some of her thoughts about this year's One Book selection:

I was so excited to see that One Book Rutherford County chose The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins this year! I have wanted to read this first book in the three book series for a while now. What better time than as part of One Book?

One of my concerns in reading this book was… would it live up to the hype? Would it be another book or movie that everyone raved about, but by the time I read it (saw it) I was ultimately let down because the hype outshone the reality?

I am here to say that whatever you have heard about this book, it lives up to the buzz. Seriously. I read the book in almost one sitting—completely engrossed by the action, the story and the characters. And once I finished the book, I spent days thinking about the book and its underlying messages and commentary on governments, poverty, the human condition, love, war… you get the idea.

The book’s action packed passages will literally leave you breathless with anxiety. But beyond this fast paced action, there is a deeper story, I think, about rebellion, standing up for one’s values, the corruption of power and maybe even a warning about a future we would like to avoid. Add in a complicated story of love and selflessness and you have The Hunger Games.

When I was through reading The Hunger Games, the stories, characters and words lingered with me… made me think about underlying themes of the book and possible correlations to modern-day struggles. Here are just a couple of the things that have kept me thinking after reading The Hunger Games:

The story line about class struggles struck a chord of familiarity with today’s discussions and headlines about the 99% and Occupy movements. In The Hunger Games a small ruling class lives in relative luxury seemingly on the backs of the hard labor of the working classes in the districts. While the people in the 12 districts struggle to survive, the residents of the Capitol hold parties and spend money on altering their appearances. There is a clear division in the “haves” and “have not’s” in this book which offer a critical lens with which to look at our own societal divisions of wealth.

There was a correlation in our obsession with reality TV…the way we all tune in for other people’s life stories often without reminding ourselves these are real people’s drama we are watching. The districts in this book watched The Hunger Games on TV, some with gratitude that is wasn’t their children, some in horror as they watched their loved ones struggle and fight, and others for sheer entertainment. Reality television has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. After reading The Hunger Games, it made me question what I get out of it and at what expense to those people on the shows. I know that our “reality stars” have a choice (where the contestants in The Hunger Games did not), and maybe that is enough difference to assuage my guilt for the time being. Nonetheless, The Hunger Games brings “reality TV” into a whole other light that will leave you hoping it is not a glimpse into the future.

Maybe the most meaningful thing I got from The Hunger Games is the reminder about how hunger and poverty affect families. Throughout this book, we see the main and supporting characters struggle to feed and take care of their families. They are willing to bend the law and, at times, break it, in order to put food on their tables. Priorities and values shift when families are cold and hungry, as many are in this storyline. And perhaps the starkest realization is how hunger and poverty affects children. The main (and many supporting characters) in this book are teenagers or younger; however they think and act like adults—taking on much responsibility in the family for providing food, comfort and basic needs. This impoverished life steals the main character’s childhood long before the actual hunger games do.

I love books, like The Hunger Games, that pull you in with an incredible story, complex characters and page turning action. They suck you in and make you feel as if you put the book down for a moment, you will miss something. And then, the best part, when you are done with the book, the story continues to make you think and re-think. You realize the book was much more than just the initial story—and you go back to re-read sections to analyze a little more. But most of all, I love books like The Hunger Games for the excitement they create around reading. When you mention this book, people light up and tell you how much they loved the trilogy. The Hunger Games reminds us that the simple act of reading can transport us into different worlds and give us a critical lens with which to view our own world.


A P.S. from Stacy:

I also want to warn those who have not yet read The Hunger Games that they should go ahead and buy (or download) the whole trilogy. You will want to begin reading the 2nd book, Girl on Fire, as soon as you turn the last page of The Hunger Games. I am now reading the 3rd book in the series, Mockingjay, and already feeling sad that my journey with these characters is about to come to an end.


Stacy Nunnally is an expert in nonprofit management and social media strategy. Her career has been dedicated to the nonprofit sector, working primarily in the areas of social and economic justice in Tennessee. This career includes work with Girl Scouts, Sexual Assault Center, Vanderbilt University Women's Center, and the Tennessee Economic Council on Women. Recently, that passion and activism has been translated into her own business, Stacy Nunnally Consulting, where she consults in the areas of social media strategy, nonprofit management and public policy. Stacy is an alumna of Vanderbilt University.

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