(Yes, better than Harry Potter, get your pitchforks ready)
My first encounter with THG was approximately four years ago, when I had barely turned fourteen, did not consider myself bilingual and was romantically frustrated. Naturally, I made several mistakes at the time. First off, I read the series in translation, since I'm not a native English speaker, and missed out a huge chunk of the significance of the story. Then, as I said, I was romantically frustrated and thus paid such a monstrous amount of attention to the romance aspect of the story that I want to bitchslap myself. Finally, at fourteen, I was still ignorant and uneducated about so many things that I read the series, got hyped for perhaps six months or so, then forgot all about it, save for the occasional rewatch of the movies. In retrospect, this is probably one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. Now, at the ripe old age of eighteen, a significantly better-read person, waaay more woke, as well as socially aware, I decided to finally read the series in the original and am finally able to put my thoughts together in a coherent, educated review of the series.
The Hunger Games has continuously been compared to a number of other books and series, occasionally put down as inferior and forgettable. In those past few years I managed to read a great part of the newly established young adult dystopian genre and am able to argue that A. The Hunger Games is undoubtedly universal and unrestricted to young adult audiences and that B. it is, without the slightest shade of uncertainty, the best series written in our generation.
While many people draw parallels between The Hunger Games and, say, Battle Royale, the similarities end with the first book, which, while spectacular in execution, seems unoriginal in its very idea. As the series unrolls, however, it is hardly possible to compare it to anything, save for, perhaps, Orwell's 1984. The social depiction and the severe criticism laid down in the very basis of the story are so brutally honest that it fails my understanding how the series was ever allowed to become this popular. What starts out as a story about a nightmarish post-Apocalyptic world works up to be revealed as a cleverly veiled portrayal of our own morally degraded and dilapidated society (if you're looking for proof, seek no further: as the series was turned into several blockbuster movies, public interest was primarily concerned with the supposed love triangle rather than the bitter truths concealed in the narrative). Class segregation, media manipulation, dysfunctional governments are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the realities that The Hunger Games so adroitly mimics. If I were to dissect, chapter by chapter, all three books, I'd probably find myself stiff with terror at the accuracy of the societal portrait drawn by Collins. I strongly advise those of you who haven't read the series between the lines to immediately do so because no matter how many attempts I make to point it out to you, you simply have to read the series with an alert sense of social justice to realize that it doesn't simply ring true, it shakes the ground with rock concert amplifiers true.
Other than the plot that unfolds into a civil war by the third book (the series deals so amazingly with trauma survival and with depicting the atrocities of war that I am still haunted by certain images), the characters of the story are what makes it all the more realistic. Though Hollywood has done a stunningly good job in masking the shocking reality of the fact that these are children - aged twelve through eighteen, innocent casualties paying for the adults' mistakes; children forced into prostitution, fake relationships, children forced into maneuvering through a world of corruption, media brain-washing and propaganda.
Consider Katniss. She is a person of color (olive-skinned, black-haired, gray -eyed, fight me if you will but she is not a white person), disabled (partially deaf, PTSD-sufferer, malnourished), falling somewhere in the gray spectrum both sexually and romantically. As far as representation goes, Katniss is one of the most diverse characters in literature, period. Consider Peeta, his prosthetic leg (which, together with Katniss's deafness, has been conveniently left out of the movies) and his mental trauma in the third book. Consider Annie's mental disability. Consider Beetie in his wheelchair. Consider all the people of color, as well as the fact that people in the Capitol seem to have neglected all sorts of gender stereotypes (e.g. all the men are wearing makeup). There is absolutely no doubt that the series is the most diverse piece of literature out there. Consider this: the typical roles are reversed and Peeta is the damsel in distress whereas Katniss does all the saving.
Furthermore, the alarming lack of religion (in a brutal society reliant on the slaughter of children God serves no purpose), as well as several other factors, such as the undisputed position of authority of President Snow, is suspiciously reminiscent of the already familiar model of a totalitarian society.
The Hunger Games, in other words, is revolutionary in its message, in its diversity, in the execution of its idea, in its universality. I mentioned Harry Potter in the subtitle. While this other series has played a vital role in the shaping of my character, it has gradually receded to the back line for several reasons, one of which is how problematic it actually is. This, though, is a problem for another day. (The Hunger Games is virtually unproblematic and while it may be argued that the LGBTQ society is underrepresented, a momentary counterargument is that *** has a role too insignificant in the general picture of the story to be necessary to be delved into this supposed problem). Where I was going with this is that, at the end of the day, Harry Potter, while largely enjoyed by adults and children alike, is a children's book and contains a moral code for children, it was devised to serve as a moral compass for the generation it was to bring up. The Hunger Games, on the other hand, requires you to already have a moral compass installed in order to understand its message. It is, as I already said, a straightforward critique of a dysfunctional society, aimed at those aware and intelligent enough to pick on it.
As for its aesthetic qualities, the series is written, ominously, in the present tense, tersely and concisely, yet at the same time in a particularly detailed and eloquent manner. It lacks the pretentious prose to which I am usually drawn, yet captivates precisely with the simplicity of its wording, which I believe is a deliberate choice, made so as to anchor the story to the mundane reality of the actual world that surrounds us.
That being said, I would like to sum up that The Hunger Games is, to my mind, perhaps the most successful portrayal of the world nowadays, a book series that should be read with an open mind and a keen sense of social awareness.