There shouldn’t be anything wrong with referencing Hunger Games in a seminar

More people have read about Katniss than any of the ‘classics’

Recently, I suffered humiliation in a seminar when I compared the protagonist in Anastasia Verbitskaya’s The Keys to Happiness: A Novel to Katniss Everdeen, heroine of The Hunger Games. The reaction from my classmates and my tutor made it very clear to me “trashy” young adult novels are considered embarrassing to like.

Full disclosure: I love The Hunger Games, and most YA fiction – from Philip Pullman to Lemony Snicket. I cheered on Alex Rider, triumphed with Harry over Voldemort, pined for the Baudelaires to find solace in an unforgiving world, and empathised with the emotional torment of Katniss. These books are fantastic tales of personal growth, allegorical statements on modern society, and yet, somehow, people think they’re rubbish. It seems many think they have no place in an academic environment.

I have never identified more with the concept of being hunted for sport by my peers.

Feeling like I’m actually in the Hunger Games

There are many out there who view anything which is liked by young people and not considered “highbrow” as somehow regressive. Unless it was written by someone who drank with Hemingway or couch-surfed with Dostoevsky, it has no value in society, it’s just more consumer distraction for “the Millennials”.

Not only that, but most of my friends dismiss them as shallow fluff, even when they themselves mention Harry Potter more than they mention their partners. It’s incredible how they seem so ashamed of enjoying books which are well-written, dynamic, and poignant, yet pride themselves on “actually finishing” A Tale of Two Cities.

Not only is this insulting to those of us who (shock horror) read books we actually enjoy, but it totally undermines the skill and intelligence of the authors who wrote them. Does the fact Suzanne Collins wrote the book to appeal to teenagers and young adults make the reference any less valid?

Does Alex Rider’s age mean Horowitz’s agonizing portrayal of his innocence being lost, piece by piece, through each compromising choice, mean it has the same cultural value as Life on Marbs?

YA fiction is a genre which takes on heavy and difficult ideas, such as the nuances of morality in the Alex Rider series, or political skullduggery through the portrayal of President Snow and Coin in The Hunger Games.

It makes these concepts accessible and comprehensible, giving us insight into them as they appear in the real world. The understanding of these complex issues can be applied to current events, our own personal lives, and, yes, even fin-de-siècle Russian literature we have to read for our seminars.

These books may not be seminal pieces in cultural history, but there is a reason most people lie about having read War and Peace. The Hunger Games novels have been made into a blockbuster movie series: they turn brilliant storylines, powerful characters, and difficult contemporary issues into a book that’s actually enjoyable to read.

Panem Today, Panem Tomorrow, Panem Forever.

May the firsts be ever in your favour

So, be proud of enjoying a good book, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not relevant just because you weren’t forced to read it.