In a moment of weakness, I decided to re-read The Hunger Games series—a move that, before I even started, I knew would result in tears. Lots of them. For multiple reasons. For one, I don’t do well with storylines involving little sisters in danger. But toward the end of The Hunger Games, I realized what it is about this series that strikes me the most.
It’s not just the tragic love story or the horror of the Games themselves. What simultaneously tears me to pieces and makes me appreciate these books even more is the way that the trauma of what Katniss has been through is handled.
Too often in entertainment and even in our society, the impact of trauma is ignored. People will sympathize with you—to an extent. They don’t understand the long-term effects of surviving a tumultuous event. For the survivor, it’s almost unbearable.
But as The Hunger Games began to wind down, I remembered that the things that Katniss and Peeta endure are not simply glossed over as the series continues. The next two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, portray a lot of the aftermath: the nightmares, the anxiety, the guilt, the shame.
This morning, as I sipped my coffee and devoured the familiar words, I realized a new appreciation for Suzanne Collins and her masterpiece. She went there. The aftermath of trauma is not romantic or especially entertaining—not in real life, and definitely not in fiction. But The Hunger Games series devotes some serious time to these things, painting a very realistic picture of what it’s like to overcome any trauma.
The first time I read this series, I didn’t pay much attention. I empathized with Katniss but because I was still suppressing my own trauma, I barely noticed. Only now that I recognize how my own trauma has affected me can I truly understand why these books mean so much to me and their potential to act as a beacon for other readers grappling with their own trauma.
I see these books in a whole new light, and I love them even more for it.