“The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner”



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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I’m curious about why so many YA books—popular ones anyway—are about dystopias, lousy futures worlds where everything is wrong, the opposite of utopias. In the YA version of dystopia, the adults have sold out the kids. They have wrecked the world and are using the kids, mercilessly, either as experiments in making the world better or as scapegoats for the ills of society. As our current trend in American society leans to ‘helicopter parents’—those who hover over and meet every whim as well of need of their children, I wonder if teens’ understanding of the havoc we wreck on our environment and the potential this has for their futures is the fuel behind this trend.

Two books that I’ve just read on dystopias are The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.

In The Maze Runner, Thomas wakes up in an elevator, very groggy and with no memory of his past—no sense of family, home, nothing. He’s not sure how old he is. He learns that he is in the Glade, an area surrounded by a vast maze with moving walls.  About sixty boys live in this new home, with one new boy being deposited each month in the elevator. All are in the same predicament with no memories, no idea why they are there or who has done this to them. Life there is so bad that when Thomas asks questions, the only answer he gets is a sort of ‘You’ll see.’

Although the constant use of ‘you’ll see’ and ‘you don’t want to know’ is probably meant to add suspense to the novel, it actually pulls like a weight attached to the reader. Many pages in, you feel that you are not moving forward—you’re just reading the same thing over and over. However, there’s enough that’s strange and weird in the book to keep you going. Each night, doors from the maze open and hideous “Grievers”, half live, half mechanical, come out. If a boy is stung by one and manages to survive, he goes through a torturous changing that brings back some of his memory. Because of this, the boys are desperately looking for a way out, running the maze during daylight and mapping out the changes in the walls, looking for a pattern.

Soon after Thomas arrives, so does the first girl in the Glade—and with her the beginning of the end. The boys must find a way out to the world of the Creators, not knowing if their chances there are any better.

In The Hunger Games, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen provides for her family—a twelve year old sister and a mother—after her father is killed in a mining accident. The family lives in a future nation, Panem, which is situated in North America. There, the Capitol demands punishment and yearly sacrifice from the twelve districts that had once rebelled against it. And here again, the sacrifice is children. Each district has a yearly lottery in which one girl and one boy, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, is chosen to participate in The Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers when her twelve-year-old sister is chosen. The unlucky boy, Peeta, is someone who had helped Katniss years earlier.

Taking place in an arena where the environment is controlled, the games are a fight to the death. Yet the pregame object is to make a good impression on the audience (all citizens of Panem are forced to watch) and accrue ‘sponsors,’ thus increasing the changes of winning the games. This is a sort of “Survivor” gone bad—and believe me, the book is an indictment of our love of reality TV and our predilection for violence. There are stylists for the contestants and the deep irony that these kids are treated to dizzying elegance and luxury just before they are sent out to kill one another, while many, especially in Katniss’s District 12 (formerly Appalachia, an area of the country synonymous, for centuries,  with extreme poverty) have been days from starvation.

Peeta has always cared deeply for Katniss and this increases the suspense. Only one contestant can survive. What is the pair to do on this shifting moral ground? If you wonder about the difficulties of being fully human and fully present in the face of so much evil in the world, you’ll love this book. Then again, if you just want something that’s fast-moving and action-packed, you’ll love it as well.

If you like The City of Ember, The Giver or The House of the Scorpion, I think you’ll enjoy both of these books. If you are short on time and have to pick one, make it The Hunger Games, which is a better piece of writing and a tighter story.


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Fiction, Movie Tie-In, Sci-Fi/Futuristic, Young Adult Literature and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to “The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner”

  1. Pingback: Parameters of the YA Novel: Is Bridge of Clay Still YA? | School Library Lady

  2. Pingback: Parameters of the YA Novel: Is Bridge of Clay Still YA? - Victoria Waddle

  3. Strat says:

    I read the Hunger Games before I read the Maze Runner. I like the Maze Runner series as a whole much better and I am halfway through The Kill Order right now. Thomas is more of a character to me I feel, like I guess he gets to me better. But I dont know. Also, people said that the Hunger Games books got worse, I liked each one the same. But with Maze Runner, it got better and better. So Maze Runner wins.

  4. Astra says:

    I could not get into the Maze Runner. I finished the book and it took forever. I’m usualy the type to start and finish a book in the same day. He just kept repeating how he felt close to the girl and didn’t know why. It was a tell, not something that was ever shown to the reader which I hate. We are supposed to feel their feelings because that’s what makes us love characters. Instead he just walked about telling us how confused he was and telling us how he felt like he knew the girl the author didn’t show us, I would have enjoyed the book had there been less telling and more showing. It’s like someone walks into a room and says…oh I see a dog..no suspense no connection in a simple statement. If the author branched off into a story about how the dog had done something silly years ago like nearly knocking grandma down we would know it’s a dog without saying it’s a dog and felt a sense of personal connection to the dog because the speaker feels it. I felt for Katnis and wanting to save her sister then wanting to return to her sister. Her goal was understood not just told. Overall the story line was bothering me because it was borderline too much unknown. I will fell better about the 2nd book knowing at least that someone is for sure doing this to them on purpose whereas before in the 1st book it was still really unclear. Maybe people were just born that way in some parallel world? Seriously who knows. You’re really left wondering until the end what the heck is going on and what is reality and not in a fun suspensful way more in an annoying I just want to know what is happening here way.

    • Ms. Waddle says:

      I think this is the reason I liked The Hunger Games better than The Maze Runner. Even in a trilogy, I think we have to know what is going on and why. Obviously, not everything can be resolved or we wouldn’t need a book two and three, but The Maze Runner took a long time to get nowhere. I think The Scorch Trials (second book) must be a lot better because we now know that someone is doing something for some reason. Unfortunately, my reading schedule has been super busy–lots of great new YA books coming out these days–and I haven’t been able to read book two. Hopefully soon.

    • connor says:

      Wow you must be like 10 years old, because didnt you read the back of the book, he lost his memories and everything seems at his grasp, and he wants to figure it out be he cant, and you can always judge a book or its content by the words printed on paper, you have to understand the meaning and the backround, the maze runner is more of a young adult book, the hunger games is a middle school kinda 12 year old kind of book, the maze runner takes more meaning to understand but thats why it is a trilogy, to make the story increase , with more detail, if you took this is considerably and understood the words instead of complaining, then you will enjoy it more. Dashner has more skill and is superior in a way then collins, you may think fighting is cool and violence is cool, but thats for the movies , a book is a peaice of literature. not something you find gruesome unless it falls under the plot. Maze runner all the way, hunger games was to childish, yeah someone dies but you dont feel any connection, when your older then read maze runner not when you are like 12 years old, you wont understand the right amount of things you think you would.

      • Ms. Waddle says:

        Oh my, Connor. I don’t think aging will do it for me. And I thought I understood literature, having both a BA and an MA in English lit. I guess I just like some plot points to be resolved, even in the first book of a trilogy. However, I do see more and more first books that resolve not a single plot point, so I guess it’s a trend. As long as it keeps teens reading, I’m happy.

  5. levinar3319 says:

    I personally thought that the maze runner trilogy was the better of the two series, but hunger games was good. I have some friends who agree with me on this fact as well.

    • Ms. Waddle says:

      A friend told me that for guys, the Maze Runner is often more appealing. I do think it’s a good series. I should ask my son. He’s read all of the Hunger Games books, but only the first Maze Runner. I wonder which first book he likes best.

  6. sraslim says:

    yep, Hunger Games faster paced and more action. So yes, better book! But I love them both!

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