Breakout bestseller books are sometimes criticized as being undeserving of their success. They may be called poorly written, or people may think they are only successful because they were well-advertised instead of actually unique. The Hunger Games and its sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, fit the category of breakout bestsellers; although the author, Suzanne Collins, had previously written some solid novels, her previous books did not approach the bestselling level of the Hunger Games books. However, it is clear upon reading the Hunger Games books that both the initial book and the trilogy as a whole deserve their success. The Hunger Games and its two sequels are popular because they succeed in drawing the reader into the story with good writing; in providing a unique and interesting story followed by a good ending; and in fulfilling the expectations of the audience in some ways while breaking through them in others.
Good writing is at the heart of any successful story, whether it is a movie, a book, or a TV script. No matter how good an idea a writer has for a story, if the writer can't create an end product that people can't understand, no one will read it. The Hunger Games succeeds in part because it is composed in good, solid prose. The author is challenged to create a post-apocalyptic America called Panem and describe it to readers so that they will understand both how it is similar to and how it is different from modern America. Because the main event of the story was set up by historical events, Ms. Collins must explain the country's history without boring the readers. The author must also describe the main characters in ways that make them interesting and realistic. Good characters have to feel familiar to the reader but not so familiar as to be dull. Ms. Collins succeeds in this, which is especially difficult because the main character must be likable enough that the reader wants her to succeed in winning the title event, the 74th annual Hunger Games of Panem, even though winning means she'll have to kill a number of other people, some of whom are also likable. It is a mark of Ms. Collins' competent writing that her main character can kill friendly people without turning readers away. Ms. Collins' books have become bestsellers and will soon be made into major motion pictures, which would not happen if her books were not well enough written for readers to understand the story of characters.
A good book fulfills the expectations of its readers. The Hunger Games must do double duty in this regard because it is both a young adult novel and a science fiction novel and must cater to the expectations of both young adult readers and science fiction readers. Part of the book's success may be that it both fulfills and breaks expectations in unusual and interesting ways. It largely succeeds as a science fiction story: it is set in a post-apocalyptic future world where politics, society, and technology are different than in today's modern world. The story follows a major plotline in the genre, in which an ordinary person becomes, by the end of the trilogy, an epic hero. It failed only slightly in the area of science fiction world building by having its juvenile characters attend school, an activity that makes little sense in the country and environment where they live. However, keeping teenage characters as students, not workers, does make sense for a young adult novel. Teenagers who read the Hunger Games would probably identify with the characters more easily because of their familiar requirement to attend school until turning 18. The Hunger Games also sticks to regular expectations for a young adult story by centering around teenaged characters and by having its teenaged lovers remain chaste, as is normal for young adult fiction.
The popularity of the Hunger Games among people who would not regularly read young adult fiction may lie partly in the fact that it is a very bloody story. The plot of the book involves the main character being selected as a participant in a reality show game where the winner is the last contestant left alive. In order for one person to…