Yes, they can, when they’re as compelling as The Hunger Games.

There is so much that’s good in The Hunger Games that despite a few obvious flaws I can’t rate it less than five stars.  That’s simply because the flaws are trivial compared to what is so good about this book.  My criterion for evaluating a book is very simple: it’s based on how badly I want to turn each page and read the next one, and The Hunger Games is one of those books you just don’t want to put down until you’ve finished it.  The Hunger Games appeals equally to anyone old enough to read, regardless of his or her age.  While clearly aimed at teens and young adults, it drew me in and held me tight throughout, although I’m old enough to have grandchildren that age.  That kind of universality is rare.

Most important is the story itself and the way it provokes thought and evokes feeling.  We love Katniss from the first page and when she sacrifices her future to save her younger sister we need desperately for her to win. The 16-year-old girl is dropped into an arena in which she must kill to survive.  Since she must, we know she will when she has to. The real question is whether she can do so without losing her humanity. Can she still feel love, compassion, and honor in spite of the things she is forced to do? She enters the arena not even sure who she is or what she believes in. If she wins, what will she be when she emerges? Once having met Katniss it’s impossible to simply abandon her to her fate.

Katniss’s world and the setup of the story are difficult to believe, and I frequently asked myself if people, nations, and governments could ever exist the way they are described.  The most frightening thing about “The Hunger Games” is that the reader is ultimately forced to accept that they can. One look at the horrors of the past and we cannot deny that Collins’s future is a possible one. That’s why this book deserves five stars and should be read by everyone.

So I put aside my incredulity about the technical marvels in the story, because they’re not as important as the story itself.