The Hunger Games

Have you read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the two subsequent books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay? Well if you haven’t you should. I finished all three books in four days. They take place over a relatively short period of time (about two years not including the very end bit) and centre on a character named Katniss Everdeen who lives in the fictional Panem.  According to Wikipedia, Panem is situated in what would have been North America. It is a fantasy trilogy aimed at young adults, but much like the Harry Potter series (see my next review) the books have a wider appeal. Clicking on the link in the first line of this post will actually take you to the Wikipedia page for the series, but be warned, if you’re intending to read the books, there are spoilers in the plot section, so you might want to avoid it. I’ll do my best not to give too many spoilers in here.

And since you can read about the plot of you really want to spoil a good read, I’m not going to talk about the plot too much. Don’t want to spoil the story for you. Instead, let’s talk about the calibre of the writing itself. Collins has written some other books (click here to go to her Wikipedia page and hear more about her career) and has apparently worked in TV as well. I admit that I haven’t read anything of hers other than the Hunger Games trilogy so if you’ve read her other stuff, let me know what you think.

Collins manages to do what any good fiction writer does: she takes just enough of reality to make her world seem, if not real, then at least a plausible alternative to our own. At its base, the Hunger Games trilogy a tale of good vs. evil where the part of good is played by the “little guy” (Katniss and company) and the part of bad is played by “the man” (in this case, the Capitol). Choosing something this simple allows us to connect with the story and the characters in a very real way. Who hasn’t at one time struggled against a force more powerful than we could ever hope to be? It also sets us up to empathize with Katniss from the very beginning and to hate the Capitol and the Hunger Games right along with her. By doing this one small thing, by relating to Katniss, we find ourselves pulled into the story. It matters to us that Katniss struggles with her family situation; it matters to us that she is brave enough to take her sister’s place in the face of certain death. It matters to us that she is ill-equipped to face her future because of another’s (Haymitch) cowardice. So we worry for her, we cringe when things look bad and we sigh with relief when she survives the Games. Her stress is our stress; her pain is our pain; her triumphs are our triumphs. We don’t see the same trite and boring storylines, we see a real internal struggle.

The fact that the books were well written is only one of two reasons I liked the Hunger Games trilogy so much. The second reason concerns the message behind the story. It’s a message I think is very important, especially for the younger generation, to hear. Life sucks. There isn’t always a happy ending. Sometimes, no matter how much you love them, no matter how hard you try, it’s not enough and people die. Now, this should not be taken as a criticism of parents who, like my own, constantly told their children that they could be anything they wanted and that good always wins out. It’s a parent’s job to protect their children and I think that’s a big part of it. But at some point we still need to learn that there isn’t always a happily ever after and that life is not a Disney fairy tale. In my opinion, it’s best to learn this sooner rather than to end up confronted with the real world totally surprised and unprepared. The Hunger Games trilogy does this beautifully. WARNING: Skip the next couple of lines to avoid some spoilers. Do they beat the Capitol? Yes. Does Katniss choose  between Peeta and Gage? Yes. But is everything fixed and happy afterward? No. One bureaucracy is replaced with another because that’s life. Katniss makes her choice based on what hurts the least. Not everyone you meet in the books will survive to the last page; and those that do survive will never be the same as they were before Katniss first steps forward to take Prim’s place in the Games. And Collins doesn’t shy from that. She doesn’t hide it. And that’s what gives the story so much impact. I am not conceited enough to hazard a guess at her motivations for writing the book or what she was trying (or not trying) to say with it, but that’s what I got out of it.

On another note, I read that they’re making a movie (or movies) out of the books and are even now making choices as to who will play what. I have a casting note; it concerns the character of Finnick. Now my first thought was either Michael Shanks (Stargate’s Daniel Jackson) or Alex O’Loughlin (Hawaii 5-O remake anyone) but I can see how they might be viewed as a little too old to play the aging pretty boy, even though I happen to think they’re both hot with a capital “H”. How about this as a compromise then? Why not Jesse Spencer (Dr. Chase on House)? He’s very attractive and I’m pretty sure he’s in his early 30s so he’d totally fit.

Until next time, that’s my 2¢.

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~ by leslies2cents on April 5, 2011.

One Response to “The Hunger Games”

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