Saturday, March 24, 2012

My thoughts on The Hunger Games

I admit it, I am late to the Hunger Games party.  I never had much of an aversion to the books.  I would just go into the book store, see them sitting in the young adult section, and proceed onto the Sci Fi/Fantasy section.  I really wanted nothing to do with the YA scene, thank you very much.  The last YA book I read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and that was only because I had grown up with the series.

The cover art of The Hunger Games was nifty, but the book didn't draw me in - even when I found out what it was about.  A while back, I had read The Running Man, by Stephen King.  For those of you who don't know, it centers on a televised fight to the death.  I figured The Hunger Games would just be more of the same, except narrated by a twelve year-old, and watered down to be served to a nation of twelve year-olds

I remember there being some generalized hubub when the third book in the series came out, but for the most part I completely forgot about it.  That was, until I saw the movie trailer for the first time.  What?, I thought.  This awesome looking movie is based off of those kids books?.  I continued to ignore the movie and the books - what can I say, I tend to be stubborn.  I finally decided last week that I was going to see the movie.  But, as a general rule, I can't bring myself to see a movie based on a book without reading the book first.  Ugh, now I have to read it.  Heather got me the book on Wednesday, I finished it by Friday, and I went to see the movie the day after.

Needless to say, I was impressed.

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian future-version of America.  Each of twelve districts are required to send two children to the Capitol as tributes where they will fight to the death.  This event is meant as a way for the Capitol to assert dominance over the districts.  I was pleasantly surprised with how Suzanne Collins integrated these political issues in the novel.  Although perhaps not the most believable, they actually give a reason for the Games to exist.  You can feel the tension in the characters' poor quality of life out in the districts as compared to the lives of excess in the Capitol.  You can hear it in the way certain characters act and talk to each other.  It's palpable as the tributes fight to the death as penance for a crime that was committed before they were born.

What really surprised me, however, was how brutal the book was.  Though The Hunger Games is a YA book, Collins does not take it easy on the violence.  Although some parents will definitely view this as a bad thing (and rightly so in many cases), the violence is required for this book to have any substance at all.  Collins  uses teenagers being forced to kill each other to try to shock you with the injustice of the Capitol, and she definitely succeeds.

It turns out that I liked the movie even better than the book.  Now, that is not to say that the movie was necessarily better than the book.  If I hadn't read the book first, I think I wouldn't have enjoyed the movie nearly as much.  But the movie is beautiful.  It puts into vivid imagery imagery everything Collins describes, and even some things she doesn't.  For the first time, we get to see commentators talk about what is going on in the Games and the events unfold.  We get to see the contestants' mentors working in the background to try to secure sponsorship.  We get to see the leader of the Games argue with the president of the Capitol about how to handle the show.  All of these things make a decent novel into an amazing and entertaining 2.5 hours.

Read the book.  See the movie.  You won't regret it.


  1. I also liked the movie a lot - not more than the book, but it was good. I thought they cast it well and the actors really illustrated Collins' writing.

  2. I came to The Hunger Games phenomenon much like you, right before I realized a movie was being made. I read the first book very quickly and devoured the others just as fast. I will say I think all three books would have made a much better, slimmer single novel, but I understand that doesn't make as much money. For me, I felt the author's writing style a little repetitive and rather sloppy after the first book.

    The movie made Katniss into a much more likable character. Also, it was a much leaner, expedited, no-nonsense rendition of the story. It did cut a few things out that I think were important, but that always happens. Plus, having read the book first, I am sure that I wouldn't feel that way if I had watched the movie first.

    I am a nerd, so I like as much info as possible to shed light on what the author is doing. All in all, The Hunter Games was worth the time investment for the story.

  3. Battle Royale is an Asian book/movie about the same thing. Battle Royale came first, but I don't think the hunger games is a copy of it. You should check that out.