I recently sped through The Hunger Games to get it read before the film's release on 23rd March 2012. The film is highly anticipated based on this best selling book.
The Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen who lives in the country of Panem, set the in future the country's capital is Capitol a modern metropolis where life is very different to how we know it today. The city is divided into 12 districts numbered by descending wealth. Every year the Capitol enforces the Hunger Games where two participants aged between 12 and 18 are randomly selected from each district and entered into an arena to fight to the death with only one coming out the victor.
After Katniss' younger sister Prim is selected against all odds as the female participant for their district, 12, Katniss enters as tribute to save her sister's life. The Hunger Games are broadcast live to the whole country and considered an entertaining sporting event with bets being taken on the winner. Being from district 12 Katniss has the odds stacked against her as although she is a skilled hunter, in wealthier districts participants are trained their whole life for the games.
Things get even more complicated as Katniss' male equivalent entered into the games is baker's son, Peeta, who decides the games is the time to declare his love for Katniss. Right before they are entered into the arena to fight to the death.
What struck me most about The Hunger Games was how tense I felt whilst reading it, especially after the games began. Knowing our main protagonist could be suddenly set upon and killed, or forced to face any number of perils at the hands of the Gamekeepers. In this sense the book anything but predictable, however the existence of two other sequels somewhat ruins that illusion that Katniss' survival is not guaranteed.
Whilst something I was pleased to see was the heroism and strength in the female lead Katniss, who is hopefully a positive role model to the young girls reading the story. She demonstrates bravery, courage, defiance and intelligence beyond that of her male competitors, whilst showing compassion despite her romantic disinterest and confusion at her somewhat unrequited loved interest, Peeta.
When the pair are drawn together after a change in rules means they both can win, Peeta is a burden to Katniss, with the only positive of the new situation that she has one less competitor and won't have to deal with the emotional turmoil of his death at the finalé of the games.
Katniss' participation in the love story is also an interesting one, rather than being quick to fall for Peeta she is more cautious and pragmatic about the situation, quickly and rightly understanding that the Hunger Games isn't a place where anyone can be trusted. Except little Rue who she forms a relationship with almost immediately understanding her strengths and limitations and using these to both their advantages.
At the end of the story we are made to feel empathy with Peeta at Katniss's emotional coldness. However I felt this was unjustified as having just been released from The Hunger Games arena where, let's not forget she has been forced to ruthlessly kill people and witness other people being ruthlessly killed, Katniss is naturally confused and thinking of home and her close hunting partner and friend Gale.
Where I do think that Katniss should keep Gale as her hunting partner and friend and Peeta as her love interest I don't think that she should be expected to realise this straight away. After all if Peeta was really that interested in her he probably should have said something in the last five years.
Although the targeting of this book toward young girls does make it an easy target for comparisons with the Twilight saga I personally think that this story is a lot less romantically lead that that of Twilight. And that it deserves higher praise, with Katniss taking on a much stronger and likable role than Bella in Twilight.
Also if you look a bit deeper that are certainly some larger themes within the book. The story of Peeta and Katniss especially their attempt at the end to trick people in their death by committing suicide rings of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Whilst the post modern, media saturated, dsytopian world they live in is highly controlled by the state meaning that individuality is non existent is somewhat Orwellian.
I definitely enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it. The characters are strong and the story is compelling.
As well as this the film is coming out shortly. See the trailer below. As it's a very fan based film the social media PR by Lionsgate has been very carefully considered. I'll probably be doing a write up of this after it comes out. Also if anyone from Lionsgate would like to send me to the premiere/multi media screening that would be excellent. :)