The day before yesterday, I read the last page of Mockingjay, which is the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Two weeks ago I barely had any idea about what The Hunger Games was about, other than that it seemed to be getting a lot of hype around an upcoming movie adaptation and a lot of people were calling it the next Twilight.
Well, I can tell you that The Hunger Games most definitely is not the next Twilight. It’s so much better than that. Yes, I occasionally have a guilty foray into Twilight (okay, so I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies) but I accept it for what it is: an easy-to-read series without much substance at all. And the movies are complete chick flicks.
The Hunger Games, on the other hand, is well written and compelling. I couldn’t stop reading. If, like me two weeks ago, you have no idea what it’s about I’ll try to give a brief summary of the central plot. But you really do have to read it yourself because there’s no chance that I can summarize such an engaging, polished and shockingly vivid series in about 100 words. But I’ll try to give you a taste of what it’s all about.
Picture North America, now called Panem. In an unspecified time in the future, after the destruction of North America as we know it, Panem is segregated into twelve districts which are all overseen by one threatening and sinister mega-government, the Capitol. In the past, the districts attempted and failed to overthrow the government. As punishment for this sin, the Capitol initiated the televised reality show, the Hunger Games. Each year, twenty-four competitors (one male and one female from each of the twelve districts) are placed into a vast outdoor arena and, in Roman gladiator style, have to fight until only one remains.
“The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland”, quote from The Hunger Games, copyright Suzanne Collins
The book draws on Roman and Greek mythology to create lucid details and imagery. The series is narrated in the first-person by Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old resident from District 12, who volunteers to take the place of her beloved sister, Primrose, in the Games when Prim’s name is picked.
It is difficult to describe how addictive and brilliant these books are (I read the whole series in approx. one week!) but they are not just another ‘Twilight’. They deal with some pretty deep themes — family, love, friendship, sacrifice, as well as the symbolism of the totalitarian government and a dystopian reality. There are similarities to George Orwell’s 1984 and there is a considerable amount of political allegory as well as some stunning imagery in the books. I even found myself crying at one very moving point. The author, Suzanne Collins, used to be a scriptwriter so she has a real way with words and a way to make things come alive in your imagination.
Although The Hunger Games is being marketed at young teens, I think that younger readers won’t get the symbolism. I am also concerned that the upcoming movie adaptation is going to be watered down for young viewers, missing out crucial parts of the book and focusing on a partly made-up love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, who are three of the main characters. Unfortunately, there is already a huge amount of comparisons between The Hunger Games and Twilight but don’t let that scare you away from it!
And please read the books before you go see the movie because I expect the movie makers will try to cater for a young audience of teen girls. I envision a Twilight-esque ‘Team Peeta’ versus ‘Team Gale’ showdown and I emphatically do not want that to happen! It doesn’t happen in the books and it shouldn’t happen on-screen but I fear it will. Yes, there is a love story in the series but it is by no means the central plot, unlike in the Twilight series.
The Hunger Games series is subtly and beautifully written. I didn’t expect that I would like it when I first started reading it as it’s not my usual type of literature but I was amazed by how blown away I was by the series. It’s been a long time since I read anything so thought-provoking, so tender in parts and yet so brutal at the same time.