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Thirsty for More? The Hunger Games – A Review

April 14, 2012

When the tellybox announced that The Hunger Games, the first of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, was being released as a film, I thought that would be a good time to jump on the bandwagon and finally purchase the books I’d been hanging my nose over but refused to buy (on the grounds that I have two full shelves of books I haven’t read yet and need to catch up…).

Since the film trailers and early reviews of the film adaptation made it out to be little short of epic (I think I read one review that touted it as “the new Harry Potter”), I had high hopes when I settled into the opening chapters of the novel one Sunday afternoon on the train. At first, even though I found it an exceptionally quick read (well, quicker than I’m used to!) and was scaling it at a considerable rate of knots, I was struggling to engage with Collins’ narrative voice and protagonist – Katniss Everdeen. The first person narrative came across at times as problematically “stream of consciousness”ish – present and past occurrences were woven together with peculiar, tenuous links to one another that I didn’t quite buy into – and Katniss’s short, sharp manner came across as stilted, which made her a difficult heroine to really get behind and root for. There were occasional slips into strangely casual colloquialisms that just didn’t fit with the rest of the narrative that really jarred against me – if there’s one thing I hate in a published work, it’s discrepancies that have gone unnoticed. In spite of these initial and persisting criticisms, though, I kept reading.

And kept reading I did. After a while, I either adjusted to and learned to tolerate the aspects of the writing that bothered me so much initially or just refused to acknowledge them, and started to really enjoy the novel. It’s highly plot-driven, of course, being written for a younger readership than most pieces of literature I approach, but that plot was also fabulously compelling. In spite of Katniss’s slightly frigid unlikability, I found myself really wondering what was going to happen next, if there was going to be a twist to tip everything on its head at the end, how it would end, and more – how the plot would be further developed in the two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. This wondering, at least about the ending, was clearly futile; it was obvious from the start that, considering the nature of the Games and that there are two sequels both starring Katniss, that there could only be a very narrow selection of narrative options available that enable her to survive the competition.

Peeta Mellark, Katniss’s sort of love object, team-mate and rival, on the other hand, I did like. Where Gale, who is initially presented as Katniss’s dark, mysterious, VERY CLEARLY ONLY PLATONIC but evidently more ‘friend’ is a bit too broody and rebellious, Peeta has just the right amount of light and dark in him. Obviously dazzlingly handsome, he knows how to play the game but he’s not altogether without a bit of darkness that makes him appealing enough that it’s no wonder Katniss ends up a bit confused about how she feels being pitted against him.

I can see, what with how plot-driven the novel is, how this book would adapt into a really brilliant film. I haven’t seen it yet but I know I need to, before I get too swept up in the sequels for it to still be powerful.

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