The Hunger Games is the latest fad to drive teenagers wild. Following the decade-long Harry Potter craze and the short but intense burst of Twilight, Suzanne Collins’ young adults novel threatens to impose the same chaos on society.
I haven’t yet seen the recent film adaptation of The Hunger Games, but I spent the better part of my Saturday devouring the novel. I was somewhat reluctant to read a teen novel at first, yet after much persistence from my friend I have no regrets.
Set in a future version of North America, economic and environmental deterioration has resulted in major structural reformation resulting in Capitol City and twelve smaller districts. The lives of citizens are based on an extreme class system in which District Twelve has the lowest economic success and district One has the highest. As punishment for a previous revolution against the capitol, one teenage boy and one teenage girl are randomly selected from each district to be dumped in an arena and barbarically forced to fight to the death. This is called ‘The Hunger Games’ and causes much panic every year. The main character Katniss becomes a contestant and has a fierce determination to survive for her family. The idea is thrilling, if not a little sickening.
The novel is allegedly based on Koushun Takami’s 1999 novel, Battle Royale. In this story, school children in an alternative world are forced to fight to the death as the result of a military research program. Yet the idea behind The Hunger Games is more light-hearted and less like a horror novel.
Depicting the future can be a difficult task without it seeming ridiculous and unbelievable. The world Collins creates works well as it integrates aspects of our past and our present into her world. Citizens of District Twelve obtain much food and fuel through natural means. Katniss searches the forest for firewood and hunts with a bow and arrow. It contrasts well with electricity-run trains and the use of television sets. Collins also includes aspects of a fantasy novel, such as animal hybrids and futuristic fashion. There are advances in technology such as high-tech showers and hovering devices that display screens across the sky.
As the story is set in a future version of our world, it will continue to be relevant in years to come. Through a fictional look into the future, Collins questions today’s standard of living. She focuses on the pressure put on the environment and economy and questions our common standard of morality. Writer Craig Mathieson claims: “The storyline…uses an exaggerated future to criticize the present.” To an extent he is right. In terms of human exploitation, government authority, and media control. There is an increased extremity in reality TV and a decreased sensitivity to violence, particularly at a young age. Although extreme, there are aspects of The Hunger Games world that mimic our own.
The concept of The Hunger Games is twisted. Teenagers killing each other in hand to hand combat isn’t the most relatable storyline for readers. Yet perhaps the fact that it is so different to our world makes it all the more appealing to read. I am now very anxious to see the movie and I hope it does the book justice.
Excited by the books and desperate to see the movie, I once again feel like my eight-year-old self, eagerly awaiting the first Harry Potter movie to come out. I highly recommend The Hunger Games as a refreshing break from university work. It contains all of the wonderful things a teen book should, suspense, colourful characters and sweet relationships.