Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A few thoughts on The Hunger Games

I've recently finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I was determined to read the first book before going to see the film, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  I was so glad, as I always am, to have read the book first!

I was suprised to discover that the books were written in the first person, present tense, but soon found that this created a very fast-paced narrative that was easy to get into and easy to be entranced by.  It was soon easy to see why so many people loved the books and were eagerly anticipating the release of the film.

Harry Potter is another series I have also very much enjoyed reading, so it seems reasonable to make some comparisons here.  In her Harry Potter series, JK Rowling has created a fantasy world which readers would love to experience, to escape to, to dream about living in.  The world Suzanne Collins has created in the Hunger Games triology, however, is not one I would like to escape to or dream of having grown up in.  This is the fundamental difference I make between the two series.

The ending of the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, was logical enough in itself, it kind of made sense, but it didn't feel very satisfying.  I'm torn between concluding that the author ran out of time (or enthusiasm) and wanted to quickly find a comfortable resolution, and that the author wanted to make a point that people who have been through as much as Katniss and Peeta would still be emotionally scarred by everything that happened and would automatically be drawn together by their common experiences (which no-one else can understand and therefore offer any comfort for) and that life isn't always as dramatic as it seems in stories so settling down with a family is what everyone ends up doing (in fiction and in real life).

Like the end of the last Harry Potter book, the epilogue gave a very final end, making it nigh on impossible to continue the series.  In both cases I feel that this was appropriate.  Both series deal with a time of war in their respective worlds which comes to an end when the baddies are defeated by the protagonist.  There couldn't be another Harry Potter book (much as we Potterheads would love to read one!) because there is no Voldemort left to defeat; there couldn't be another Hunger Games book because the Hunger Games are no longer an annual event in Panem.

Whenever I read the Harry Potter books, I get very quickly immersed into the wizarding world.  I get obsessed by it: I want to read about it and talk about it all the time; I want to look up Harry Potter websites, play Harry Potter games and watch Harry Potter films.  It's the world JK Rowling has created that captured my imagination.  When I read the Hunger Games trilogy I was captured by the fast-paced first person, present tense narrative.  It was the way it was written, rather than the desire to be part of the story, that kept me reading all day and most of the night.  It would be horrible to live in Panem at the time the books are set, to be thrown into the arena, to not know what's going to happen to your loved ones or where your next meal will come from.  Although there are dark times in the Harry Potter series, and times when characters do lose their loved ones, much of the books is taken up with creating a sense of community between the magical people, with making you want to be part of their world, and knowing that you'd be happy there.  I mean, who wouldn't be happy with Mrs Weasley's home cooking or playing Quidditch in your spare time?  I wouldn't want my daily life to be taken up with having to break the law just so I could find something to eat, though, or living in constant fear of losing my family.

For this reason, I don't think I'm going to get as obsessed with the world of the Hunger Games as I have done with the world of Harry Potter.  I also don't think there will be as many spin-off websites, TV programmes, books or other merchandise.  The Hunger Games trilogy hasn't defined a generation the way the Harry Potter series has.  I started reading the Harry Potter books at the age of 14 (I think).  The last film has been and gone, but I don't feel like it's ended.  Pottermore is still new (although it is a bit rubbish) and more and more fans are being added to our number.  I do think all three of the Hunger Games books will be made into films, but because much of the way it's written is about getting into Katniss's head and hearing her inner thoughts, they will be a very different experience.  An analysis on the difference between reading books and watching films, however, is another story, for another blog post.

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