I was fortunate enough to read The Hunger Games before I watched the films – I remember seeing the trailers and hearing people talk about it, but the chatter that surrounded the films coming out really did not do The Hunger Games justice for me. While I realise that ‘The movie wasn’t as good as the book’ isn’t exactly a thrilling new statement, I would like to qualify it a little further with explanation.
The overall synopsis of the story is awful – the all-powerful Capitol demands that each of the twelve districts sacrifice a boy and girl every year to play off against one another in a brutal battle to the death where only one Victor will survive. It is difficult for the film to achieve the background to this which the book is able to trickle in bit by bit as the plot progresses, which gives the reader far more context as to Katniss’s decisions later on in the story. These are important building blocks for book two.
My favourite part of the books is Katniss; I love the character of Katniss. I’m not saying that Jennifer Lawrence did her an injustice at all, I actually really enjoyed the film, but it’s very difficult to truly represent a character that messed up yet still sympathetic. I like the depth of character that Collins gave Katniss, her broad streak of independance, the harsh toughness and blinkered practicality gained by growing up on the edge of poverty. I like the way that she is not necessarily a nice character most of the time, and that Collins doesn’t try to pretend that she is – I found that very refreshing when I first read the book and it’s one of the things that has drawn me back to it time and time again.
For a generally antisocial person with some serious personality flaws, Katniss is fiercely loyal to those who she considers friends, however few of those people there may be. The relationships she forms as the games progress are interesting in that Katniss never forgets other peoples motives – why people might be willing to help her right now, and why that help might be retracted later. Her untrusting nature and quick temper balance off against her impulsive sense of right and wrong making her an unpredictable and interesting heroine.
The story itself is told wonderfully – Collins draws you in slowly and builds up the background and context as the story gets closer and closer to its climax. The relationship with Peeta, Katniss’s fellow tribute in the games is a very complex one which shifts almost constantly and develops in a much more unique way than most typical friendships do. Peeta himself is a highly appealing character who only becomes more likeable the more the reader gets to know him. Other important characters include Haymitch, Cinna, Effie and Prue, all of whom bring something important to the plot, and to Katniss.
The Hunger Games is a well written YA book, which I regularly dip back into for low stress reading, and I consider it one of my ‘comfort books’, however uncomforting some of the content may be.