01 May, 2012

The Hunger Games - Book One

The Hunger Games. Three books, one film and a whole lot of fans. But is there anything there for adults, and is the hype justified? I read the first book and found out.

The first book in the trilogy focuses on Katniss' inclusion in the Hunger Games - a televised fight-to-the-death amongst twenty-four teenagers in a dystopic future. Bit different to 'he stared at me in biology class' dilemmas facing other teen fiction protagonists. Katniss must leave behind her hometown - District 12 - to train, before being thrust into the world's spotlight in a hellish arena until she either dies or wins the competition.

What makes the book is Katniss. She is a great, strong and fiercely practical protagonist, without being unlikeable or cold. Her nature is also what is appealing to both boy and girl readers. Her ability to cope with situations without being self-indulgent is a refreshing change to YA writing, and the inclusion of romance between herself and Peeta comes across very naturally and is one side to the novels, rather than the entire plot.

What is most interesting about the book is Collins' tackling of the media. In the same way that Katniss must survive physically in the arena, she must also play and manipulate the media and the world's perceptions of her to survive. This binary between the physical, the human, and the media-centric modern world is very interestingly played, and says something quite interesting about the modern world in what is often put down as 'just a children's book'.

So is 'The Hunger Games' worth its status as 'the next big franchise'? Yes. In the same way that the Harry Potter books fly forward in a tense and gripping narrative, Katniss' adventure is one you cannot put down. It's more than the typical teen dystopic novel, and in this way, is appealing to adults. The book features a positive role model for teen girls after a few years of Bella fucking Swan, and if anything was going to be 'the next big thing after Potter', I don't mind if it's this - the first novel is excellent youth fiction. I can't wait to read the others.

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