Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why Read The Hunger Games?

Posted on by Liz Gillett at
I’m a huge fan of Young Adult literature (YA) so I have a tendency to rave about teen novels. That said, I really can’t remember the last time I read a story as exciting as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have a very vivid memory of reading the book on the edge of my couch, body tensed forward, eyes riveted to the page, literally gasping out loud as the main character, Katniss, fights for her life. Many books have made me laugh and many books have made me cry. I don’t think a book has ever made me gasp before.

If you’ve already read The Hunger Games then I’m probably preaching to the converted, but if you haven’t, I’m here to tell you why you should. The Hunger Games represents a very distinct moment in modern YA literature-a moment post-Harry Potter and nearly post-Twilight, when readers started craving a new character connection, a craving Collins filled with Katniss, a hero who faces a bleak present and an un-survivable future with determination and fire. Collins’ book echoes back to classic dystopian novels from Orwell to Burgess, but it also contains the best elements of YA adventure stories, making it a tale worth reading on multiple levels.

Some people have argued that YA as a genre has become too dark and with the recent trends toward the paranormal and the dystopian, it’s easy to see why. However, darkness is an inherent part of human nature and Collins’ novels (often the first cited as too dark or violent) contain compelling and important discussions about the power of manipulation, the importance of questioning authority and the effects of both consumer culture and fanaticism on empathy. In many ways The Hunger Games feels like a response to the world of today; a world divided into the haves and the have-nots, where many seem more concerned about the features of the latest Smartphone than they are about world poverty or environmentalism.
The page-turner tension of Collins’ novels drives the reader through the series, but the take home message is valid; that the most important responsibility of our lives is to make our world a better place than it was when we came into it. There’s a certain timeliness to books that urge the reader to seek justness in government and re-evaluate societal priorities. But, even disregarding the deeper themes of Collins’ novels, you should read The Hunger Games if for no other reason than it is a fantastically engrossing story with characters who feel both compelling and real, whose actions and dangers can make you gasp out loud. Also, did I mention it’s about to be a film? Due to open in New Zealand March 22. Read the book first. You won’t regret it.
Liz Gillett
Buy any of The Hunger Games series online and we’ll ship them anywhere in NZ for free  - $23 each  from vicbooks
And just in case you need more convincing, check out the trailer (the film’s release date in NZ is 22/3/12):