If I have a daughter, I’ll get her to read The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is a great heroine – smart, resourceful, and pretty handy to have around if there’s no meat in the freezer. Sure she’s a little grim, but she provides a nice counterbalance to the passive princesses and attention-seeking twerkers that young girls have to look up to.
She’s also a product of her world. There’s a bit of backstory to The Hunger Games, but it’s all pretty familiar. Dystopian future America. Totalitarian government. Teen death match. In many ways, it’s like a concentrated, exaggerated version of our world, and I was surprised at how political it is. It’s savage in its depiction of wealth disparity, the media, and corruption. Although the central conceit of gladiatorial bouts to keep the populace subdued is a bit ridiculous, it did strike me as echoing our individualistic, cruelly competitive culture.
It’s also a distinctly modern novel, with its parallels to reality TV, social media and government surveillance. The use of fashion, too, was interesting, lampooned through the citizens of the Capitol, but also employed as ritualistic, empowering costume.
The book’s real weak point is its prose. Collins style is somewhere between turgid, overly-formal, fantasy and flowery romance. Although the first-person narrative has a strong sense of immediacy, I often found myself cringing at the writing and dialogue.
That being said, The Hunger Games is immensely addictive, and it’s not hard to see why it is such a blockbuster. Despite its prose, I was hooked by the second chapter. Collins perfectly builds anticipation, delivers on expectation, and ends a every chapter with a killer hook.
Perhaps the biggest praise I can give it is that it reminded me why I love the Young Adult genre. The plots are fast paced, the adolescent protagonists’ exaggerated emotions heighten the drama, and the writers tend to use more accessible language.
The only question is, how old do kids have to be before I can foist teen gladiatoral blood baths on them? Recommended.