The problem with books that are made into movies is that the people in my imagination are quickly banished by the people on the screen, never to return.
This happened to me for Howard’s End, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and (okay, I admit it) Twilight (I never saw the movie, but how can you avoid the posters?).
I especially resented Naveen Andrews in The English Patient, for replacing the Kip-of-my-mind. Kip-of-my-mind was a skinny, awkward and lanky boy, and not at all like Kip-of-the-movie, who was older and more mature (although now that I am older and more mature, Kip-of-the-movie seems rather young). Despite adoring the cast and the incredible soundtrack, I have assiduously avoided seeing the movie again in the hopes of re-establishing “my” Kip.
But (and you should be used to this by now), I digress.
I read The Hunger Games on a recommendation by a young mom who knows I have an interest in “kidlit”. I was both turned off by the heroine’s style, and ravenously curious about the plot. So curious was I, that I bought the next two books in hardcover – one of them from the drugstore in the dead of the night.
As I am both cheap, and a militant budgeter, this ought to tell you something.
The Hunger Games folows our testy, terse, and (frankly) not very sympathetic heroine, Katniss Everdeen, a reluctant player of a sadistic game in which children are chosen from a lottery and pitted against each other in a faux-natural arena (think: General Zaroff meets Jack Merridew at the African Lion Safari). Alliances are made and broken, backs are variously stabbed, shot with projectiles, and slashed at and, predictably, the winner lives, and the losers die. Gory stuff, it’s like a high-stakes game of Survivor, with kids, written down, and packaged up for young adult reading.
And it has been hugely successful.
When my dad heard about this series, though, he was actually upset. He just couldn’t believe that anyone would write a book with such an awful premise. The conversation (I am told) went something like this:
Confused Dad: But why are they making kids fight each other?
Patient Sis: Because there was a war and the losing districts have to send their kids to the Hunger Games as a punishment.
Horrified Dad: But that’s terrible! Why would someone do that to kids?!?!
Impatient Sis: DAD. NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING TO ANYONE. IT’S FICTION.
Unimpressed Dad: Well, it’s still terrible.
And I agree. The premise of this series is twisted and horrifying. But boy, is it riveting. And, just this once, I am purposely going to see the movie, in the hopes that the movie heroine (Jennifer Lawrence) supplants the not-very-flattering impression of Katniss that I have in my head.
Best Feature: Guaranteed page-turner.
Worst Feature: Stilted, awkward, uncommunicative, annoying, hardened, unkind heroine (and I really wanted to like her, because she is a tomboy, a hunter, and an archer). But then, given her circumstances, can you really blame her? I believe this is a case of realistic portrayal by Ms. Collins rather than stilted writing, because I quite like the other characters. They just, very unfortunately, don’t get as much page time as Katniss.
Warning: Children are killed in the writing of this book. There are graphic torturous death scenes. Do not allow sensitive young kids to read without therapeutic support.
Side Note: Did I mention that this is also partly a love story? Well, it is.
Reading Ages: Older teens and adults who are not my dad.
Rating: B. If it wasn’t such a page turner, it would not have made the grade.