I have never been one for a bandwagon. My love of Harry Potter is an organic one, spawned from JK Rowling’s words in the morning of my life, not an after-effect of gravy-trained big screen success. It is that reason, amongst some issues with overall quality, that has steered me away from Twilight for all these years. With the Hunger Games, I assumed my reaction would be similar. The internet is full of Hunger Games fangirls, counting the days until the tributes enter the arena. The approach to reading is admirable – after all I come from a generation that before Harry Potter, has scarcely read anything longer than A Very Hungry Caterpillar – but not something that attracts me. I don’t really enjoy being swept up by a media furore, so the anticipated screen debut of the latest teen franchise has not, and still does not really, excite me.
What the Hunger Games did, that Twilight did not, it fills me with curiosity. Over the past three days I have read the Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and my appreciation for (what appears as) an over-hyped media sensation has taken me into its ranks of fans with a similar amount of surprise that Katniss Everdeen felt, watching herself be shot on television.
The story is one that surpasses the media’s synopsis. Luckily, I discovered the story after publication and have been able to read the trilogy as one long book. It is more than a story about a battle in an arena. What that arena is, is not explained until at least the second novel (though I am having trouble distinguishing where one novel ends and another begins). The arena is a metaphor for life under authoritarianism. A social allegory for everything I study within politics, everything the world is stripped back to be and the frailty of the human condition. The Hunger Games tells a story of fallible humankind, all of which can be decimated.
The Hunger Games spoke to me like no children’s book ever has. This is not a love story, nor a dystopian fairytale. There is no good triumphing over evil. What the Hunger Games portrays, in a way I find the politics student in me comparing to recent civil war and genocide, is the stark realisation that good and evil are not two distinct enemies. The concept is a blurred one, one that all individuals cross the parameters of. The Hunger Games shows that the world, its government and its people are ruthless and that you or the ones you love are just pieces in the game of power retention. Life is cheap – as is the case in politics and international relations today. If the Hollywood directors do anything to dilute this message from the children who need to hear it, I will be most disappointed.