Archive for March, 2012

Ever in Your Favor

March 29, 2012 - 10:18 am 1 Comment

You’ve probably all read or seen or read and seen The Hunger Games by now, I’m sure.

If not, I have one question for you:

Why. Not.

I don’t really keep up on what’s new and hip in literature. I read what I like, when I like, and as a result, this blog is rarely if ever relevant. It took me until two weeks ago to read The Hunger Games.

This is probably the best thing I’ve read in years.

For those of you who have been living in a cave, The Hunger Games is a book about a distopian future, where the citizens of North America has rebelled against the government, referred to in the books ominously as The Capitol, and the citizens have lost. The result is Panem, a nation divided into districts, technically Districts 1 – 13, but District 13 has been bombed into oblivion, so only 12 districts remain. As punishment for their uprising, the Capitol now selects a male and female tribute, one of each from every district, and makes these tributes, ages 12 – 18, fight to the death. The Hunger Games are over when only one tribute remains.

If that doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will. In fact, the whole reason I finally decided to read The Hunger Games was because the premise made me so angry. You can’t help but immediately sympathize (or even empathize) with the districts. You can’t help but immediately hate the Capitol, though of course it’s much more complicated than that, a fact which becomes abundantly clear the more you read.

It’s that kind of complexity, that kind of not-quite-one-sidedness, that made me truly enjoy this book. There’s a little bit of good and bad in everyone, and I do mean everyone, throughout the entire story. No one is perfect, no one’s allowed to be perfect, no one is capable of being perfect. The Capital is not entirely evil, the tributes not entirely pure (or, as some cases may be, entirely sinister).

Your main character, the narrator, is Katniss Everdeen, voluntary tribute for District 12 and her imperfection is immediately obvious, though she’s a better person than she herself chooses to acknowledge. She carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, or at least the weight of her entire family. She is the sole provider for her sister and mother, her father having died in a coal mining accident years before. Her mother’s imperfection becomes obvious at this point, too: upon hearing of her husband’s death, Katniss’ mother completely shut down, becoming almost catatonic for a long period of time, a time wherein Katniss nearly gave up and gave in, until she was saved by Peeta Mellark, the boy who would be District 12’s other tribute, a boy to whom Katniss feels forever indebted. I’m holding my tongue here because I don’t want to give too much away, but the characters in the story are so deeply interwoven it’s hard to mention one without mentioning the others.

There are moments when it’s painfully obvious that this is, in fact, young adult fiction. Cringe-worthy moments, actually. But that’s simply what this novel is: young adult fiction, and you have to accept that. That said, the plot is deep enough, dark enough, the characters real and powerful enough, to carry the heavy story without stumbling too much.

The film did a pretty good job of capturing this, too, though I’m saying this with the knowledge of someone who had read the novel before hand, and almost immediately before hand at that. In my own view, the film was powerful and beautiful and held its own. The changes that were made were gentle and made sense; it was clear why back stories were shortened, altered, or left out, and despite this, the movie stayed true to the original character of the book. Characters that were added were clearly added with purpose… even if that purpose wasn’t immediately evident.

I went to see the movie with @wackfiend, who had not read the books. He mentioned something I had not even considered: that there was no clear villain. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that the characters of Seneca Crane and President Snow were clearly amped up in importance in the film to give The Capitol a definite face, a definite sense of evil. They were basically meaningless characters in the book because The Capitol itself was the villain, and that was so easy to discern. The Capitol was doing this. The Capitol was the reason that every year, twenty-three children were sent to the slaughter out of a need to instill fear – and hope, in that one of the tributes lives – in the citizens of Panem, to make them easier to control. The movie gave us two faces, one wholly malicious in President Snow, and one nearly sympathetic in Seneca Crane. While I, as someone who had read the book, was basically unfazed by the upped importance of these characters, having that hatred in my heart for The Capitol going into it, @wackfiend was unmoved. I can see his point, and almost wish I’d waited to read the book so I could have gone in as a clean slate. But a clean slate I was not and I will confess that I spent nearly 25% of the movie utterly in tears and nearly the remaining 75% on the verge of tears, either out of anger, or frustration, or absolute sadness.

But then, I had read the book. I had those stories and characters already inside me, I knew about Panem, I’d been there, I knew that injustice, and I survived the games.

Yes, I had read the book.

And I loved it.