Category Archives: the hunger games

World Book Night

Have you heard about World Book Night?   The program kicked off last year in the UK and tomorrow (April 23rd, 2012) the United States will also participate in this unique program to spread the word about reading.  According to the World Book Night website, book “givers” will distribute free paperback copies of a popular book to adults to encourage people who are reluctant readers or may not make time for reading in their lives.  Of the thirty titles available this year, most are for adults, with a few YA novels (including The Hunger Games) thrown into the mix.

I’ve only read a few of the books on the list for World Book Night (the full list can be found here).  They are:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

(I don’t think I’ve finished this one, but I did enjoy the beginning…DE is one of my favorite authors)

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I enjoyed most of these books, and they all gave me a lot to think about.  I can definitely understand why they would be chosen for this celebration of books, literacy, and the joy of reading.  This program makes me think about which books I would choose for someone who doesn’t love to read.  The books would have to be well-written, with an interesting plot and universal themes.  I’ll spend some time thinking about my personal list of 30 books and post it here when I have it finished (and I won’t cheat and use books from the World Book Night list, even though I’m tempted to include The Glass Castle and The Hunger Games!)  Which books would you choose?  Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.  I may include some of the suggestions on my list 🙂

Unfortunately, it’s too late to participate this year, but if you are interested in being a book giver for the 2013 World Book Night, be sure to sign up for their mailing list!  For more information about this program, here’s a great interview from the Time NewsFeed.

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Book to movie review: The Hunger Games

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I was a little apprehensive about seeing The Hunger Games.  On the one hand, I was extremely excited to see the movie, but I was also nervous because I had enjoyed the book so much.  I was prepared for the fact that some events from the book would be cut out.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me if a movie doesn’t follow the book word for word.  Books and movies have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of their storytelling ability.  Here are some strengths and weaknesses of the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Strength:  The movie captures Panem in detail

When I read the book, I was aware that the citizens District 12 were living in extreme poverty, but to see it portrayed on the big screen really made an impression on me.  The opening scenes, which serve mostly to introduce us to Katniss’ life, are devoid of bright color.  As Katniss walks through the streets on her way to the forest, we see an old man greedily eating a small animal and piling the bones up next to him.  The overall feeling is one of despair.  These people are hanging on-but just barely.   The review in this week’s Entertainment Weekly says “director Gary Ross does a tight job of establishing the future-meets-1984 vibe in Panem: the slog of daily life, the hopelessness that dulls the citizens, the fear that returns each year at the Hunger Games lottery known as the Reaping. ”

On the other side of the spectrum is the Capitol.  As those who have read the book already know, the people who live in the Capitol are characterized by their hedonism and devotion to excess in every aspect of their lives:  they eat extravagant food, have every luxury money could buy, and are obsessed with fashion.  They even go so far as to have extreme plastic surgery to stay en vogue.  The scenes depicting the citizens of the Capitol may not have matched up exactly with the descriptions of the book, but the overall atmosphere was the same.  Effie Trinket’s looks seemed tame next to some of the other characters’ fashion choices (Katniss’ stylist with the impossible long eyelashes really freaked me out!)  To see a bunch of people from the Capitol together really gave a sense of what it would be like to live there (or in Katniss and Peeta’s case, visit briefly).

Weakness:  Flashbacks

One of the most important flashback scenes in the book is Katniss’ memory of Peeta giving her a loaf of bread.  Since the book is told in first-person narration, Katniss can describe to us exactly what happened and how she feels about it.  In the movie, this memory is more difficult to get across.  There are many brief, wordless flashbacks of “the bread incident” but it is not fully explained.  This is not a problem for someone who has read the book, but people who are new to the story would mostly likely be confused.

Katniss also has flashbacks and hallucinations about her father’s death and her mother’s subsequent decline.  These scenes are choppy and would be difficult to understand without knowledge of the storyline.

Strength and Weakness:  Casting

Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect choice to play Katniss Everdeen.  I had seen her in Winter’s Bone, so I knew she could pull of the strong, self-sufficient personality that is necessary for the role.  I was pleasantly surprised by Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), and Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman).  I couldn’t quite picture any of them in their roles, but they did a great job bringing the characters to life.

I was a little disappointed with some of the other characters, however.  It may be because they were not given a lot of screen time (I felt like we hardly saw Prim or Gale) but something didn’t quite fit.  I was most disappointed by Peeta because I enjoy the character so much when I read the book.  One minute he’s professing his love for Katniss on national television, and then he has teemed up with the Careers (who are determined to kill Katniss).  Katniss has a hard time trusting him, and I did too, when I read the book.  As the review in EW puts it “In the book, interesting edges rough up his niceness; he’s not quite so easy to peg.”  Josh Hutcherson didn’t quite capture Peeta’s complexity.  He portrays him as a nice, sensitive boy who is hopelessly in love.  This is an important aspect of the character, but certainly not the whole picture.

As a fan of the book, I felt that the adaptation stayed true to the spirit of The Hunger Games.  The film has been criticized for its mild approach to the violent scenes, but I don’t think this detracted from the story at all.  The idea that children must fight to the death each year is enough to make an impression; seeing every death isn’t necessary.  Even though I had already read the book, I found myself getting nervous during certain scenes (the Reaping, in particular).  So, even if you’re familiar with the story, watching the movie is still a captivating experience.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5 lupines

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A Propo for The Hunger Games

If you have not read The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for?

The Hunger Games has something for everyone. I see library patrons as young as 9 and as old as “senior citizen” request this book every day. So, why the wide-spread appeal?

For starters, the story features the classic love triangle. The suspense of who Katniss will choose (Gale: the strong, silent type, or Peeta: the sensitive one) is enough to keep some readers going. The Hunger Games series is dystopian fiction, a genre that is very popular right now. Many people enjoy reading a “thought experiment” about what the future could be like if we continue to abuse the environment and engage in war. Also, unlike some popular YA series, The Hunger Games is well-written, which takes away the guilt that some adult readers may feel when reading a book marketed to a teen audience.

These are all good reasons to explain the appeal of the trilogy, but I think there’s a better one: the concept of people as hunter and prey. I first read about this idea in the popular short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.”

In my middle school, out of all the short stories that we were required to read, this was the one that people actually read. In this thrilling tale, a man finds himself stranded on a remote island. He has dinner with General Zaroff and believes that he is there as his guest, until the general tells him that tomorrow morning the hunt begins. The man is somewhat confused until he realizes, to his horror, that the he is the prey, not the hunter. The next morning, with a three hour head start, he charges through the forest, trying desperately to act on his “animal instincts” to protect himself.

I remember reading this story with a mixture of fear and fascination. I felt sympathy for the main character. Even though the man hunting him was insane, that didn’t change the fact that he was being hunted. He had to adapt to his surroundings and try to outsmart his opponent. As I read on, I became fascinated by his situation. I was eager to find out what would happen…could he figure out a way to survive even though all the odds were against him?

The Hunger Games is structured differently, but the hunter-prey relationship is still a strong theme in the series. Katniss is a skilled hunter, but she has never killed another human before and is not sure that she is capable of it. To save her own life and to keep her promise to Prim (to win the games) she must become a murderer. In most cases, readers wouldn’t sympathize with a killer, but Katniss’ situation is unique. She has not chosen this predicament, she must participate in the hunger games to save her sister.

Much like my experience while reading “The Most Dangerous Game”, The Hunger Games evoked fascination in me. I was rooting for Katniss, hoping that she could stay one step ahead of the other tributes. But, as Collins mentions many times throughout the series, Katniss’ enemies are not in the arena, but outside of it: the gamemakers, the government, and especially President Snow. Even knowing this, it was easy to get swept up in the story and start choosing favorites among the tributes. Katniss and Peeta are likable underdogs whereas the tributes from the wealthier districts are spoiled and too over-prepared to compete fairly against the others. While reading, I would get sucked in to this aspect of the story (much like watching a reality show, I must admit) and then come to my senses, remembering everything that is at stake for this characters and the horrors of the world they are forced to inhabit.

If you’ve read The Hunger Games, what do you think is the most appealing aspect of the book? If you haven’t read it, you still have several hours to do so before you see the movie after work 🙂 Stay tuned for a book-to-movie review over the weekend!

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Preparing for The Hunger Games

In preparation for the theatrical release of The Hunger Games, I have been working my way through The Girl Who Was on Fire:  a collection of essays from YA authors.  Each essay focuses on some aspect of the trilogy.  Some are about the relationships in the book (including the Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle), another analyzes the elements of surveillance, and one about the possibility of creating “muttations” in the real world looks especially interesting.  For more information about this particular essay, check out this site.

I’m just starting an essay that talks about the fact that the citizens of Panem are tuning in to watch their children kill each other like it’s a reality show.  I read The Hunger Games a while ago, but I seem to remember that the citizens were required to watch the games…did anyone else get that impression?  For me, if they were required to watch the games, it takes away the implication of schadenfreude.

I like these essays because they give me the opportunity to think about the trilogy without re-reading them.  There are so many different ways to read these books and the essays point to different themes, some of which I hadn’t really considered while reading the books.  At some point, I may want to go back and re-read the trilogy, but for now I’m content with The Girl Who Was on Fire.

Kitty Katniss has also been preparing for The Hunger Games on her indoor jungle gym:

I am very excited to see The Hunger Games tomorrow evening!  Is anyone else planning to see it opening weekend?

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