Monday, March 26, 2012

Lost in "The Hunger Games"

I’ve been living in Panem for the past two days; catching up on the latest YA literary craze to sweep the globe and daydreaming about running through the woods during those unavoidable moments when I was forced to tear myself away from the page. In fact, my brand-new obsession with Suzanne Collins’ gripping dystopian coming-of-age tale is why today’s post is late. Mea culpa, I was completely unprepared to be so charmed.

I’d originally intended to let this one pass me by. The end of the Harry Potter saga and the sparkly juggernaut that is Twilight seemed to signal an end to my love affair with well-written young adult fiction (though, at 26 years old, that might be for the best). So when I heard about The Hunger Games trilogy and the subsequent movie, I naturally figured that more overwrought teen angst was on the way. The merchandising blitz didn't help matters, either. I did plan to eventually give the movie a chance, but only because the Twilight movies have turned out to be such comedic gems.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I’ve never read a single Twilight novel. Not for lack of trying, though. Stephanie Meyers’ handiwork seems to cause the kind of involuntary muscle contractions that send my pupils rolling towards the back of my skull. It’s not my fault; these beauties should come with a warning label.

Aaanyway, when I learned that the novels were dystopian and read a little background on the post-apocalyptic and heavily authoritarian Panem, I became intrigued. It wasn’t long before I was begging to borrow copies of the trilogy just so I could see what all the fuss is about.

A good friend came through within hours and two days later, I’m hooked. Not because it’s the best dystopian fiction or young adult literature that I’ve ever read, but because it’s a fairly unique story well-told. Alongside the story of a young girl who has to find herself amid great upheaval, there's a sharp criticism of the kind of voyeurism that's been the norm since "Real World". There's also the warning within a warning: The reader recognizes the evils of the citizens of Panem who enjoy the games, but do we notice that we're enjoying them as well?

Of course, as a person who has spent most of her life with her nose in a book, my first concern is always whether a story can pull me in. If the world is so well-imagined that I can move right in and spend a few days with the characters, then I’m a happy camper. The Hunger Games isn’t as delightfully detailed as the Harry Potter series, but - for the most part - that suits the tale. I’m also ecstatic at the prospect of a strong female protagonist unlike *ahem* some other recent contributions to the YA field. I cannot wait to see where it all goes (although I have a few ideas) and I will be first in line at the theater this weekend to see the movie. 

From what I hear, it's going to be good.

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