I won’t close my eyes…As my last act of defiance, I will stare her down as long as I can see…I will not cry out, I will die, in my own small way, undefeated. Katniss Everdeen, p. 164
Suzanne Collins’ book “The Hunger Games” is about the dystopia into which North America has transformed after war and natural disasters. The country of Panem is divided into twelve districts and the Capitol. Collins narrates that the once thirteen districts had rebelled against the Capitol and lost, resulting in the obliteration of District 13 and a yearly celebration used as a reminder of the districts’ impotence against the power of the Capitol. This celebration consisted of a girl and a boy between the ages twelve and eighteen being presented as tributes by each District. All of the tributes had to fight to the death until only one victor remained and was granted a lifetime of comfort and fame.
Our main character, Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl becomes the female tribute and leaves behind her mother and sister to the care of her friend Gale. From the start of the book, we learn that Katniss is a skilled hunter, and this gives her friends and family hope that she might return. The other tribute from District 12, called Petta Mellark, is the son of the baker. We quickly find out about the history of our tributes as a romance starts to develop. After a couple ceremonies, the twenty four tributes are delivered into the arena. From the moment they arrive, the massacre begins as Katniss struggles to survive in the arena, not being able to differentiate acting from real feelings toward Peeta.
I read this series in Spanish back in 2012 when the first movie came out. Reading something in your second language gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the details that the author meant for you to understand. These details can be easily ignored when reading in your first language because, somehow, we become numb to our words and assume we know the meaning because of the context, when often enough, we don’t. I watched the movie before I read the book, and I thought that the details in the book gave life and depth to the story and the characters of the movie. I really liked how detailed Collins was in describing Katniss’ inner dialogue and how vulnerable and real Katniss is. In the first book, Katniss is this portrayed as a protective, loyal and brave sister and friend. We learn how life has made her tough and taught her to be aware of her surroundings wherever she is. She shows her compassion, humility and loyalty continuously. But she is also real. She is hurt, confused, angry, unfair, afraid and deceitful. She is not a perfect role model; instead, she is flawed and messes up. Another thing I think is outstanding is that the story was unpredictable. Collins gave her readers a real ending to her first book. She didn’t make it all good and perfect, but she also didn’t come up with a miserable, tragic ending. I think the ending is more indicative of reality. Life is rarely extremely good or extremely tragic. Collins did a good job helping the audience connect with Katniss and immersing them in her world where fear, hunger and violence are the sad reality. In only 212 pages, we learn about her everyday routine, her experience in high school, her family situation, her relationship status, her convictions and her interactions with her acquaintances. In my opinion, even the romance between Peeta and Katniss is well developed and even more convincing because of the conflict.
After reading the book, I realized that the constant inner dialogue Katniss has is essential for the audience to empathize with the gloomy main character and her situation. This makes the rhythm of the movie become slow and maybe even boring if one ignores the internal battle Katniss is going through. The scenes in the movie that show the Game Makers in the control room manipulating the arena’s conditions and traps are wasted, in my opinion. Instead, they should have invested this time in developing the relationship between Peeta and Katniss, which is almost overlooked in the movies. Another thing that is significant in the story-line but ignored in the movie is that the people from the districts are starving. The actors don’t look like they have starve their whole lives. Only a small comment is made about the hunger that District 12 faces on daily basis as the tributes walk into the train after the reaping. After observation, this struggle is disregarded.
Altogether, I think this is a good book that describes the challenges Katniss goes through in a realistic and vulnerable way. In my opinion, the adaptation to the movie lacks the emotional depth and detail the book offers. Overall, I think this was an entertaining book that can be used as food for thought and the adaptation was as faithful as possible in such limited time.