Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Hunger Games: A Brief Review

Every once in a while I try to read a little pop fiction, just to see what's making the masses lose their collective heads. After a friend raved about this book and one of my students asked my advice on the best way to sneak onto a movie set (they're shooting the film adaptation here in Charlotte this summer), I decided to give it a whirl.

It was worth it, too. Unlike that Harry Potter thing and especially the Twilight thing, I actually found this book to be fairly readable. It's pop fiction, sure, but not badly-written pop fiction, which is always a nice surprise. Still, there are a few less-than-noble reasons why, I think, people like it so much. First and foremost, there's the fact that the heroine is described repeatedly as being both unbelievably good-looking, and also blissfully unaware that every man who ever meets her wants to jump her bones. People like that kind of heroine. They also like it when she can unfailingly shoot squirrels through the eyeballs with a bow and arrow.

The premise of the book is grotesque: take a bunch of kids, put them in an arena, and make them fight to the death. I guess this is another reason why it is so popular - we're really not all that far removed from Ancient Rome, with their grisly coliseum "games." I have no idea how they're going to make this into a movie and preserve the PG-13 rating they'll need so that the raving teeny-boppers can make it a box office smash, because it really and truly is grotesque.

That is why, I think, this book is best read as some sort of allegorical critique of modern society. Like "Lord of the Flies," only flipped, because in this one the dominant society is actively forcing the children to become monsters, something they (sort of) resist. Still, you get a sense that Collins has researched her primitive world well - that she really knows a little something about what it takes to survive in the American wilderness. Although it is a dystopia, her love of wild things and dislike/distrust of the plasticity of modern, consumer society and what it tries to do to children is commendable.

It's an engaging story - a real page-turner - and the sort of thing that makes a welcome break from the three other, more academic books that I am currently reading.

I guess the only question now is, where do I sign up to be an extra?

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