The Hunger Games: the book vs. the movie

Quoting myself: "I'm not a huge fan of young adult literature nor of best-sellers". That's why I run away from books such as Twilight, The Pillars of the Earth and 50 Shades of Grey, even though, I've read them (except for 50 Shades, but of course I have a virtual copy of it and I will eventually read it someday, when I'm feeling very masochist -pun not intended-).

What scared me the most, of The Hunger Games trilogy, was the thought that it would be more badly-written crap for teenagers who can't tell the difference between sweet guys and abusive boyfriends. But, alas, I read a lot of positive reviews, including those of people whose literary criteria I trust, and they made a movie of the book and the images were very impressive (girls like shiny things, they say), so I purchased a copy of book 1.

And, what can I say? I liked it. I like the idea, I like most of the characters, I like the development of the story and the fact that 1)not only is romance not the main theme of the book, but it is left on a very background level, and 2)it's not as easy to predict as I expected (which had already happened to me with Matched). And I finished book 1 and before I could rush to buy book 2 (Catching fire), I got it as a birthday present. And I still have to get book 3 (Mockingjay), not because I found Catching fire worse (I actually liked most of it more than The Hunger Games), but because then I left Austria and posponed the purchase until further notice.

What I did do in summer, however, was watch the movie based on the book. Another surprise. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's do this the orthodox way.

The story takes us to a distopian future, to the country of Panem, which comprises most of what used to be the United States of America (and maybe also Canada? I'm not sure), and is now divided in 12 districts, where the working classes live, and the Capitol. But 74 years previous to the beginning of the story, there was a huge war that changed everything: one of the districts of Panem, District 13, raised in a revolt against the Capitol, causing its own destruction for even daring to fight the authority. Because of that, and as a reminder of the Capitol's absolute power, the Hunger Games take place once a year. One boy and one girl of each district, aged between 12 and 18, are chosen in a lottery to take part of the Hunger Games, a fierce competition where the kids have to kill each other until only one stays alive.

This is the story of Katniss Everdeen, 16, and her participation in the Hunger Games as the female tribute for District 12, taking the place of her 12 year-old sister Prim, who has been chosen against all odds. Katniss will do anything to survive as a sort of rebellion against the Capitol and its cruel ways.

The novel is narrated in 1st person and, something that seems to be a tendency in all recent young adult novels, in the present tense. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of 1st person narrations because it seems to me like the picture is incomplete. The use of the present tense, at first, kind of bothered me, but you get used to it pretty quickly (I still prefer past tenses for narrative, though). This helps us get in Katniss's mind and also makes it more action-movie-like. Actually, the narrating style is a lot like in a movie, everything happens at a fast pace. Too fast, for my taste.

My biggest problem with the novel is that I needed a bigger picture. I wanted more background history of Panem and the characters, more interaction between them, especially taking into account that they must kill each other. I kept expecting for Katniss to have to face the conflict of having to kill one of her competitors with her own hands in order to survive, but that never really happens. She kills, yes, but they are "noble" killings, revenge killings almost. And that's fine, I guess, for a novel for teenagers, but still... Maybe I've read too much A Song of Ice and Fire.

The movie, on the other hand, gave me exactly what I expected from the novel: perspective, distance. You see, the Hunger Games are a reality show for everybody in the Capitol to watch, the same way that we watch any other shitty reality show or talent contest on TV. The fact that we could get in and out of the arena in the movie was a big something for me, and the "news report" of the games, a clever way to insert explainations about elements that only exist in the world of Panem. Also, being able to see the fight scenes and all the hugeness of the Capitol and its people as opposed to the poor districts where the tributes come from is nice and I must say it was very similar as to what I had imagined. Except for the cornucopia. I expected something more majestic, not... that.

As for the characters, I'm glad that Katniss is not your typical Bella Swan, but a strong, independent girl who is not afraid to fight for what she cares about. She has some flaws, yes, and I found her way too cold a person: while I can understand her motivation, her "lack" of apparent feelings until more or less the last third of the book made it hard for me to relate to her or feel actual empathy.

And let me say this: I don't like Peeta. I don't like him as the potential love interest (I do like the love story that they play for the audience, but I don't like the fact that Katniss actually develops feelings for him). He's too flawless and, I'm sorry but there is no chemistry between him and Katniss. I'm all in for her to end up with Gale (or with no-one! That would be the perfect twist!), even though something tells me it's going to be a Bella-Edward-Jacob kind of thing. And while I'm not a fan of love triangles, I think this one is quite well developed. At least there's no love-at-first-sight-oh-my-god-I-want-that-guy-and-to-have-his-babies kind of love story. In books one and two, at least... 

Next time I talk about The Hunger Games, I will be reviewing Catching Fire and, hopefully, Mockingjay. May the odds ever be in your favor. Oh, and I'm Team Cinna, in case you wanted to know. Gotta love the guy and his balls.