Katniss Everdeen inhabits my dreams. So does the post-apocalyptic landscape that serves as the backdrop for "The Hunger Games." Very few novels have captivated my thoughts in such a way, but Suzanne Collins created a masterpiece.
Where North America once existed lays the country of Panem, consisting of 12 districts and the Capitol. To keep its inhabitants in line, every year one boy and one girl from each of the districts are chosen through a lottery system to fight to the death on television. Only one of those 24 participants can survive.
Although it was written for young adults, the gory premise sounds more like a Stephen King novel. (In fact, it is somewhat similar to another of my favorite fictional pieces, King's "The Long Walk" under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.) But once you get your head into the world that Collins created, you can't seem to get it out. You become immune to the death and horror that is the Hunger Games. Katniss, the main character, is a 16-year-old girl that must take part in this bloodbath. After she volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Primrose, who was selected for the duty, it is hard as a reader not to feel a connection, a kinship, with the heroine. What balances out the games is the twisted love story between Katniss and two boys from her district - Peeta and Gale.
What makes such a novel an international hit? It's incredibly relatable - no matter how far-fetched the novel seems. War is never far off from our minds; big government always is a fear; poverty and starvation is a constant in our world; and we are always fighting oppression, in some capacity.
The author said that she was inspired to write the book after flipping channels on the T.V. and seeing contestants compete on a reality show and news footage of the invasion of Iraq. The book concept was created after blurring the two ideas into one.
I have always been a fan of post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, from "The Giver" by Lois Lowry to "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood to "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy.
That type of novel makes readers ask themselves, "What if?" If we continue to go on the path of inequality, where will we be? If a dictatorship took over a democratic country, what would that look like? If we depleted the world of its natural resources, how would we survive? Perhaps these are questions that would be shrugged off in everyday situations - but the world's timeline hasn't always consisted of everyday situations. Most of the time, us Americans, look away; but what if we had to take a hard look at a horrific reality at all times - how would we face that?
"The Hunger Games," in my mind, is pretty genius. Kids nowadays have no problem playing video games or watching movies that are absolutely disgusting - and think nothing of it. Killing, torturing and mutilating human beings and animals, it's hard to believe that kind of entertainment is allowed under our own roofs and parents seem okay with that. It's "just for fun" and "not hurting anybody." For me, complacency is a huge problem in our society. In the Capitol, the residents have no problem with teenagers and children killing one another. In fact, it is great entertainment that they look forward to each year. Gladiators fought on a normal basis in the Roman Empire to huge crowds. Nazis didn't have a hard time killing Jews in extermination camps, as much of the German population looked away.
I'm not trying to get in the argument that a video game is going to convince a kid to go on a murdering spree; I just have a hard time believing that allowing movies and video games to replicate such behavior is not going to have repercussions in the future.
"The Hunger Games" sucks you in - and I imagine that the film version will be similar in fashion. It has caused many conversations in my circle of friends that have been deep and insightful. Like Harry Potter, this book isn't just for young adult audiences. While I wouldn't recommend it for a child, it is something that many people can become entranced in and be glad that they did.