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Hungry for more

Megha Pai / 6 July 2012

A gripping tale that never drags, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the first part of a dystopian series about 16-year-old Katniss as she enters a fight-to-the-death ritual, knowing only one can make it out alive

As The Hunger Games movie mania, the size of Twilight frenzy and Beiber fever, hit not just the tweens, teens and twenty-somethings across the world this year, it took unearthly restraint on my part to not join the brouhaha and watch it before I read the book. I’m of the school of thought that it is better reading a book over watching its movie adaptation or at least reading the book before watching its onscreen version.

Admittedly, I hadn’t even heard of the three-part series that came out in 2008 till the movie version of the book, starring Jennifer Lawrence, hit the screens early this year. So after finally reading the novel last week — and watching the movie shortly after — I have to say I’m glad I held out.

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins builds an intriguing new near-future dystopian society. The current North America has been replaced by Panem — a nation comprising 12 districts ruled by the Capitol, the seat of power and affluence.

After a failed attempt at rebelling against Panem, the districts are subjected to neglect and deprivation and as a punishment they must take part in the Hunger Games — a yearly fight-to-the-death ritual in which one boy and one girl is chosen to represent each district.

Although disguised as fun, the games are actually a violent and chilling reminder to never rise up against the rulers. What’s more, it is broadcast live around the country, much in the fashion of our present day reality shows.

The story begins at the ‘reaping’, the day of selecting the participants, in District 12. Representing this poorest district in the country are Katniss Everdeen, who takes the place of her younger sister, and Peeta Mellark, a baker’s boy who had years ago saved Katniss and her family’s lives.

Together, they travel to the Capitol and they are aware that it may well be their last journey. Okay, so the fact that there are two more parts to the series does give away that Katniss, if not both of them, will come back alive.

But despite knowing this ultimately predictable outcome, it is hard to stop reading — which bears witness to the brilliance of Collins, who has readers hooked from the very first sentence.

The story also works in no small measure due to the strong characterisation of Katniss. A skilled archer and hunter, she is not your average damsel in distress, unlike Bella Swan, the insufferable heroine of the Twilight series.

She is a beautiful, powerful young woman with a will to survive at all ends and skills to match. Even in her relationship with Peeta, she is more a saviour than one who needs to be saved. But she is also vulnerable and charmingly unaware of her own worth, making her irresistible and an instant hit.

Despite the book’s targeting young adults as the main audience, it strikes a chord with adults too. The novel’s dystopian country’s power structure strikes great resemblance to our world where the rich keep getting richer and the poor continue to suffer.

megha@khaleejtimes.com

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