Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is Katniss Okay for Now?

About half the adult customers buying The Hunger Games are still acting embarrassed about reading a YA novel. I've seen virtually none of that shamefacedness from the customers clamoring for Fifty Shades of Grey. Not that the latter group (which I'm sure overlaps with the first) should necessarily be embarrassed; from what I know about it, I think I'd have some issues with the dynamics of Fifty Shades, but to each his/her own. Still, it's odd to realize our culture has reached a point where reading about sex in public is largely okay, but reading a novel (in this case, a critically acclaimed novel) originally marketed toward teens is still something to be ashamed of.

Anyway. That shame hasn't stopped The Hunger Games in all its forms from doing extremely well of late, and by request, here are my thoughts on its film incarnation. (If you are somehow unspoiled and want to remain so, this would be the place to stop reading.)

Overall, I think the film did an excellent job. The first few scenes give a strong sense of the fear inherent in the Reaping. We see that fear first, so when we start to see signs of what a jolly, frivolous occasion this is to the players and audience at the Capitol, the contrast makes obvious the cruelty of their (real or feigned) thoughtlessness. The biggest difference from the book is that because we're not seeing the story through Katniss's eyes, we know what's happening outside the arena. I was fine with finding out in this installment that Rue's district revolts at her death, and thought that was used well to explain the rule change and show Haymitch's character. Seeing what was happening in the coldness of the control room was also interesting; I was most struck by one of the women there - the one who creates the mutts - whose voice and manner just seemed so nice.

There are always quibbles, but mine really are minor. First: The book makes it very clear that Katniss is an underdog, that no one expects this poor, untrained girl from District 12 to win. In the movie, people acknowledge that Katniss's hunting abilities give her an advantage so quickly that there's no time to be surprised at her success (even if, okay, the first-person novel with sequels probably didn't fool many of us into thinking Katniss was done for). Second: The mutts, my friends, the mutts. The book mutts are creepy combinations of dogs and recently killed - recently threatening - tributes. The movie mutts are just dogs.

In other literary battle news, congratulations to Okay for Now on its victory in School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books! Well-deserved.


  1. As I've mentioned, my problem with the book is the first-person narration. It's a trap the Bartimaeus and Chaos Walking books smartly don't fall into--when you have a shifting or omniscient narration, there really is a chance that your main character(s) won't make it. That intrigues me more as a reader.

  2. Well, Chaos Walking wins at everything. We knew this. (Thank you again for that rec!)