Is Actually a War Game
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Kids hunting kids. What so unusual about that? We did that when I was 12, back in the Boy Scouts, dividing up into two teams, hiders and seekers, ranging over nighttime pasturelands and dark, thick woods and steep red gullies. Last kid found was the winner.
Later when I read “Lord of the Flies,” I thought, my Scout training would have done well in keeping me safe.
Now that Harry Potter has run his magical course and vampires are fading into the twilight, a new book series by Suzanne Collins is getting lots of buzz. It’s a futuristic tale (written in the first-person present tense) about kids hunting kids. Last one alive is the winner.
My wife just bought the first book in the series – “The Hunger Games” – and can’t put the tome down. In it, a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her sister’s place in the annual Hunger Games, a televised event where kids (“tributes,” they’re called) fight to the death. Sort of a dystopian “American Idol,” where the talent is survival in the wild against your friends and peers from the 12 surrounding districts.
Not surprising that it’s been made into a movie.
“The Hunger Games” is now reprising its gladiator games at the Tropic Cinema on Eaton Street.
Twenty-two-year-old Jennifer Lawrence (who was nominated for an Oscar for “Winter’s Bone”) portrays Katniss. Josh Hutchinson plays Peeta, her male counterpart from District 12, a supposed love interest. And Liam Hemsworth is cast as Gale, her best friend and hunting partner for whom she also has feelings.
Think: Team Peeta and Team Gale in future installments.
Author Suzanne Collins was a writer for children’s televisions shows on the Nickelodeon and WB channels, as well as head writer for Scholastic Entertainment’s “Clifford’s Puppy Days.” About ten years ago she started writing children’s books, in particular “The Underland Chronicles” series.
Then came “The Hunger Games.” Collins says she got the idea from channel surfing on TV, flipping from a reality show where people competed for a prize to footage of the war in Iraq. The images began to blur in her mind, and soon she was imaging a futuristic world set in the ruins of North America.
“The Hunger Games” was the first book of a trilogy – followed by “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.” They’re published by Scholastic (where I spent five years as a group publisher). These are the same folks who gave you such popular YA book series as “Sweet Valley High,” “The Babysitters Club,” “Goosebumps,” and “Harry Potter.” Scholastic has a habit of catching lightning in a bottle.
Voice of Youth Advocates identifies the theme of “The Hunger Games” as government control vs. personal independence. Scholastic, being an educational publishing company, prefers to compare it to the theme of power and downfall in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Collins herself likens it to the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Take your choice.
Truth is, “The Hunger Game” is an allegory about war. Even Collins said, “I don’t write about adolescence. I write about war. For adolescents.”
Having been traumatized by her father’s service in Viet Nam, the 48-year-old mother of two believes in educating young people about the realities of war. “If we wait too long, what kind of expectation can we have?” she said. “We think we’re sheltering them, but what we’re doing is putting them at a disadvantage.”
Collins says writing “Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!” scripts for Nick Jr. was far easier than writing the Hunger Game books. “When I was working on ‘The Hunger Games’ – there’s not a lot of levity in it – I’d do a Wubbzy script. It’s an enormous relief to spend some hours in Wuzzleburg, writing an 11-minute episode, where I know things are going to work out just fine and all the characters will be alive at the end of the program.”
Not so with the Hunger Games Trilogy. Kids die. But don’t worry about Katniss and her two male companions. You can expect them to survive as all three books hit the silver screen in this new film franchise. After all, the lead actors in “The Hunger Games” signed three-picture deals.