‘Hunger Games’ Satisfy Through Plot, Not Prose

by Mindy Borie
Columnist

I have often thought — and you are welcome to disagree — that only the very first audience to see a movie can really appreciate it. Even if you’re lucky or vigilant enough to remain spoiler-free, i.e., you don’t know what the plot twist is, odds are you will hear that there is a plot twist and that it will blow your mind. This is enough to ruin it, because even if you don’t see it coming, you know something is coming. You never stop looking out for it.

It’s the same with books. Your expectations, to some degree, dictate your experience. Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young adult novel “The Hunger Games” has had praise heaped upon it in recent months. I’ve heard it called “the anti-Twilight.” Regardless of how you feel about “Twilight,” I can’t help but find this description apt.
I’ve heard people say the writing in “Twilight” is awful. It seems to me these people have confused writing with storytelling. Where Meyer’s wildly popular teen fiction is a romance which relies heavily on flowered prose in place of a compelling plot, Collins’ novel is highly plot-driven and her prose has no flower at all. In fact, early on in the book, I had to laugh at some of the more matter-of-fact depictions of suffering in the lives of the characters. There is very little subtlety to this book.

The protagonist and first-person narrator of “The Hunger Games” is Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in the dystopian futuristic nation of Panem. The first few chapters are spent in the grueling-but-necessary task of filling the reader in on a few customs of Panem. To be brief: Each year, all the teenagers in each district have their names entered into a drawing. A boy and a girl are picked at random and made to compete with the others (a boy and girl each from 12 districts, 24 participants in all) in the eponymous Hunger Games. This is the name of the weeks-long fight to the death which takes place every year and from which there will be only one survivor.
This year, when the drawing (or “reaping,” in Collins’ terminology) is complete, Katniss’ beloved young sister Primrose is to be sent away to her almost certain death. So Katniss does what any older sister would do: She volunteers as tribute in her sister’s place.

Filled with danger, despair and daring, “The Hunger Games” is a book with an apt title: It makes you hungry for more. Katniss, despite her sometimes morbid narration, is a protagonist worth loving. This is not a book to devour because the language is beautiful. It’s a book to devour because you have to know what comes next.

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