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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

March 20, 2012 at 9:37 AM

Have you read “The Hunger Games”?

As the movie draws near (opening midnight Thursday; some are predicting it could do over $100 million in business this weekend), let’s take a moment to think about where it all began: the book. Suzanne Collins’ novel, the first of a trilogy, was published in 2008; unlike J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, it wasn’t her first published book. (Previously a writer for children’s television, she also wrote the five-book series “The Underland Chronicles,” inspired by “Alice in Wonderland.”) In interviews, Collins (who also co-wrote the movie screenplay, with director Gary Ross and Billy Ray) has said that the inspiration for “The Hunger Games” came from her reading of Greek mythology; specifically the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.
I finally got around to reading the book, on the plane to New York a couple of weeks ago (it’s a pretty quick read) — and had mixed feelings about it. Collins is clearly a talented, skilled writer (if this book and “Twilight” were in an arena together, “Twilight” wouldn’t even make it off the pedestal), and “The Hunger Games” has a can’t-put-it-down urgency to it that’s irresistible. And it’s a treat to see a book — and a series — about a strong female character who isn’t entirely defined by her relationships with male characters. But . . . am I the only one who found this book almost unbearably grim? I know that its central idea — teenagers fighting each other to the death in a nationally televised competition — isn’t exactly light, and that the characters are facing starvation and misery under an oppressive regime. But Katniss never really emerged as a character for me; more like an automaton who does what she has to do. There’s a reality to that, certainly — that’s what happens to people who live under such conditions — but it made the book more of a chore than a pleasure. Kind of like “The Handmaid’s Tale” for kids. A good book, certainly, but not one I’d be eager to revisit.
But that’s just my impression. If you loved “The Hunger Games” — or if you didn’t — I’d love to hear your thoughts. And I’ve only read the first book; without spoilers, anybody want to tell me if the books get better or worse as the trilogy continues?

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