Reading: The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
Why you should read it: Character, Plotting
With the trailer for the movie released yesterday morning, The Hunger Games fans are in a tizzy (well, at least I am) for the movie based on the series of books. The Hunger Games and the subsequent books in the trilogy (Catching Fire and Mockingjay) have just about something for everyone. A little romance, suspense, a sprinkling of sci-fi, action and intrigue, all set in a futuristic nation. For those who haven’t read them (honestly, what is wrong with you?) I’ll do a quick and non-spoiler tease for the first book.
Set sometime in the future in the nation of Panem (which is created after the destruction of North America as we know it). Panem consists of a greedy, wealthy capitol and 12 much poorer districts. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, lives in coal-mining District 12, which Collins says is about the area that used to be Appalachia. Katniss has suffered a lot in her life, but doesn’t even know the half of what’s coming her way.
As punishment for a rebellion against the Capitol that occurred years before the book begins, there is an annual Hunger Games. A boy and a girl from each district between the ages of 12 and 18 must enter the Hunger Games, which is essentially a reality television show wherein the children literally fight to death for the amusement of the people in Capitol.
This year is the first year that Katniss’ sister, Primrose is eligible for the Hunger Games, but Katniss doesn’t believe her name will be drawn. It is, and Katniss volunteers herself for the challenge in her place. Nominated along with Katniss is Peeta Mellark, and together they leave for the Hunger Games. From the moment, they enter the challenge, the game is on, and every second is race for life or death.
And that’s just the first portion of the first book. I can’t reveal who lives or who dies, but I can recommend you read them, and go into a little more detail as to why.
Collin’s has a great and intimate understanding of her main character (and all the others, really) from the moment the story begins. I know you might be thinking that any writer has an amazing connection with their characters, but not always. It seems to me that Collin’s knows everything there is to know about Katniss down to the kind of underwear she likes. She does a wonderful job of laying the groundwork for not only Katniss’ decisions but her reactions, skills, and foibles. When we first meet Katniss, she’s doing some (illegal) hunting in the woods with her best friend, Gale. Because of this hunting, she’s great with a bow and arrow, and she’s got nice survival skills, and she’s good at plant identification. Naturally, these will all come in handy in the Hunger Games arena.
In another part of Katniss’ personality, we learn that she hunts to feed her family, who she is fiercely protective off, which explains why she would so quickly and willingly take Primrose’s place in the Games. While this may seem obvious in fiction writing, it is really poor writing when authors don’t lay the groundwork for their characters personalties. It’s fine to reveal different facets of a character as the story progresses, but don’t tell me the main character is entering a knitting competition because she needs the grand prize money before you’ve told me that she’s a great knitter. You may know that about your character, but the reader doesn’t.
The Hunger Games trilogy is a work of art, where the plot is concerned. Though it remains a mystery to the reader, by the end of the series, it’s clear that Collins knew what would happen at the end from page one, book one, and she wrote unwaveringly toward that end. I’ve read books with distracting subplots or a plethora of characters that end up being poorly woven into the main plot (or not at all). Things aren’t so with Collins who’s plotting is reminiscent of other tight plotters, like J.K. Rowling, or James Patterson.
Collins’ plot is straightforward, and blazes along quickly, but it’s cushioned in the feelings, emotions and thoughts of Katniss. The interweaving of character and plot is seems effortless which is why hoards of people of all ages have flocked to The Hunger Games. You have plenty of time to read the series between now and the 2012 release of the movie, so, catch up already!
If you have read The Hunger Games, was there anything you were able to take away from it as a writer? Or did you just enjoy the ride? Excited for the movie? Drop a comment—let’s chat!