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‘Hunger Games’ has power to create scores of avid readers

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on March 28, 2012 at 8:51 am |
March 28, 2012 8:51 am
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." (Lionsgate)

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

With its huge opening last week, “The Hunger Games” is a bona fide film phenomenon. What’s important to remember is the driving force behind that popularity: Suzanne Collins’ trilogy that has enthralled young readers – and a lot of not-so-young ones as well.

With its huge opening last week, “The Hunger Games” is a bona fide film phenomenon. What’s important to remember is the driving force behind that popularity: Suzanne Collins’ trilogy that has enthralled young readers – and a lot of not-so-young ones as well.

The movie has a built-in audience eager to see if its version of Panem – a future America – and its inhabitants match their own imaginings. The series’ avid fans are invested in its teenage heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and the other characters. The story is set in a dystopian version of the future where society has taken the concept of “Survivor”-like reality shows to their ultimate, logical conclusion.

Many have compared “The Hunger Games” trilogy to two earlier literary phenomena that became wildly popular film franchises: Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. About all it has in common with them is the fact that it was written by a woman and involves young people in dangerous situations.

Unlike “Twilight” and “Harry Potter,” there are no magical or supernatural beings in “Hunger Games,” just very human people trying to survive in an autocratic future. And unlike the almost maddeningly passive Bella in “Twilight,” Katniss is a take-charge heroine who doesn’t need to be saved by the male characters. Her cunning and keen outdoors skills make her a competitor to be reckoned with in the contest to the death that is at the center of “The Hunger Games.” Her challenge, beyond survival, is to retain her humanity in a world that requires her to do inhuman things.

What’s exciting to bibliophiles watching the “Hunger Games” phenomenon is knowing that so many young people are eager to see the movie because they have read the book it’s based on. And many who go to the movie who haven’t read the book will want to read it and the rest of the trilogy.

That was also the real magic of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”: the power to engage and enchant young readers who otherwise might just be sitting in front of a television set or playing video games. A boy wizard, a teen in love with a vampire and a warrior girl of the future have introduced millions of youngsters into a wonderful world – reading – one that we hope they’ll want to keep visiting.

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