The Hunger Games hype

First aired on Fresh Air (17/03/12)

The Hunger Games are about to begin.

For the past year, anticipation for the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins's dystopian Lord of the Flies-meets-The Running Man story has been building to a pop-culture fever pitch. And it's set to blow sky-high this weekend as Hunger Games'  fans will finally be able to watch wily heroine Katniss Everdeen shoot arrows at her enemies on the big screen.

How is it that a young adult novel about teenagers forced to fight to death in a reality show by a totalitarian government has captured the imagination of young fans but also older ones? While it's all reminiscent of the hype that surrounded the vampire romance Twilight Saga (the franchise Hunger Games is most often compared to), CBC Books columnist Erin Balser thinks the excitement around Hunger Games extends beyond the love triangles and youthful angst. A lot of it has to do with its butt-kicking, 16-year-old female protagonist.

"Katniss has agency ... She has power, she makes decisions, she's a fully bodied character, whereas [with] Bella (from Twilight), I never felt any of that," Balser told Fresh Air's Mary Ito. "She was really passive and boring and let a man  -- a possessive, controlling man -- dictate her entire life. So I feel that Katniss is the antithesis of Bella, and that's why I'm really glad that this book is doing as well as it has."

Balser feels that readers can also appreciate the depth of the book, as it delves into themes of morality, love, freedom and control over one's fate. Would you take someone else's life to preserve your own? Is it better to live as a slave or to die fighting for liberty? And how would you compromise your principles for survival? All the characters (and, vicariously, the readers) are forced to confront their own convictions at some point.

"There are so many questions within it that keep you in it," Balser said.

Win a Hunger Games prize pack!

Play our CanLit Hunger Games and you could win a prize pack courtesy of Scholastic Canada. The package includes: a collector's edition copy of The Hunger Games novel, a bookplate signed by author Suzanne Collins and a Mockingjay pin.