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Friday Reads: The Hunger Games

It’s Friday and I’m reading . . . The Hunger Games. I’m slow, I know, to come to this series – not least because I received a free promotional copy from the publisher almost eighteen months ago. I’ve also missed the film, and not even the excitement about the archery prompted me to pick it up.

My sister did.

She was stuck for something to read so rummaged through a pile of books and came up with my battered, discarded copy. And she not only adored it, she pressed it on me. What could I do but take an extremely unconvinced look?

. . . and I remained unconvinced for a few pages. The hunting didn’t interest me. The world isn’t especially original – and having read Battle Royale the prospect of the fight to come didn’t feel very fresh. Katniss, somehow, didn’t feel unique either. The hard life, doing her best, supporting her family story didn’t grab me . . . but the moment when

[SPOILERS]

she steps up to protect her sister – that did it. The honesty of the self-sacrifice and the unexpected celebrity status that followed had me hooked.

And there is something unique about that combination: the glitter, the opulence, the parade and celebrity interviews . . . kicking off a murderous competition between children. It’s a very effective juxtaposition, always underlined by Katniss and Peeta acting (or not!) their way through the games, always aware that there are cameras on them and the Hunger Games are far more than a straightforward battle for survival against the others in the arena.

This isn’t a perfect book. I was left with issues about the characterisation and world development, and there are moments of convenience that frustrated me and, I felt, let characters off the hook. But I warmed to Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch when I hadn’t expected to, I enjoyed the story and – again, a little to my surprise – next week I’ll be reading book two!

And in a week we’re publishing The Hunger but Mainly Death Games, a fantastic parody of the original novel. I’m looking forward to reading that properly as well, now I know what the jokes are about!