Why You Should Care About The Hunger Games

Before you dismiss THE HUNGER GAMES as yet another formulaic bid for box office millions, allow Sarah to explain why it's so much more than that, and why you might actually want to read it.

When I first read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games back in January of 2009, I immediately knew it was destined for Hollywood exploitation. Not simply because it's a fantastic, nail-biting read, but because it contains all of the necessary elements for a blockbuster hit: a kickass heroine, insane violence and a deliciously painful love triangle.

But before you dismiss The Hunger Games as yet another formulaic bid for box office millions, give me a chance to explain why it's so much more than that, and why you might actually want to read it.

I'll preface my argument with a little introduction to the book itself, in case you're completely unfamiliar with it. Set in a distant, dystopian future, The Hunger Games follows the extraordinary path of Katniss Everdeen, a girl from the poorest district of the country. Each year, the totalitarian government of the nation holds an event known as the Hunger Games, in which two kids (tributes) from each of the twelve districts compete in a battle to the death, set in an arena built to look like a natural wilderness and televised for the country's required viewing. After Katniss' younger sister Prim's name is chosen as tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place and journeys to the Capitol along with her male counterpart, Peeta Mellark. (I know, I know, the names are terrible!) And then shit gets crazy.

1. YA Matters

Given the massive success of Harry Potter and Twilight, I probably don't need to tell you that young adult (YA) literature is a growing power in our cultural landscape. Given that YA books now often beat the sales of adult bestsellers, publishers have expanded their YA departments while film studios snap up new releases (and cast them!) even before the book is actually published.

Not only is YA an economic force to be reckoned with, it's also a breath of fresh air on the literary landscape. Sure, there's a lot of Twilight and Gossip Girl wannabes, but there's also an incredible community of talented authors writing brave and visionary novels that would never fit in the narrow box of adult publishing. Suzanne Collins is one of those writers. The Hunger Games is an electrifying example of just how high YA literature can fly, past all boundaries and beyond your expectations.

2. It's Way Better Than Twilight

I've heard a lot of people say, "The Hunger Games is totally the new Twilight!" and I want to punch those people in the face. Sure, Lionsgate is looking for a new cash cow. And yes, Hot Topic is already switching out Team Edward and Team Jacob shirts for Team Peeta and Team Gale. But money-making potential aside, Twilight  and The Hunger Games couldn't be more different.
First of all, Collins is a much better writer than Meyer. You won't find any frothy prose about sparkling ab muscles or saccharine declarations of love on any page of The Hunger Games. Second, Katniss could kick the freaking crap out of Bella and Edward. She's the teen version of Lisbeth Salander (minus the whole goth thing), a prickly and fascinating mix of strength and vulnerability. Katniss is courageous and complex, and she's a much better role model for teen girls than Bella "I Heart Stalkers" Swan.
And while the Twilight series is obviously targeted at girls, The Hunger Games truly has something for everyone. For every twinge in the love triangle, someone gets stabbed. For every explosion, there's a powerful message about the consequences of violence.
3. Kids Kill Each Other
While Suzanne Collins' ultimate agenda is anti-war, I have to say, kids killing kids makes for some pretty compelling story-telling. If you've read or seen Battle Royale, then you know what I'm talking about. And speaking of that Japanese gem, I feel the need to point out that The Hunger Games isn't actually a rip-off of Koushun Takami. While there are definitely similar themes, the plot is completely different and, in my opinion, more satisfying. Collins does a masterful job of making you care about some of the tributes so that when they die, you're simultaneously upset by their passing (tears will be shed, mark my words!) and mesmerized by Collins' wickedly creative tools of death.

4. The Movie Could Be Really Good

While I've been dying to see the violence and suspense of The Hunger Games played out on the silver screen, I've also been hella nervous about the possibility of Lionsgate making a royal mess of it. The casting process was full of highs (Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss) and lows (Liam Hemsworth as Gale), but with experts like Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks on deck, the book's colorful characters might get the performances they deserve. And then there's the trailer.

Just try to watch that and NOT get goosebumps during the last ten seconds because ZOMG!!!! May the odds be ever in favor of this movie being awesome.

So... did I convince you guys to give The Hunger Games a shot? Or will my argument be the first to die in the arena? Let me know in the comments!