Collins’s blockbuster: The Hunger Games

Collins' The Hunger Games CoverLike so many books before it, the film version of The Hunger Games failed to do the novel justice. Usually, this happens because the plot and characters in a beloved book have filled and informed our own imagination, giving us our own unique experience of it. My mental picture of Frodo and Gandalf, for instance, were vastly different from Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen—even if Viggo Mortenson was eerily similar to my image of Aragorn. (And Peter Jackson’s take on Gollum was so much better than mine!)

Typically, watching someone else’s version of a beloved book then can often be a disappointing experience—especially when much-loved characters or favourite chapters are changed or left out. (For the record, while The Lord of the Rings films were not nearly as enjoyable to me as the books, I thoroughly enjoyed it.) When it came to The Hunger Games, my experience was different.

I had not read the book when I watched the movie version of Suzanne Collins’s blockbuster. And while I found the film mildly entertaining, I was not in any way enthralled by it (even though Collins was involved in the screenplay). To be honest, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was a serious pain in my neck. Largely unimpressed, I only picked up a copy of the book because I’m a young adult fiction fan and, based on the movie, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

The Hunger Games Books

Well, I was gripped from the very first page. Collin’s fast-paced writing style, complex character development, and brilliant cliff-hanger chapter endings had me spellbound, and I gobbled up all three books in The Hunger Games trilogy one after the other—losing a lot of sleep on the way.

I fell in love with the ink-on-page Katniss Everdeen, having struggled to warm up to actress Jennifer Lawrence. And while the stunning performances of Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci wonderfully enriched my reading experience, my aversion to Josh Hutcherson’s portrayal of Peeta had me rooting for the “other guy” even after I finished the third book, Mockingjay. Seriously, I still think Katniss settled for average. And this means that I grossly missed the character development of ink-on-page Peeta Mellark despite Collin’s excellent writing skills.

While I consider myself an avid movie fan—and yes, I will watch the movie versions of Catching Fire and Mockingjay—the lesson for me is simple. There is an intellectual and emotional reward in the reading experience that trumps movie watching every time. I guess this is obvious. In reading, we invest ourselves into the story; a movie can only offer mild amusement.

Book or movie? What is your take on The Hunger Games? For more on Young Adult Fiction, click here.