Yes…I read Young Adult novels. They’re my favourite, in fact. From Francesca Lia Block’s ‘Weetzie Bat’ novels to popular series like Harry Potter, I’ve always been more drawn to YA than anything else. I fancied myself a Young Adult writer about a decade ago…had 36,000 words of my novel written. At which point I discovered that I’m a horrible…horrible writer.
That said, I finished The Hunger Games today, and Suzanne Collins is NOT a horrible writer…she’s not even a bad writer…damnit, she’s a GOOD writer. How about that reversal thing I just did there, eh?
…yes, that’s why I don’t write Young Adult novels…because of that.
The story was fantastic, a bizarre blend of post-apocalyptic and technology-based sci-fi. I’m used to Road Warrior styles, or The Road…I wasn’t expecting technology to play such a huge role in Earth’s future when so many people are starving and struggling to survive…oh…wait…
…is The Hunger Games really any different than modern day? …now I’m depressed.
We follow Katniss in this futurescape where North America is divided into 12 Districts (what happened to the rest of the world??)…actually, 13, but the 13th was decimated after a war which led to the Capital becoming a dictatorship over the 12 lesser regions. Each region has a strength, and District 12 is coal.
There are boys…but she’s not a boy-obsessed prissy flower, quite the opposite. The way they play the love story that is required for any story of this sort is…not normal…and is quite awesome I must say. But let’s not talk about boys (…right now, anyways…)
I don’t want to get into too much detail here…or accidentally go into spoiler world…but lets just say Katniss ends up ‘somehow’ (twisty?) becoming chosen (a Tribute) for the Hunger Games: a televised competition where teens from each district are pitted against each other in a free-for-all battle to the death, the victor awarded with food and luxury.
I could talk about the characters (each one is very layered and fascinating, unlike a glittery supernatural storybook that has been popular of late), or about the setting (the arena is well-detailed and reminds me of the wilderness of Canada), or the specifics of the plot…but you can read it, or watch the movie when it comes out. What I want to talk about…is Public Relations.
…AH! You were wondering ‘Why the f*** is Roo writing a book review?‘ and getting ready to fire an arrow through my throat, weren’t you! But now you can’t…because I pulled it back.
…it is still a book review…and I still suggest you read the book if you like SciFi, Fantasy, or just good stories.
But yes, PR…because, as I was reading, I realized…this book is all about PR.
It goes against the nature of the main character – raised in a world where she has to hunt for food, avoid pissing off authority, under the thumb of the capital – but through the book she comes to realize that to survive she needs to look good (she has a stylist before the games begin), interest people (she has an interview before the games), and gain and hold favour of those watching (during the games she regularly makes decisions specifically to maintain an image).
All of this is happening while she’s under constant threat of death, starvation, hypothermia. She’s battling a bunch of kids who are trying to stay alive as well…but she needs to maintain her image…because it could give her the edge she needs to survive.
The sequences with the stylists (the head stylist is one of my favourite characters, and will hopefully be played well by Lenny Kravitz in the film), discussions with her handler (being played by Woody Harrelson in the movie, which is cool!), and knowledge she’s gained from previous games are fascinating. The push and tug of reality against the ‘augmented reality’ of…for lack of a better word…publicity, or her image, is an extra layer I’m not used to seeing in novels of this type.
Think of it…imagine if Harry Potter had to be wary of his actions, just in case the newspapers printed something bad. If, when he was scheming to break the rules of his school, he stopped to think “But how will this play on television” and then work a strategy into his plan.
It’s brilliant. It’s a great way to twist the genre. Most of all…it’s a very clever way to take something unimaginable – a teenager forced to kill other teenagers for sport – and make it not just ‘human’ but, in a strange way, relatable. Modern.
In reality, in the music industry, at work, with the family…we all have to keep these things in mind. It’s like office politics, or dealing with complex problems in close relationships. Public Relations is really about keeping yourself in check and ensuring that you are showing what you want the world to see. I, for one, don’t really pay attention to my own image…what you see here is what you get for the most part.
But, in the back of my head, there is a bit of Katniss there. That nagging thought of ‘How will this action be interpreted, and how can I get the same result but end up with a positive interpretation?’
It’s a layer I wasn’t expecting. And the reason why I highly recommend the book to anyone who’s got some time to kill…
…heh…time to kill…
Anywhoo, if you agree with me or think I’m way off, I’d love to hear from you! Comment here or find me on Twitter @Potoroo