I just went with my family to see the new Hunger Games movie (I read the book a couple times). I was impressed by the storytelling, by the acting (especially for an action-type film), and by how closely the filmmakers were able to stick to the heart of the story as written in the books.
Additionally, I was glad that the complexity of the books was not completely ignored in the film. The Hunger Games is one of those series' written for and marketed to teens that actually does what it should – explores the complexities of the actual and real lives that teens today are living.
Let me just say that I don't have any desire for my children, or any children, to have to navigate a world like the one that Katniss and Peeta and Gale and Prim have to live in. At the same time, though, these characters have some of the same struggles that young people do today, and so I'm glad they're explored in literature and film.
From one perspective, this is a classic coming of age story. Katniss is forced, by the circumstances of the world around her, to grow up quickly and act like an adult even while she longs for the comfort and perceived safety & security of childhood. And though she doesn't feel like she's ready, she faces what comes her way with grace and honor – just like, I'm sure, most teenagers hope that they will.
From another angle, we see the struggle with a loss of innocence. I'm sure you remember taking that step from what was to what will be, and realizing later that you'll never be able to go back. Maybe it was the first time you got drunk, the first time you had sex, or when you realized the truth about Santa Claus – whatever seminal moment it was in your life, it was a turning point from which you could never regress. The biggest of these moments in the Hunger Games story is when Prim's (Katniss' sister) name is called at the reaping, and Katniss, in volunteering as tribute in her sister's place, takes the step from which she can't turn back.
The Hunger Games trilogy also explores the complexities of human interpersonal relationships as we see Katniss struggle with knowing how to relate to the two boys/men that she loves. Not knowing how to relate to Peeta without hurting Gale, and not knowing how to save her relationship with Gale even as their shared experience forces her to grow closer to Peeta surely mirrors what many teenagers feel – or, if not, I must be completely alone.
And the closest-to-home part of the complexity of her relationship with Peeta and Gale is the truth that there's never any satisfactory and satisfying resolution. Thanks be to God and Suzanne Collins, there's no sitcom ending, because the reality is that our real-life relationships in the real world are really and actually complicated. It's nice to see that reflected here as well.
There's a lot more to appreciate about this story beyond the reflection of how teenagers may experience life, but that's a topic for another blog post – maybe in the next day or two?