‘Fire is Catching’

Is The Hunger Games the new Harry Potter?

Last week I jumped firmly onto The Hunger Games chariot, with its imminent film release prompting me to pick up a copy. As the date, 23rd March 2012, nears, more and more people are doing the same and it seems that another literary phenomenon is on the way, threatening to topple Harry Potter from his broom.

But this is no mean feat. Harry Potter has been amongst us for nearing fifteen years and its hold has yet to slacken. Having grown up in sync with Harry, Hermione and Ron, my life has been so poignantly affected by the series that, even now, I catch myself whispering a hasty Alohomora when I lose my front door key.

All authors dream of becoming the next J.K.Rowling (ignore any claims to the contrary- it’s bare jealousy.) And a few have come close: there was a period of bated breath only recently as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga was taken from book to big screen. But the hype surrounding Edward’s torso paled in comparison with that produced by the final Harry Potter film alone; in the days which followed, the twisted corpses of stray girls, bedecked in ‘Team Jacob’ merchandise, could be found in any Cineworld car park, having being caught in a stampede of bespectacled adults and children. Tragic.

Nonetheless, there is a real possibility that The Hunger Games could do it. Unlike the Twilight Saga, its appeal reaches far beyond the boundaries of lustful teenage imaginings, with themes of power, revenge, identity and survival creating a layered and complex read. Moreover, instead of coaxing heartbroken adolescent girls to the Bella-esque brink of insanity, Suzanne Collin’s heroine, Katniss, is an object of admiration in her independence- I’m confident that she wouldn’t hop onto a motorbike (with a potential rapist) to get a glimpse of her ex’s sparkly abs.

But how does she compare to Harry? In my opinion, Katniss is a character with whom we can better relate: she’s more real *GASP*.  Before you condemn me, hear me out: with all Harry’s been through, surely he would want to take at least a minute to curl up under the duvet with a packet of Hobnobs and a purely platonic Kleenex? But no- on he battles. And in the end, ‘All was well.’ Not so much as a trip to a psychologist.

Katniss’ breakdown in Mockingjay is, therefore, quite reassuring. When my cat died- the only grief I have ever experienced- I cried for weeks, so felt slightly put out as, in the epilogue of The Deathly Hallows, Harry waltzed onto Platform 9 3/4, a perfect picture of marital bliss, with his childhood sweetheart. Where are the needle marks? The haunted, sleepless eyes?

Admittedly, he does have the occasional blip, as demonstrated by his grief for Sirius in The Order of the Phoenix: ‘I-DON’T-WANT-TO-BE-HUMAN!’ But, having just stubbed my toe on the way to this computer (‘F*!”&^G  B%?^$!D  S*&T’), I remain unconvinced.

The epilogue of Mockingjay is less of a disappointment. We are able to see the long term effects of the Games on Katniss as she admits: ‘on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I’m afraid it could be taken away.’ An advantage of first person narration? Maybe, but I still think we could have been given more of an insight into Harry’s post-Voldermort journey.

Nevertheless, it will take a lot to top Harry Potter. Hogwarts is The Dream: I know I’m not the only one for whom the recollection of their first day at a normal school hurts. Perhaps, then, it is the concept of being special which draws us to Rowling’s fantasy; this could explain the current hysteria over Meyer’s glamorized vamps.

So where does that leave The Hunger Games? With not a vampire or wizard in sight, there is no supernatural appeal and it is difficult to covet Katniss’ dystopian world. Yet there is still huge allure.

Perhaps, perversely, we do desire a life brimming with adventure and peril- a common feature of all three novels. Could it be that in today’s comfortable society we require escapism not into the realm of the serene, but into the realm of grime and death? That we yearn for a Voldermort, or a Volturi, or a President Snow: a removal from monotony?

Maybe that’s just me…

Image: thehungergames.wikia.com

Related Posts:

– The Embarrassing Side Effects of Having Recently Read “The Hunger Games” http://holleymaher.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/the-embarrassing-side-effects-of-having-recently-read-the-hunger-games/

– Not Another Blog About the Hunger Games? http://wantoncreation.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/not-another-blog-post-about-the-hunger-games-a-k-a-the-inevitable-blog-post/#respond