The sad thing about reading modern novels for “young adults” is that I read them far too quickly. In comparison to a Jane Austen novel (such as Mansfield Park, which I had recently read), they seem far too easy to read and are very easy to consume. An Austen novel I find much easier to read now that I’m 28 and not, you know, 15, so I find myself enjoying its subtle sarcasm and its consideration of 19th Century social norms. I also find I need a bit longer to read it.
But I digress, I should leave my musings on Austen another day. 2 nights ago I finished reading the entire Hunger Games trilogy.
Overall, I do feel the films are actually superior versions of the story told in the books, mainly because the films make sure to correct some of the weaker elements in the novels. Elements like, obsessing way too much over the 2 main boys in Katniss’ life (granted that she doesn’t do this as much in the Hunger Games’ first novel as a lot of fans claim, if anything it gets worse as the books go along), correcting some of the pacing issues in Mockingjay, properly developing Effie’s character, making Haymitch a lot more logical as a character. I also have no problem with the films cutting out a lot of the periphery characters – I see little reason for the films to have Madge, nor the mayor (of any district). I’m also not particularly sure what value there was in having the Muttations have features of the killed tributes, nor in focusing on the Avoxes too much.
If there was anything that the novels did do better, though, it was the world-building. There was a lot more detail about the world of Panem; plus to give Suzanne Collins some credit, she really thinks hard and deeply about the world and characters’ motivations. For instance, it made sense that Katniss and Peeta were getting military training in Mockingjay (something left out of the movies, which irks me no end). Also, Katniss’ internal monologue reveals how strategic she is in her decision-making, thus adding a dimension to the first Hunger Games where, she doesn’t really trust Peeta and is preparing to kill him. In the film, we really do not understand why she acts warily around Peeta before the Hunger Games proper, so the film just shows the pair acting adorably awkward. I really don’t understand why there couldn’t have been a scene shot of Katniss and Haymitch arguing over the strategy of portraying the pair as star-crossed lovers to hammer this home. Plus I noticed that in The Hunger Games film, Katniss was completely unaware of PR or being media-savvy, when in the book, she was fully aware of how the PR game worked. She still wasn’t very good at it.
Admittedly, out of everything "missing" from the films, what I wished most that could have been left in were the little conversations that helped build the world, or at least the parts of the world that mattered to the characters: the conversation between Katniss and Rue about their districts, the discussion Peeta and Katniss had about their respective fathers, Katniss' paranoia of the safety of her mother and sister should she not play along as the Capitol's puppet, the discussion of Annie Cresta and her importance, the understanding and friendship that blossomed between Katniss and Finnick in Mockingjay. On the other hand, book Katniss in Mockingjay turned into a completely emotional, wangsty, over-traumatised teenage girl who was easily struck dumb, even after not witnessing anything that traumatic. So the ending to the Mockingjay novel even had a morose tone. The film version showed Katniss realising how much influence she had over people and being a lot more assertive in choosing who she had relations with, while at the same time not downplaying the trauma of her experiences. It also meant that she actually seemed happy and contented in the film epilogue.