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A Never-Ending Feast: Why Appetite Endures For The Hunger Games

4 min read
Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Photo by Murray Close.

Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Photo by Murray Close.

franchise holds a powerful grip on readers and viewers alike. Its potent mix of nail-biting action, intriguing characters, and a thought-provoking dystopian world that reflects the anxieties of our own time is enough to draw anyone in. Now, with the announcement of 's new novel, , fans are gearing up for a new flurry of stories and personas. But why can't we get enough of The Hunger Games

To establish why this franchise is so appetising to its fans, we must revisit its first instalment. The Hunger Games was released in 2008 to a wide and revered reception, explicitly written in the young adult genre. It was a turning point for teenage dystopian readers—finally, a book geared towards and written for them. It was an instant bestseller, and thus the dystopian genre was forever changed. Its target audience was one of the key reasons it did so well, and others took note. Several new books with their own universes were churned out in the wake of The Hunger Games's success, such as The Maze Runner, Divergent, and Ready Player One

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo by Murray Close.
Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo by Murray Close.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire followed promptly in September 2009 and, quite aptly, blazed the competition. By then its grip on its audience and beyond was vastly tightened, and Mockingjay was welcomed with open arms in August 2010. The novels sparked the sensation of the films, the first of which released in 2012, and ignited a worldwide takeover. Five long years dragged by before fans ran to shops to buy the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which only started the momentum back up. 

The books teased readers with a chapter on the Quarter Quell that Haymitch Abernathy, the District 12 mentor, was drawn for. Fans have begged for a full retelling of these events, claiming the story is deserving of its own novelisation. Now, those demands have become a reality and our wishes are being granted. This is a testament to the power Collins wields in her world building—Panem's brutality, though heightened, doesn't feel too out of the realms of reality. 

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games. Photo by Murray Close.
Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games. Photo by Murray Close.

The world within the novels is disturbingly real. Panem's brutality, though heightened, doesn't feel too out of the realms of reality, however, it is the wealth disparity that clinches the authenticity of it all. The opulent Capitol leeching off the impoverished districts mirrors imbalances in today's society. Collins explained early on that she generated the idea after switching between channels—one broadcasting the Iraq war and the other reality television. In the same way, the Capitol uses the Hunger Games to distract from the ongoing oppression, similar to how entertainment can divert attention from real issues. This unsettling familiarity fuels our desire to see the dystopia challenged. Not only this but the books and films are steeped in lore. Collins created a complex society with distinct districts, histories, and customs. A world rich in lore has easily engaged readers and audiences with an insatiable need to delve deeper. 

The Hunger Games is not just about survival but defiance. Across the original trilogy of books, a rebellion simmers, only to reach boiling point by the third instalment. It doesn't need all this time to convince us that the uprising is worth rooting for; this is done in the beginning pages of the first book. Tensions initially rise after Katniss Everdeen, a girl hailing from District 12, challenges the Games by altering the odds, leading to Peeta Mellark, the baker boy also from District 12, and herself jointly taking the title of victor. From there, control unravels further and further until, finally, by Mockingjay, events have spiralled substantially. Katniss's first objection, leading to a larger rebellion, taps into a primal desire to fight for what's right. We root for the underdog and celebrate the fight against oppression. 

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One. Photo by Murray Close.
Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One. Photo by Murray Close.

Katniss is a relatable heroine with whom we spend most of our time. The best a story can get is the ultimate everyman for a protagonist, through which readers and viewers can visualise themselves in the story. Her being a teenager was particularly impactful for the YA audience and made it all the easier to put themselves in her shoes. Katniss is not a “chosen one” with magical powers but a skilled hunter thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Her resourcefulness, courage, and unwavering love for her family resonate deeply with readers. Moving from this to the direct antagonist of the trilogy, President Coriolanus Snow, was risky for Collins. However, exploring a villain's origin story proved a magnificent stroke, offering a fresh perspective. We see how a seemingly ordinary young man can so easily become radicalised and turn into the monster we watch in the original trilogy. 

Finally, the Games are captivating enough to warrant many different stories. A masterfully crafted arena of suspense, the Games are the perfect way to glue us to the pages and screens we peer into this world through. They present alliances, physical challenges and deadly traps for the characters. The high stakes and constant threat of death create a thrilling experience. 

The Hunger Games franchise offers no end to its stirring escapism, completely laced with social commentary. It allows us to explore complex issues through the lens of a richly imagined world within a dystopian YA novel. This keeps us eagerly awaiting more, wanting to instantly consume whatever facet of Panem we can grasp.