Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hunger Games: Team Peeta? Team Gale? How About Team Not Dying!?

"The Hunger Games" movie comes out in less than 2 days (side note: OH MY GOSH! I CAN'T WAIT!), but one of the main things I keep reading about is whether people are "Team Peeta" or "Team Gale."

When did an excellent dystopian novel about a 16-year-old girl forced by the government to fight to the death against 23 other teenagers turn into a discussion about which cute boy she should date?

The thing is, there is very little romance in the "Hunger Games" trilogy, because the main character, Katniss, is concentrating so hard on feeding her family, surviving her tough life trapped in District 12 and, oh, not getting killed by the 23 other teenagers she's fighting in a government-sponsored deathmatch.

Now, at the end of "Mockingjay," the final novel in the trilogy, Katniss does end up with a boy (I won't say who, for all you fools lovely people haven't read it yet), but one of the things I appreciate about the books is that romance is secondary to the horrible things happening in the world. Throughout most of the three books, Katniss can't even think about falling in love because she's too busy handling everything else. In fact, in the first book, she is pretty crafty and cunning about using a romantic attachment to keep herself alive.

Don't misunderstand me: I'm perfectly OK with romantic novels for young adults. While the problems with the most popular teen romance novels, the "Twilight" series, could fill several blog entries, in general I think it's fine to get into romance.

But here's what I don't understand: Why does romance have to be front and center when the story doesn't call for it? I would argue that "The Hunger Games" doesn't call for a real discussion about Katniss' romantic attachments because, spoiler alert, throughout most of the books, Katniss doesn't really feel romantic feelings for Peeta or Gale. She spends some time dissecting their feelings for her, but that is mostly because she is concerned how it will affect her life, the Games and her family.

I admire author Suzanne Collins for the way she treats romance in her books. It was an uncommon, but inspired, choice to have two characters whose romantic feelings for each other are so unbalanced, and I especially like that the male character is the one who is more in love. So often, the female character is the more romantic one of the pair.

By the end of the trilogy, there are definitely romantic feelings that both cause issues and are fun to experience along with Katniss, but it takes a long time for the romantic payoff, and it's still secondary to the main plot. And that's the way I like it.

My biggest concern as I anxiously await the film version of the books is that it will try to be the next "Twilight," in the sense that it tries to set up a romantic triangle that is central to the story. Thankfully, the trailers, early reviews and interviews seem to indicate that's not so, but until I see the movie, I'll harbor a little bit of doubt. (Kel keeps telling me to "stop being a freak about it," but I can't help myself ... I've been burned before!)

What do you think of the romance, or lack thereof, in "The Hunger Games"?

1 comment:

  1. Frankly, my favorite romantic aspect to the books is Finnick and Annie. I didn't find myself caring much about who Katniss ended up with. I wouldn't have minded if she didn't end up with anyone.

    I think the broader romance issues the books present, like the commentary on "reality show romances" in how Katniss and Peeta have to present themselves, are more interesting.