Fifteen years have passed since Suzanne Collins released the first instalment of her great young adult dystopian series, The Hunger Games. This was followed by Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010), with all three books being turned into film adaptations, released between 2012 and 2015.
Now, 15 years later, we are less than two months away from the release of the prequel film, The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes. This is adapted from Collins’ 2020 book of the same title which is set around 60 years before the events of The Hunger Games. I, for one, am incredibly excited to watch it, as the book has been one of my favourites this year.
On this anniversary that coincides nicely with the new film, it is interesting to see how popular this dystopian series still is today. What is it about this wonderfully crafted and yet quite horrifying book that captures and engages so many readers? The book is far from a happy one, with a miserable and cruel premise of 24 young people being forced to fight to the death until only one remains. It is a world where one group of people thrive (those living in the Capitol) while everyone else suffers. Everyone in the twelve Districts of Panem are at the mercy of the authoritarian Capitol, who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the Districts in line: even as far as hosting the annual Hunger Games and broadcasting the battle live.
Perhaps it is exactly this barbaric world that Collins creates that intrigues readers so much. It explores the lengths that humanity is capable of going, and warns against what can happen when someone becomes too powerful.
Or perhaps it is the way in which Katniss, the 16-year-old protagonist, refuses to let the system entirely control her life which is so captivating for readers. Living in District Twelve, a mining community, Katniss protects her family from the Hunger Games by volunteering in her younger sister’s place. Again and again, Katniss acts in defiance of the Capitol.
It is good overcoming evil; it is a rebellion against unjust forces; it is a reminder of not only how low humanity can sink, but also how strong people can be to counter this. These themes are enduring, and alluring. It resonated with people 15 years ago as much as it resonates with people today.
Personally, The Hunger Games will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first book that I passionately loved; it was the book that made me fall completely in love with reading and truly appreciate the power of books. It was the book that sparked my love for anything dystopian, starting my journey to writing dystopian novels myself. I hope that new people will keep on falling in love with this masterpiece as much as I did, something that I imagine The Ballard of Songbird and Snakes will help with.