10 Years Since 'The Hunger Games' Began
NOEL KING, HOST:
It has been 10 years since "The Hunger Games" was published. That was the first book in a trilogy that became a blockbuster film series. Now, a lot has changed in the last decade. There are some new political realities. NPR's Lynn Neary has the story.
LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: One big reason for "The Hunger Games'" success was the heroine at the center of the story, Katniss Everdeen. We first see her fierce loyalty when her younger sister Prim is picked to fight in a reality show known as "The Hunger Games." It's an annual event which the government uses to control the inhabitants of Panem. Young people are forced to fight each other to the death. The last one standing wins. Katniss stepped in to save her sister.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HUNGER GAMES")
JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (As Katniss Everdeen) Prim. Prim. I volunteer. I volunteer. I volunteer as tribute.
NEARY: Since "The Hunger Games" was first published 10 years ago, there's been a resurgence of interest in dystopian fiction. David Levithan, the book's publisher, says the trilogy played a big role in sparking that interest. But Levithan interviewed author Suzanne Collins for the anniversary edition of the trilogy. And she told him she thought "The Hunger Games" was more a war story than a dystopian novel.
DAVID LEVITHAN: The mission of "The Hunger Games" is to be an anti-war story. It is about the cost of war and what we put young people through in the name of war and the effects that it has.
NEARY: Collins has never explicitly laid out the political ideology behind her books. But writer Sarah Seltzer says she was sure it was a reflection of her own progressive politics.
SARAH SELTZER: I felt that the books were a commentary on income inequality and authoritarianism.
NEARY: In an article she wrote for Flavorwire before the last presidential election, Seltzer said she was surprised when she found out that members of the Tea Party had also embraced "The Hunger Games."
SELTZER: Immediately when I heard it, it made sense to me because there's this regional divide in the books between the city dwellers, who control everything and who kind of live these partying, decadent lives, and the agrarian societies, who grow things and make things and are finding their lives very constrained.
NEARY: In the aftermath of the election, Seltzer says that rural-urban divide reflects our current national politics. She says the book seems more relevant than ever.
SELTZER: You know, you get the sense that the society was built on the sort of ashes of the America we know. And at the time, it was like - didn't seem too unrealistic, but it was - it seemed like a distant future. And now you feel like the country is this - at this boiling point where things could change very quickly.
NEARY: The new political reality also has Stef Woods thinking about "The Hunger Games." She taught a course on the trilogy at American University a few years back. She may teach it again, drawing on recent events that are relevant to young people - for example, the Parkland students who became political activists after shootings at their high school.
STEF WOODS: None of them asked to be the face and the figures and the future of a movement. They were forced into this by the tragedies that they experienced beyond their control, much like the fictionalized Katniss did.
NEARY: Whatever the politics of the moment are, David Levithan thinks "The Hunger Games" has a message that is timeless.
LEVITHAN: To question and to watch out for being manipulated - I think it is saying that, really, anybody who has power, this is something you should scrutinize.
NEARY: It may be too soon to call "The Hunger Games" a classic. But Levithan says with that message, it may yet become one. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES NEWTON HOWARD'S "THE HUNGER GAMES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.