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By Alexander Vassiliadis
British School
and Natalie Neiman
Deerfield

Teenagers’ fascination with vampires might finally be put to rest by Katniss’ bow and arrow. What makes “The Hunger Games” so thrilling is that it’s not at all like “Twilight.” It’s weakness? The plot might just be too real for entertainment.

“Books such as ‘Twilight’ focuses on groups that like specific things, like vampires,” said Erika Giglia, a junior at Loyola Academy. “’Hunger Games’ speaks to more people. It has everything. Thrills, action, love, suspense–all rolled into one.”

There’s something for everybody, she said. “’Twilight’ seems to appeal more to girls whereas the action and fighting in ‘The Hunger Games’ attract male audiences as well,” Giglia said.

Teens say that “The Hunger Games” is comparable to today’s reality TV. “I think it’s meant to symbolize random people being chosen for the audience’s amusement, and can be exploited or praised for their qualities–be it physical, mental or emotional,” said Drew Pearson, a freshman at British School of Chicago.

And this is one of the reasons why experts say the movie hits way too close to home. “Authors today need to change the way they think,” said Judith Wittner, a sociology professor at Loyola University Chicago. “Imagination is dead. We keep on reading novels that are so closely related to real life that we can’t even begin to think about improving as a society since our creativity is apparently limited.”

But clearly, this new phenomenon has attracted more than just young adults. In fact, when tickets were offered on Fandango a month before the movie’s opening, sales accounted for 83 percent of the website’s totals. Ticket sales broke the Fandango record originally held by Twilight’s “Eclipse.”

“Everyone is looking for a rip-roaring story,” said Robert Thompson, a professor and founding director of Bleier Center for Television and Pop Culture at Syracuse University. “’The Hunger Games’’ militaristic elements could translate across gender.”

But Thompson said there’s no way “The Hunger Games” will have the same fan base as “Harry Potter.” “These books are not fine pieces of literature,” he said. “Something like ‘Harry Potter’ only comes once in a generation.”

But despite some criticisms, one thing is for certain. Books such as “Twilight,” “Harry Potter,” and now “The Hunger Games” have definitely encouraged more teens to read. In fact, some schools started using the books in their English classes. Max Cotton, a sophomore at Deerfield, has read the book as part of his assignment. “The dreaded English assignment turned into something that I looked forward to because of how thrilling and exciting Katniss’ journey is,” he said.

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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