I probably don’t have to tell you that “the book is always better” than the movie—books just naturally have more time to create complex characters and situations, whereas a movie needs to try to get the story across in a specific time frame.
Since The Hunger Games became wildly popular, especially the movies, there are a lot of people who—gasp—haven’t read the books. You and I know they totally should, but sometimes “the book is better!” isn’t a compelling argument to people who might have limited time or even desire to read. (These latter people are obviously aliens, but we must be kind to them nonetheless.)
One of the main differences between the books and the movies is the character and District complexity. Katniss’ home in the movies appears uniformly bleak and poor, but in the books, there are multiple socioeconomic classes and character backstories within District 12. These inform the characters’ personalities as well as provide personal and economic motivation throughout the story, making the stakes of the Games even higher. What could be worse than being put in a kill-or-be-killed Game? Having to up your chances of being chosen, because your entire family will starve to death.
Let’s look at a few of the main District 12 differences and details that the movies didn’t have time to explain! (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, DISTRICT 12
- Even Katniss’ appearance versus her mother and Prim’s sets them apart. Katniss has dark hair and olive skin, like most of District 12, but her mother and sister are blond, fair, and blue-eyed, which marks them as part of the merchant class.
- In the books, Katniss hunts and provides black market meat to others (including dog), as well as foraged berries. In the movies, it appears that she’s only doing this for her own family.
- The movies gloss over the tesserae—a person can put their name in additional times in order to receive extra food for them and their family. At sixteen, Katniss has had her name entered 20 times; Gale has had his entered 42 times. That’s why it’s so shocking that Prim is called for the reaping. It also illustrates the desperation of some District 12 families, who risk the brutal death of their children in order to avoid starving.
- Peeta’s family is part of the merchant class, and never seems to be in danger of starving. The movies do show him tossing bread to a starving Katniss, but they don’t exactly explain how dire the Everdeen situation is at that point.
- Peeta has two brothers, neither of which volunteer for him.
- Peeta’s father was once in love with Katniss’ mother.
- Gale has three younger siblings: two brothers and a sister. After his father was killed in the same mining explosion that wiped out Katniss’ father, he put his name in for tesserae for all of them each year.
- Eventually, Gale goes to work at the mines to support his family (this is hinted at in the movies, but not terribly explicit). His family depends on Katniss to supply meat and berries.
- Gale’s mother was forced to go back to work less than a week after her last baby was born, lest the family starve. That was the first year Gale was eligible for the Reaping.
- Gale refuses to take any money from Katniss, even though she’s rich after winning the first Game.
- Haymitch’s entire family was killed by President Snow after he won the 50th annual Hunger Games. He’s rich and lives in the Victor’s Village, but is perpetually drunk to deal with the horror he experienced and the torment of training new tributes each year.
- Madge, the mayor’s daughter, is actually the person who gives Katniss the Mockingjay pin—it’s made of real gold, and Katniss thinks about how “it could keep a family in bread for months.”
- The pin used to belong to Madge’s aunt, who was in the same Game as Haymitch. She was murdered by a bunch of creepy birds.
- Madge’s mother is still in a deep depression after her sister’s death—but where similar circumstances put Katniss and Prim in mortal danger, the Undersees clearly don’t suffer financially.
- Greasy Sae is part of the bartering market where Katniss trades meat for other goods. Apparently, she’s the only one who can be counted on to buy wild dog. (Yum.)
- She's also is the person who starts up a District 12 collection to sponsor Peeta and Katniss—which is all the more precious based on the dire financial situations of many District 12 citizens.
If the movies had tried to include all of this (let alone all the other details that are necessarily left out), they probably would have had to be a ten-part series. If you’ve got a Hunger Games movie fan in your life, or if you haven’t read the books yourself, why not tell them about everything they’re missing?
To celebrate the way the books add so much more detail and complexity to the films, we partnered with Scholastic/@IReadYA to sponsor this post and give away one box set of the Hunger Games trilogy! To enter, leave a comment telling us a detail in the books you wish would have made it into the films, or, if you haven’t read them yet, which of the details above surprised you the most. Giveaway ends 11:59pm PST on June 24, and is open to US readers only (sorry, international readers!). The giveaway is now closed.