first written 8/4/11, edited a bunch of times. technically beta-ed by Alice.
There is so much to talk about regarding The Hunger Games trilogy that this post is no more than a list of several themes that interest me in the first book. Because July turned into the month of Easy A and I don’t want that to happen again, I am currently planning ONLY ONE other post on this series, at least for now*. I won’t internet-publish it until I’ve finished rereading the remaining two books, which will take a while. When the first movie comes out in March 2012 I will absolutely review it here, in sha’allah.
*Or perhaps one review post per book? Vote in the comments.
This post only focuses on Book 1 because that’s the one I reread most recently, in 4 hours with almost no breaks. I was really gratified to realize that it’s still an amazing read. By no means is it the best YA novel out there (for 2009 or of all time), but it’s still really, really good. Yes, Suzanne Collins jumped aboard the Dystopia bandwagon, but she did it better than most people — arguably, even better than Cormac McCarthy in The Road. (COME AT ME, BRO.) Book 1 (also called The Hunger Games, which is annoying) is definitely the best of the three, no question.
I’ll do my best to avoid huge spoilers, but just take a weekend afternoon to read it already.
TEAM KATNISS ALL THE WAY
I love, love, love Katniss. I believe that Peeta is ultimately the right choice — and who doesn’t have the hots for Gale? — but if Katniss had said ‘fuck ’em’ and fled for other lands, I would have totally supported her. She rocks, and Suzanne Collins rocks for creating such a character.
Daddy’s paraphrased thoughts after Book 1, two years ago: “she’s an idiot to think she can go back to Gale like nothing’s happened. Now that she’s SPOILER won the Hunger Games she’s just jumped several [social] classes. There’s no way he’ll want to take her back/understand her now that she’s really wealthy.” END SPOILER
[note: My dad is almost always right about these things. See Books 2 and 3 for confirmation.]
Mental health in these books is a huge issue* that is easily overlooked in the first book and willfully misunderstood by most reviewers (that I’ve read) in the third. Katniss starts off the series scarred and ends the series severely traumatized. She has PTSD like nobody’s business, and if she didn’t, it would be incredibly unrealistic. I also can’t wait to reexamine her mother’s character arc.
*This is almost certainly what my other THG post will be about. I won’t be ready for it for a while.
I didn’t notice Rue was black until Daddy pointed it out. I completely missed that character description — I probably read it as “brown hair” instead of “brown skin”, which gives her character an entirely different symbolism, especially as a Prim-surrogate. What is Collins trying to argue happened to race relations at the founding of Panem? Are we to understand that all the African-Americans are herded into District 11? Are there non-white people in the Capitol? Are there other races in Panem?
In terms of progressing white-black relations, Collins did a B+ job, considering she’s a white woman with a white girl’s story to tell. Any more, and it would have been heavy-handed and false.
I also wish Thresh had a larger role, but it would have been wrong. There was no reason for them to interact except regarding Rue’s death, but I’d LOVE to read some fan fics from his perspective. Unfortunately there are probably very few young black fanboys out there (for native accuracy in tone, you guys).
OH MAN, I CAN’T EVEN. SOOOOO GOOD. As an activist, my hope would be that after reading the stories of the horrific nature of coal mining, Collins and others would get together to help the Appalachian families start new careers. Although honestly, I doubt it. Anyway, the little defensive exchanges between Katniss and Peeta in Book 1 are SPOT ON. (“you wouldn’t understand, you’re not from the Seam.”) (“i always thought shopkeepers lived soft lives” “we ate stale bread every day”)
[quote: how easy it will be to kill humans]
It is so gross, but so accurate. Upper-middle-class white America has been incredibly shielded from this kind of violence for so long, except in books and video games. This shit happens in the third world all the time — always has, and probably always will — just usually not with so much of Big Brother’s control. In Katniss we have a moral hunter, a girl who can and will kill ruthlessly when necessary (see the end of Book 1) but who hates what her society has become and what it has forced her to do in order to survive. Still, she is so wounded by her father’s death and mother’s (mostly overcome) depression, that she isn’t ready to rebel yet. Gale is, which is one of the reasons they aren’t perfect romantic matches. He pushes her, but not in the ways she needs to be pushed — at least, for emotional healing’s sake.
Panem (The Dystopian Tyranny)
If you haven’t yet realized that THG directly plagiarizes Roman gladiator culture, please consider this a message from Captain Obvious: DUH. The name of District 2’s boy tribute is “Cato”, for crying out loud. If you’ve received a classical education at ALL, you should kick yourself if you didn’t recognize the theme. (If you received a liberal arts education without reading the Greeks/Romans, go home and start over. Email me if you need rec’s.)
Perhaps I just need to take a huge Suspension of Disbelief pill here, but what happened to the rest of the world while the USA imploded on itself? Didn’t the EU, the UN, and NATO have anything to say about it? [obligatory pause for a UN joke.] I’m pretty sure Collins ignores this entirely in Books 2 and 3, probably because this is “young adult fiction” and to do it properly would have tacked on another 400 pages, at least. But if George RR Martin can write 800-page tomes about
nothing fantastical politics (sorry, SB, I did try), so can she. Maybe after Panem was founded everyone just ignored it, like the way we pretend to do with North Korea? Except we don’t actually ignore North Korea at all. Whatever.
in this book, they are: Glimmer (girl tribute, District 1), Cato (boy tribute, District 2), Clove (girl tribute, District 2), and the unseen Gamemakers (but only kind of).
Is it Peeta or Gale who has the line about the Capitol trying to prevent the classes from uniting? Because that’s totally what they do with the Districts as well
quote for Glimmer description — the image in my head for her is now, irrevocably, Rosie Huntington-Whitely (of Victoria’s Secret and Transformers 4 fame), although a less gross/more talented Paris Hilton might work as well. Girl knows her strengths and is ruthless. That’s kind of hot.
Cato & Clove — are they brother and sister? childhood friends? secret lovers? or simply forged together in the spirit of solidarity? I’d love to read fan fic from their perspective. They’re “awful”, but they’ve also been raised to be awful. And Collins “redeems” them well. Cato has, hands down, the worst death of the book and I really hope they edit that down in the movies, because I don’t want to watch it.
the Gamemakers — a shadowy presence fit to TERRIFY. excellent set-up for the next book.
Because she is. Not about descriptions of the Capitol, the situation, or the violence, but about her own feelings. If you leave this book feeling like she’s a cold, heartless bitch who doesn’t deserve Peeta’s love, then you’re right on board with Katniss. That’s totally how she feels too. But the girl is effing psychologically WOUNDED, even before the games (in a way Peeta isn’t — well, a little bit), and she’s not ready to love. Or understand. Or really be a citizen of humanity. [Quote on: what would I do with free time? All I know how to do is find food.]
Filial, sibling, romantic, neighborly. It’s all there. Not very eloquent, but there. Good on Collins for including the variety. Next series, we work on subtlety…
Oy, so this is the easiest thing to pick on. Based on this series alone, Collins is by no means a elegant master of the prose. She’s lightyears ahead of Stephenie Meyer, but then most adults with a liberal arts degree are. At my kindest, I might argue that Collins consciously picked a narrative voice for Katniss that is short, choppy, and perfunctory, and that this is not representative of her ability to turn a phrase. That’s a convincing argument so long as we have proof that she actually knows how to charm an audience with form, not content. I’m not particularly interested in finding this out (by reading her other books; they seem to be animal stories for preteens), so I’d welcome a reader chime-in here.
The Movie Adaptation (plot)
It’s going to be EPIC. (March 2012, if you’ve forgotten.) And because Collins has worked as a screenwriter (it shows, no?), the script will hit all the right notes. Stephen Soderburgh is reportedly the “second director” or whatever that’s called. Also because the trilogy is complete, they have something coherent to work with, unlike HP, in which Steve Bloody Kloves jettisoned a lot of fascinating subplots, or Pirates of the Caribbean, which is so obviously just a cash cow for Disney it’s not even funny or interesting. They’ll make it PG-13 if they know what’s good for them, but the book’s violence is so clearly R-rated that I’m very curious (suspicious?) of what they’re going to cut.
I don’t like going to midnight showings anymore, but I’m kind of tempted for this one. If I were blonde I’d totally consider dressing up as Glimmer. :-p
The Movie Adaptation (casting)
Thus far, the confirmed casting is as follows:
Katniss — Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, X-Men First Class). I wanted Hailee Steinfeld for looks and age (Jen is already 21 and looks it), but thank Hollywood Jen can act. REALLY hope they don’t actually put her in brown-face, like they did for that awful Entertainment Weekly feature. (find the link yourself, if you’re a srs fan.)
Peeta — Josh Hutchinson (Bridge to Terabithia, The Kids Are All Right). ALICE HE IS GOING TO BE GREAT, SHUT UP.
Gale — Liam Helmsworth (The Last Song, Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend). His CV does not inspire confidence, but Gale has a very small role in Book 1. Here’s hoping he’ll be more than fangirl eye candy. I also REALLY hope they don’t just shoot him shirtless a la Taylor Lautner, because Gale is so much more interesting than that.
Cinna — Lenny Kravitz. I don’t think anyone read Cinna as black. Interesting. If you’ve been following the casting news and fan reactions, you know that this is interesting on a whole other level, but I really don’t want to get into that here.
President Snow — Donald Sutherland . PERFECT. He is the Alan Rickman of Old White Man roles, i.e. HE CAN DO NO WRONG.
Caesar Flickerman — Stanley Tucci. ALSO PERFECT. Nothing more to be said.
I’ve read only a little for this fandom, mostly because I’m really picky these days about what I read (I avoid FF.N like the plague unless I’m searching for a specific author). Collins is a B writer with an A universe and A characters, so this is obviously ripe for amazing interpretations, as I mentioned at least twice above. I’d love links if you have them. And I am POSITIVE Alice does.
The two fics I do recommend are both NSFW, for both violence and sex. (Rated R, like the books themselves.) You need to have finished Book 2 to read either of them, and I wouldn’t suggest them to fan fiction n00bs/literary criticism novices. They are both AUs, and they will rock your world. If there’s substantial interest, I’ll include a detailed section in my next post.
They appear a bit nuts, as any fandom that involves teenage girls would. Also because the movie is being released within the same Internet Generation as the trilogy. The names I’ve seen on Hypable include “Hungerjays”, “Tributes”, “Mockingjays”, and “Hunger Gamers”, listed in order of my preference from best to worst.
I strongly disapprove of “Peetaphiles”, but I do like “Peetabears” for the lulz.
As for a better name for “Team Katniss” — well, let’s just say that after this post, I’ll be a Foreverdeen. 😉
Comments comments comments I want them! Especially since I didn’t bother creating a huge coherent thesis for this book. What did I miss, what do you love, and what sucked? Please keep your comments spoiler-free regarding the rest of the series. You can do it.
Next week I analyze Ke$ha’s “Sleazy”. This is your second warning.