Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Break Reading: The Hunger Games

In addition to writing papers and cramming for my mid-terms, I decided to use some free time during Spring Break to finally, FINALLY, get some of the books I've been meaning to read forever off my bedside table. With the movie coming out at the end of this month, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins moved right to the top of the pile. Since the books have been so talked about in the last year, I want to form an impression of the trilogy just in case the movie ended up a disaster. The trailer looks amazing and the cast is first rate but you never know...

Anyway, as I predicted, I was hooked by the second chapter. Come Tuesday and I was running out to Brookline Booksmith for books two (Catching Fire) and three (Mockingjay). All amazing. I finished the final book just this afternoon in a wave of tears... no further spoilers than that I promise!

I knew it was going to be a dark dystopian trilogy but one thing that was quite surprising was the violence--I'm talking non-stop, graphic, horrifying, all-out gore at many points of the books. In my mind the only thing that really makes these books YA is the fact that the protagonists are teenagers and maybe the fact that on the sex-end of things the plot is strictly PG. I'll be interested to see how the movie handles all the violence since the rating is listed as PG-13 (for what they call "intense violent thematic material and disturbing images... remember when PG-13 meant a bit of salty language?). I swear, if half of what went on in the book is going to be shown in the movie, I expect I'll come out fairly traumatized.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed these books. The protagonist is at times as flawed and irrational as any teenage girl but also fearless and inherently likable. There are a lot of heavy themes going on in this series: about excess, power, class warfare, sacrifice... and I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about the characters--where they started and where they end up. I also have to give the author credit for managing to write in a love triangle where for once I really wasn't sure who to root for--and despite a lot of early predictions, I was still surprised by the ending. Perhaps I'll read the books again after I see the movie and see if I have a fresh perspective.

Happy Reading.

"Well, bravo!" gushes Effie Trinket. "That's the spirit of the Games!" She's pleased to finally have a district with a little action going on in it. "What's your name?"                                        I swallow hard. "Katniss Everdeen," I say. "I bet my buttons that was your sister. Don't want her to steal all the glory, do we? Come on everybody! Let's give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!" trills Effie Trinket.                                                To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding the betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.                       Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don't expect it because I don't think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim's place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and hold it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.