Oh .. wow

by Wardog

Wardog (finally!) on The Hunger Games Trilogy.
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A long time ago now I received an email from a reader suggesting we review The Hunger Games and I finally got round to it, partially inspired to do so because some of the discussion of Girl in the Arena (which I reviewed here and quite liked) touched on the similarities between the two books. I know I’m pretty late to the party on this one but, for once, I’m actually relieved about it. I think if I’d had to wait for even a second between finishing any one of the books in the trilogy and rushing on with the next I might have died. Really. They are that awesome.

I hardly know how to even start reviewing The Hunger Games trilogy. What we have here is a Logen’s Run, Battle Royale, Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies mash-up that is terrifying, compelling and – at least until the final novel – shockingly entertaining. The Dystopia de jour is Panem, which was previously the United States of the America. Now it’s a dictatorship, run from a city called the Capitol, supplied by the 12 surrounding districts, the 13th of which once led a rebellion against the Capitol and was (apparently) obliterated. Whereas the Capitol is decadent and indulged, life in the districts is hard and repressive. Hunger and unemployment are rife, and control is maintained through the annual Hunger Games, a bloodthirsty reality TV show in which 24 teenagers, two from each District, chosen by lottery, are forced to fight to the death in a specially designed arena. The winner gets a life of ease, and the dubious honour of mentoring future participants:
This is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. “Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen.”

The books are narrated by Katniss Everdeen, a resident of District 12, the poorest district. She volunteers for The Hunger Games in order to take the place of her younger sister, Prim, whose name comes up in the lottery. Katniss is a skilled hunter, used to being strong for her family after the death of her father in a coal-mining accident. The other competitor from District 12 is Peeta, a baker's son who was once kind to Katniss when she was in trouble, a sweet, gentle and charming boy. They are both whisked away to the Capitol to be transformed into celebrities, before they’re thrown in the Arena.

The trilogy comprises The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and that’s basically all the plot summary you’re going to get because I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. I will say, however, that one of the (many) things I appreciated about the series was the development of the overall narrative. Tension builds, things change, there’s a definite sense of advancement and very little padding. It is a three book series that actually feels like a three book arc – there’s no second book sag, or artificial stalling. The Hunger Games series is tightly plotted, dramatic, moving, and, at times, almost unbearably stressful to read. I remember having to put the third one down occasionally to make little screaming noises. The writing style, like the plot and characters, is bold and none too subtle. Without being necessarily stylish or beautiful, the prose is clean, direct and very very readable. I’m about to wade gleefully into spoiler territory so if you want to stop now, take away a firm recommendation and go read The Hunger Games Trilogy. They’re some of the most exciting, brutal children’s fiction I’ve read for a while.

Dystopian Concerns

The intermingling of war, violence, entertainment and reality television works incredibly well, the latter all too easily bleeding into horrors of the former by the third book. The trick of an effective Dystopia is to be recognisable, and consequently plausibly terrifying. The Hunger Games Trilogy swept me along effectively enough that I didn’t ask too much questions which even it doesn’t indicate a convincing Dystopia at least argues for a convincing narrative. An article on YA Dystopias in the New Yorker claims that The Hunger Games lack “that essential quality of the totalitarian spectacle: ideological coherence.”

Miller argues that the fact the games are used both as a tool of oppression and as an entertainment is a contradiction that cannot be sustained:
You don’t demoralize and dehumanize a subject people by turning them into celebrities … Are the games a disciplinary measure or an extreme sporting event? A beauty pageant or an exercise in despotic terror? … And the practice of carrying off a population’s innocent children and commanding their parents to watch them be slaughtered for entertainment—wouldn’t that do more to provoke a rebellion than to head one off?”

This criticism seems to me to have somewhat missed the point – dictatorships work by making the oppressed complicit in their oppression.

The key to the effectiveness of the games – as the root of a plausible Dystopian setting and as a literary device - lies in what Miller perceives to be an irreconcilable contradiction: they can be, and are both bread and circuses. The children of the district receive a small delivery of food and oil for their family based on how many times they enter their name in the lottery, and the winner of the games will keep their district in relative comfort for a year – thus the districts are dependent upon a system that forces them to sacrifice their own children. Moreover although sending two children a year off to be killed is horrible, it is not unthinkable. It is, in fact, almost reasonable when put against the many lives saved by this concession. This is partly what makes it so chilling.

And by turning the whole business into a thrilling entertainment, those in power make the public in the Capitol as complicit in the system as the people in the districts. Continually reinforcing the idea that the games are entertaining, and that the tributes are celebrities serves as smoke and mirrors to keep the Capitol isolated from the moral reality of what is going on. And, again, as a “worst case scenario” extreme of reality television, The Hunger Games doesn’t strike me as altogether beyond belief.

For the first time ever, I’ve watched a series of The X Factor – and I won’t lie, it’s compelling, fascinating viewing (in a way that makes you feel faintly sickened and sticky afterwards) but it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these are artificial stories constructed from the seeds of reality. And as you get caught up in the manufactured dramas, you realise you’re treating them like fiction, losing sight of whatever lies underneath it, forgetting that these are people, not characters who vanish the instant their story arc is complete or the moment you stop looking at them. It’s possible that I’m just blindly prejudiced against reality TV but it’s hard to come away from something like The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent (it hasn't), which consciously pit their’ “ordinary” people against the capricious extremities of celebrity, without also recognising their inherent destructiveness. The trail of forgotten, broken people left behind by these shows is such that actually making them fight to the death doesn't seem that big a step. Regardless, the Hunger Games functions well enough as a metaphor for the harmful dehumanising affects of this kind of entertainment.

But then one of the most effective aspects of The Hunger Games Seriesis the way Collins successfully captures both the “wow” and the “erk” of reality television. Katniss’s introduction to the luxuries of the Capitol and her transformation into a celebrity makes for gripping reading – the “rags to riches” tale the Capitol is trying desperately to sell is half-convincing even to the reader, since it is such a common literary trope, and the dark truth beneath it – that Katniss is being sent to her death – only lends the whole business an exciting intensity. And once she gets into the Arena the tension just increases. It makes for absolutely fantastic reading – the fight for survival, the unpredictable dangers of the Arena, the dangerous alliances and, on top of it all, the threat of death. And, of course, the general discomfort at being entertained in precisely the same way as the people in the Capitol. When Katniss is forced back into the Arena for political reasons in the second book, Catching Fire, it is impossible not to greet the news with a awkward mixture of enthusiasm and anxiety. Although it’s easy read too much into textual collusion, the fact The Hunger Games draws you in like this is less of an irritating “aaaaaah d’you see” moment than a reminder that the people in the Capitol are not heartless monsters, any more than the citizens of Rome who flooded to the arenas – they are ordinary, they are us.

Punches, and Pulling Them

I was quite impressed with the series in general for not pulling its punches, or offering easy solutions to complicated problems … except when I wasn’t. I know that sounds like a bizarre thing to write but it does occasionally feel like The Hunger Games wants to have its cake and eat it when it comes to being edgy. There are times when it is genuinely successful at portraying the complexity of political situations – for example, one the things I really liked was when Katniss and her supporters inevitably make it to the fabled District 13 it is not a straightforwardly Utopian contrast the Capitol – and there are times when it is equally successful at depicting the long-lasting implications of trauma, violence and exploitation on individuals. The third book is incredibly difficult to read because Katniss, a tool of the rebellion now rather than a tool of the Capitol, is pretty much broken by her experiences – she staggers through a series of ordeals, and although it is completely understandable that she would be detached and deadened by everything she has gone through, it does not make her an easy, an inspiring or even a particular sympathetic heroine. Similarly, when people are wrecked, they are truly wrecked – there is very little redemption for the characters, not for obnoxious, alcoholic Haymitch (the only victorious winner from District 12 in many years), or mad, love-lorn Finnick.

The Hunger Games series is very good at challenging your acceptance of, and adherence to, idealised literary tropes. Just as the media team behind The Hunger Games create false narratives to satisfy the public hunger for them, and further occlude the reality of what is going on, so the books themselves constantly expose the flaws and falsehoods embedded in such stories. Thus we want to see the Katniss, the triumphant heroine, but as much as we admire her we are constantly reminded of her limitations, the fact she is just a 17 year old girl in a situation far outside her experience. We are offered tantalising glimpses of a love story beneath the one fabricated for the crowd at the Capitol but it never really comes to fruition in anything like a conventionally romantic way. Friendships are usually derailed or curtailed by individuals or circumstances before they have a chance to mature as we might expect. Things that seem simple and straightforward inevitably turn out to be complicated, or otherwise compromised – District 13 is an obvious example, but even President Snow, although he is a ruthless and deeply unpleasant character is not the villain of the piece in quite the way we expect. The books not only expose the falsity of fictionalised realities they make us question our own narrative expectations and desires – and unerringly fails to satisfy them.

The problem is that sometimes this approach is slightly ill-judged. It can go too far, in which case it feels cheap. For example, without going too spoilerific, the third book ends in a welter of violence – much of which is devastating in a slightly contrived way. And most of the characters we're supposed to like die in swift, meaningless ways, not so much to make a point about the emptiness and futility of war (they're not Dobby the House Elf or anything) but because such is the nature of war as portrayed by the book that it is impossible for them to die in any other way. Unfortunately it becomes so soul-destroying relentless that the impact is lost. And perhaps this is part of the point – death becomes commonplace in War – but it does end up feeling rather manipulative, as if the author is hitting us with the bluntest emotional hammer in the toolbox to reinforce something we have already recognised.

Unfortunately, this just makes the occasions when Collins draws back from some of the more difficult aspects of her story stand out all the more clearly. Most notably, Collins contrives to prevent Katniss ever having to kill anyone who doesn't really deserve it in the games themselves. And obviously I am not saying that the books would have been better had Katniss strangled a starving 12 year old in the first hundred pages but when you have a setup that actively demands the participants fight for survival against other innocent people it seems more than a little cowardly to duck the issue you yourself have created. Although Katniss does kill to survive, circumstances and authorial fiat conspire to ensure she only kills people who have already in some way proven themselves morally less righteous than Katniss – either by being borderline psychos or by already having murdered a character introduced specifically to make us sad and angry over her death. The whole situation feels more than a little engineered, and seems oddly out in a place in a series of books that otherwise shies away from easy answers or happy endings.

Katniss

Katniss is a heroine in the Katsa-mould: strong, compassionate, a survivor, apparently lacking in conventionally ‘feminine’ attributes like emotional intelligence. I do enjoy kick-ass heroines, especially when their kick-assery doesn’t stand in opposition to girlier traits, like appreciating pretty dresses and thinking about kissing boys. I did like, and did the job, but I found her, in general, rather by-numbers. She ticks all the heroine boxes without necessarily having enough spark of her own to be a character I could really love, like Katsa. There are some interesting things about Katniss – she is often scared and unsure, which makes her courage and determination all the more admirable, the fact she can, and is, cowed on several occasions, her lack of sentimentality, her rather harsh and unforgiving attitude even to those who are close to her (it takes her a long time to even come close to forgiving her mother for not protecting them when their father dies), and the fact that although she cares about people she cares about them en masse, rather than as individuals. She is, in fact, rather bad with individuals, other than her immediate friends and family.

But, like your traditional YA heroine, she has no idea how jaw-droppingly hawt she looks (and, based on the reactions of everyone around her, we are assured she is jaw-droppingly hawt) and she is, of course, totally clueless when it comes to boys. Katniss has two suitors – the gentle Peeta and the angry, destructive Gale, and although her uncertainty and her inability to choose between them is convincing her lack of perception occasionally strays into what I can only call “oh for fuck’s sake” territory. It does fit, to some extent, with Katniss’s character, she is better at saving people than trusting them, and she cares for people in general, not people as individuals, but it did rather come across as it was on loan from Rent-a-Flaw.

I was impressed, however, by the way that what happens across all three books leaves a mark on Katniss – the girl at the end of Mockingjay is not the girl from The Hunger Games. As she slowly transforms, or rather is transformed (we are never allowed to forget the artificiality of it) from a person into the symbol of the rebellion, we lose sight of her. She becomes increasingly alienated and detached, even from the readers, and Mockingjay is genuinely hard to read as a consequence. One of the most traumatic things about series is that we lose the living as well as the dead to the violence and the destruction, and I spent much of Mockingjay mourning Katniss.

I'm afraid subtlety is out of stock this season

One of the few things I found consistently low-key annoying about The Hunger Games Trilogy was the blatant sacrifice of any subtlety whatsoever in order to get its point across. The writing, like the books themselves, is bold and competent rather than especially nuanced, and just occasionally it goes too far in pursuit of its own meaning. There’s a particularly cringe-making bit in Mockingjaw where Katniss actually goes to the trouble of analyzing a song, which recurs in the narrative as a sort of haunting refrain, in case readers haven’t interpreted it properly. This is not only infuriating, it ruins the song, and diminishes the impact.
Being older, I began to understand the lyrics. At the beginning it sounds like a guy is trying to get his girlfriend to secretly meet up with him at midnight. But it’s an odd place for a tryst, a hanging tree, where a man was hanged for murder. The murderer’s lover must have had something to do with the killing, or maybe they were just going to punish her anyway, because his corpse called out for her to flee. That’s weird, obviously, the talking-corpse bit, but it’s not until the third verse that ‘The Hanging Tree’ begins to get unnerving. You realise that the singer of the song is the dead murderer. He’s still in the hanging tree…

This goes on for two pages, I’m not kidding.

This is by far the most egregious example but Collins’ reluctance to grant her readers even a spark of intelligence, or trust anything to interpretation, not only makes the style ponderous and interrupts the usually excellent pacing but it also prevents some scenes and devices (like the song) from reaching their full potential.

The Anti-Romantic Love Triangle

When I read The Hunger Games, I thought the romance between Peeta and Katniss was one of the weakest aspects of the text. It is initially a publicity stunt dreamed up by Haymitch and Peeta to capture the Capitol’s interest and keep Katniss alive, but it’s very soon obvious to everyone except Katniss that Peeta has genuine feelings for Katniss – feeling so strong that he is willing to die for her, and often manipulates circumstances behind her back. Perhaps I’m just not adolescent enough for that kind of romance, but as I argued in my review of The Demon’s Covenant there’s something more than a little icky about the kind of love that disempowers its object in the name of protection. Peeta never talks to Katniss, or consults her about his actions – he just goes ahead with his plans for self-sacrifice and expects her to be grateful. And she is. Thankfully this never degenerates into the “kick-ass heroine repeatedly saved by her boyfriend” trope, since Katniss rescues Peeta on several occasions as well. However, I found Peeta’s willful determination to die for Katniss, with no regard for what she wants, not only unromantic but unhealthy. And I couldn’t work out how self-aware the text was about it. It’s like Nice Guy syndrome turned up to 11, and I was convinced that we were simply in for a conventional romance arc in which Katniss finally “sees what she was missing all along” in her suicidal suitor and walks tamely into his arms.

The situation is further complicated by the existence of Katniss’s childhood friend Gale, who taught her how to hunt. Like Peeta, he blatantly has the hots for Katniss, and in both looks and temperament he is a direct contrast to Peeta. He is dark, green-eyed and brooding, and seems very much a conventional male lead, but he also filled with bitterness, anger and hate. I was a bit surprised by all the Team Peeta / Team Gale fervour on the Internet, since Peeta is wet and has a deathwish, and even from his brief appearance in The Hunger Games it is obvious Gale is dangerous, to himself and others. Katniss’s relationship with both of them ebbs and flows, and although it is a love triangle it is far from a conventional one. Both of them are victims of the world they grew up in: Peeta self-consciously situates himself in emotional opposition to it, Gale in literal opposition, but they both as hopelessly broken as Katniss herself. And as the books progress it soon becomes apparent that there isn’t much space in the world for their relationships to develop in anything other than warped, and compromised ways. Gale, himself, confronts Katniss with the fact he is only interesting to her when he is someone she can save, and that she can only come close to loving where she also know she is needed. And although Katniss occasionally thinks about her boys, and she has some teenage moments with them, her passions and her energy are always directed towards survival and, eventually, towards taking down the Capitol.

Spoiler ho, but Katniss does eventually end up with Peeta. The ending of the final book is melancholy but not devoid of hope – they can continue living but they continue in spite of what has happened to them, unable really to escape its consequences. Katniss tells us that she loves Peeta, and that their relationship goes someway to making things all right, but by this stage it is so deeply, deeply unromantic that it seems it was never meant to be. Katniss tells us:
I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction.

The key here is that her relationship with Peeta is associated primarily with survival, and we know from three books that Katniss is, first and foremost, a survivor. But also that she needs Peeta for the things the Capitol took away from her, first in The Hunger Games and then in the events that follow. If she was not irreparably damaged, she would not be with Peeta. The article in the New Yorker I quoted earlier, cites an essay by Kay Sambell, in which he argues that “the narrative closure of the protagonist’s final defeat and failure is absolutely crucial to the admonitory impulse of the classic adult dystopia” but that writers of YA dystopian fiction are “reluctant to depict the extinction of hope within their stories.” What I find interesting about The Hunger Games is that, although Katniss does not fail and we see in the epilogue the burgeoning new world, she is herself, I would argue, defeated, and that her acceptance of a relationship with Peeta is part of that defeat.
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Comments (go to latest)
Andy G at 16:29 on 2010-11-05
Shall have to check them out! The prominent endorsements from Stephenie Meyer are rather off-putting though ;)
Arthur B at 16:40 on 2010-11-05
Confession: I'm actually quite interested in Meyer's The Host, it seems to have a genuinely interesting and original concept. Does anyone know if it's worthwhile or am I making a big mistake?

PS: Will also get Hunger Games at some point because it sounds great.
Louis B at 23:20 on 2010-11-05
When I initially read the Hunger Games, I went in fully expecting to hate it, but it ended up being quite a pleasant surprise. That said, I found most of the political aspects far too blunt and lacking in subtlety for my taste, and I thought the book's highlights rested mainly on the Lord of the Flies-esque games that took up the majority of the book. It's been a while since I read the book, however, and I do remember enjoying the reality-tv aspects, particularly when Katniss and Peeta first arrive at the capitol.

I have to confess that I never read the latter two books, being somewhat afraid that they would follow a common trend I've noticed for YA trilogies: great opening book, followed by two rushed, mediocre works. I'll be sure to check out the rest of the trilogy, now!
http://tristanjsstuff.blogspot.com/ at 11:50 on 2010-11-06
It's interesting that the relationship between the government and the people sounds like an abusive relationship taken up to eleven, with the rationalising and the 'Why-did-you-make-me-do-this' and such.
http://ibmiller.livejournal.com/ at 23:29 on 2010-11-06
Arthur B: (I preface these remarks with two statements: 1) I enjoy the Twilight series quite a bit; 2) I have never claimed that the Twilight series is good) I recommend The Host fairly highly. It's better written than Twilight, though it does sometimes veer into the melodramatic romance section. This fact isn't as pointless as it can be in the sparkly wampire series, as it connects to several ethical dilemmas which form the main plot. Additionally, I really like the unusual take on the subject matter.
http://nykinora.livejournal.com/ at 04:10 on 2010-11-11
I found this review quite thoughtful and fair to the novels. I'm particularly glad that you acknowledged that Collins' writing style is blunt and direct but also lacking in sophisticated nuance or style. I have to admit that when I saw the title "Oh...wow" I initially braced myself for an onslaught of untempered praise for the novel.

I also liked the first two books (I have yet to read "Mockinjay"). Despite its flaws the Hunger Games proved to be compelling reading for me, and I read it straight through in a single night. I was, however, less impressed with the sequel largely because I felt as if the Games were being perfunctorily rehashed and made sensational which greatly diminished their initial impact. I was also largely unimpressed and unmoved by either team Peeta/Katniss or Gale/Katniss, symbolic naming and all. I thought that the attempt to hint at a triangle and to make the often weary and impassive Katniss go through the motions of being torn between two lovers, tiresome and unnecessary.

Gale was too thinly fleshed out and received too little page time for me to take an interest and increasingly found Peeta's dogged and dog-like devotion inexplicable, unappealing and border-line creepy as he began to smother her and guilt . It was a shame because I rather like Peeta as a character in his won right and as a contrast to Katniss As a consequence, I simply didn't care for either male as a romantic suitor for her and more perhaps more critically, I received the impression that Katniss (understandably) had far more pressing concerns. The 'triangle' felt shoe-horned into the plot and I always felt that Katniss was physically attracted to Gale in a remote way while she was merely tolerant of Peeta.
(I like the fact however, that the novel permits Gale to demonstrate some
The argument that Katniss' acceptance of Peeta as a default relationship also signals her jaded, broken defeat, appears to be a sound reading of the conclusion (though I have yet to read it). I guess I may as well read the final installment since I had been waiting for "Mockinjay" to be published, then lost sight of the series.
Wardog at 10:40 on 2010-11-11
The prominent endorsements from Stephenie Meyer are rather off-putting though ;)

Hmmm...I've heard of judging books by their covers but by who else likes them? ;)

That said, I found most of the political aspects far too blunt and lacking in subtlety for my taste

Yeah, me too... I haven't dared read it though.

Confession: I'm actually quite interested in Meyer's The Host

Although I found the lack of the subtlety in the writing occasionally jarring, I didn't actually mind the fact the book as a whole was drawn on such a broad canvas - I thought it contributed the action-packed and pacey feel of the books, and kept the tension high. In short I think it was a necessary compromise to readability and one I was happy enough to accept.

It's interesting that the relationship between the government and the people sounds like an abusive relationship taken up to eleven

It is a bit like that - but then I suppose most political oppression has to involve an element of collusion.

I have to admit that when I saw the title "Oh...wow" I initially braced myself for an onslaught of untempered praise for the novel.

Well I did really *love* reading the books, so I wanted to give credit where it was due :)

I was, however, less impressed with the sequel largely because I felt as if the Games were being perfunctorily rehashed and made sensational which greatly diminished their initial impact.

I think one of the things I quite like about the series is a whole is that, as I said in the review, there's a definite sense of progression - despite the return to the Games in book 2, the context has changed so drastically it doesn't feel like it's merely a cycle. And book three is almost entirely taken up by the war. I thought the return to the games in book 2 was quite interesting - I mean, I think, there's a part of the reader that's excited to be back, hoping for more exciting survival adventures with Katniss being awesome, but instead it strips away all the glamour of the first book (literally killing Cinna) and leaves you with something quite sickening instead. Perhaps it's an arsey thing to say but The Hunger Games in general is quite good at denying you what you think you want - triumphs, love triangles, sensationalist blood sports - and consequently makes you ask why you wanted them in the first place.

I was also largely unimpressed and unmoved by either team Peeta/Katniss or Gale/Katniss, symbolic naming and all. I thought that the attempt to hint at a triangle and to make the often weary and impassive Katniss go through the motions of being torn between two lovers, tiresome and unnecessary.

Oh God, me too. I have no idea where Team Gale / Team Peeta came from, when there was clearly only ever meant to be Team Katniss. Like you, I never found the situation remotely romantic, but then I don't believe it was meant to be. I think I read the awkward "triangle" bits, as a reminder that in any sort of normal world Katniss would, in fact, likely be choosing which guy would take her to the prom (or whatever) - and her flickers of interest in either of them, are usually quickly suppressed by the fact she's weary and borderline broken, and scared for her life and the life of her family. I saw it as quite tragic, in many ways, because the unsatisfying nature of the romance reminds you that Katniss really does have *nothing* ordinary, like a giggly flirtation with a boy.

I would have liked to see more of Gale but I thought the fact that he was basically mad with hate and bitterness was evident from the opening of the first novel. I never saw him as a 'serious' suitor, or even as a nuanced character (although I did like him), so I was basically waiting to see him destroy himself, which he sort of already is. I don't think Collins treated him badly, as some people seem to think, and I don't think what he does in the third book is out of character (I won't say more, no point spoiling it).

I'm not sure if reading the books as anti-romantic is actually sustainable - it makes them more interesting to me to do it, and I think you can, just about it, find support for it in the text. Otherwise you just have, as you say, a really crappy attempt at love triangle. I guess we can also see Gale and Peeta as aspects of Katniss, as well as potential romances. And the fact she ends up with Peeta seems to me yet further evidence of what has been taken from her, in that she has to find Peeta's qualities of gentleness and optimism outside herself.

I should probably glad how glad I am that someone else out there doesn't think much of the Gale/Peeta thing. I was genuinely surprised at how much squee and swoon there was over the internet about them.
Andy G at 12:31 on 2010-11-11
@ Kyra: I have a copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with an endorsement by Ewan McGregor
Arthur B at 12:37 on 2010-11-11
I still haven't forgiven Spinrad or Zelazny for endorsing Radix.
Wardog at 15:51 on 2010-11-11
@Andy
CRINGE!!!
http://mary-j-59.livejournal.com/ at 16:56 on 2010-11-11
Another good review, Kyra! I just want to add that Peeta, in the end, strikes me as quite heroic. He is as broken as Katniss, in the end, but manages - most of the time - to focus on making things better. Here's a comment I made about "Mockingjay" on my livejournal, which includes a link to my sister's excellent review: I agreed with my sister that the books get better as they go on. Katniss's character development is - horrifying, at times. But it is clearly meant to be. Collins has said that the books are about the deforming effects of war on the young, and she gets that across very well. As I said above, I don't see rereading them any time soon. They are not beautiful and not especially comforting, except for the courage and lovingkindness of Peeta and poor little Prim.

I can see the point of the first-person narrative, because we are stuck in Katniss' POV, and of the present tense, because it keeps alive the question of whether she will live or die. It's a considered choice. From that pov, the books are quite well written. But Katniss is not especially reflective or well-educated,and that shows in the voice. In a way, Collins has pulled off quite a trick in telling a subtle and reflective story in the voice of a character who is neither of these things. That Katniss can reflect, and love, however imperfectly, is a triumph of sorts. I LOVED the epilogue, unlike the horrid epilogue of DH. But they are disturbing books. They aren't fun.

And there is one thing that bothered me particularly. I love roses. I really do. I thought, for awhile, that I'd never be able to appreciate a beautifully-scented white rose the same way again. Then I thought, well, The White Rose (Die Weisse Rose) came first, and the flower even before them. I am not going to let Collins destroy my pleasure in real, innocent beauty or in heroism! (further down in the comments, I added:)

My sister wrote a beautiful and accurate review, which you can find at this link if you're interested. http://deirdrej.livejournal.com/3144.html


About "The Host", I liked it better than the "Twilight" series, though I questioned some of the social/political messages that came through. It had an actual plot and some interesting ideas in it, but - well, those who have read it, what did you think of the body Wanda ended up with? Why should Wanderer, a brave and open-minded FEMALE character, have been infantilized?
Frank at 06:45 on 2011-04-28
Fuck yes this series.

Although Katniss does kill to survive, circumstances and authorial fiat conspire to ensure she only kills people who have already in some way proven themselves morally less righteous than Katniss – either by being borderline psychos or by already having murdered a character introduced specifically to make us sad and angry over her death.

I feel satisfied with Katniss not killing anyone who didn't deserve it because Collins showed Katniss willing (resigned?) to kill Peeta when they were the last two in the Games. Peeta's resolve to let her revealed to Katniss her understandable douchiness self preservation which feeds into the complicity of oppression you discussed earlier.

...there’s something more than a little icky about the kind of love that disempowers its object in the name of protection. Peeta never talks to Katniss, or consults her about his actions – he just goes ahead with his plans for self-sacrifice and expects her to be grateful. And she is.

Is she grateful? I don't recall her feeling that way, but it's been a month or two since I devoured the series. I do buy the itty bitty icky about Peeta though. You're right about their relationship weakening the text and in the end Katniss' character.
The part of Katniss I wanted retained from the first book was her conviction that she would have no children. Baring them because Peeta wanted them made it a bit more shit. That the kids resembled their mom and pop made the shit a bit more Harry Potter Epilogue saccharin.

But the artificially sweet dook nugget in a lode of gold is tolerable.
Robinson L at 15:30 on 2011-04-30
So, I first heard about these books on Abigail Nussbaum's blog, and a combination of this review and their availability on audio playaway at my local library convinced me to pick up the trilogy. It's taken me a while, but I recently finished Mockingjay and now feel ready to discuss the series.

While they're not in my personal Axis of Awesome, I'm with you in finding the books much preferable to Chaos Walking. And I think I would, even setting aside my negative reaction to Ness' … “creative” spelling, and the fact that I listened to “Hunger Games” rather than having to read it. The characters weren't stellar, but I found them interesting enough to sympathize with them and read their story with interest.

I admire how well Collins did at carrying through her grimdark premise. True, she sometimes pulls her punches, and I think it's also true that she sometimes overdoes the grim-'n'-gritty because it's hip or something, but I think for the most part she maintains a level of grimdark which fits the needs of her story. I'm by no means a fan of the grimdark style in general, but I'm not so repulsed by it that I can't appreciate when it's done well.

That said, I'm not sure if I'd've been able to finish the series if I'd been reading them on paper instead of listening to them on audio. I have a feeling I would've given up somewhere through Mockingjay on account of finding it too depressing. In fact, I think the only way I've managed to get through any grimdark series is by listening to it, where it's not nearly as much work as actually reading it.

When Katniss is forced back into the Arena for political reasons in the second book, Catching Fire, it is impossible not to greet the news with a awkward mixture of enthusiasm and anxiety.

In fairness, I think part of the reason for the enthusiasm (at least on my part) was that this development injected a life-saving dose of plot into Catching Fire, which for me was seriously floundering at that point. It also put the annoying Love Triangle stuff (or whatever it was supposed to be) on the back-burner, which was another point in its favor.

a reminder that the people in the Capitol are not heartless monsters, any more than the citizens of Rome who flooded to the arenas – they are ordinary, they are us.

One of the things I really liked was how Collins allowed people from the Capitol (especially Cinna) to be actually good people. I also liked the way Katniss' prep team is portrayed as basically decent but not at all self-reflexive about their privilege, which is still harmful. It seems an obvious point, but I know a whole lot of authors would portray everyone from the Capitol (or at least those involved in the games) as raveningly evil.

it does end up feeling rather manipulative, as if the author is hitting us with the bluntest emotional hammer in the toolbox to reinforce something we have already recognised.

Unfortunately so.

she is herself, I would argue, defeated, and that her acceptance of a relationship with Peeta is part of that defeat.

Huh, I did not get that.

I have no idea where Team Gale / Team Peeta came from, when there was clearly only ever meant to be Team Katniss.

Well, in fairness, Peeta and his wellbeing are a major feature of Katniss' motivation from the half point of book 1 onwards. Add to that the fact that readers have been trained to expect a love triangle when they open a YA novel like rats are trained to expect food pellets when they press the button in an effing Skinner Box and this behavior becomes kind of understandable. I was pretty ambivalent on the whole thing, but then I generally am with love triangles.

It also occurred to me as I listened through The Hunger Games that, had it been a one-shot rather than the beginning of a trilogy, it would've been really cool if Peeta's feelings toward Katniss were kept ambiguous all through. I mean, all through the games, Katniss is questioning how much Peeta's attraction to her is genuine and how much it's a survival strategy, and questioning her own attraction for that matter. That's a compelling set-up, and I think it would've made for a really powerful narrative if that uncertainty remained throughout the whole of the book.

(This line of musing was largely inspired by Abigail Nussbaum's point that the reader is supposed to condemn the “fictional” romance between Katniss and Peeta consumed by the Capitol while simultaneously relishing the “real” romance which blossoms between them. It occurred to me that making the reader question whether the “real” romance has any more substance in-story than the “fictitious” one might've solved this problem. Unfortunately, I don't see how that solution could work within a multi-book series. Then again, maybe the whole “anti-romance” thing takes care of that?)

nykinora: I felt as if the Games were being perfunctorily rehashed and made sensational which greatly diminished their initial impact.

Yeah, I got that too; though like I said, I appreciated their return anyway because it gave the rest of book 2 structure and direction.

Further thoughts:

Since we've already made the “Chaos Walking” comparison, I find it interesting how President Coin as foil for President Snow mirrors the character of Mistress Coyle in The Ask and The Answer as foil for Mayor Prentiss. Both are female counterparts to the male tyrant, both are leaders of the primary resistance, and both turn out to be just as cunning and just as vile as their opposite number in the end. The biggest difference from what I've seen so far is that with President Coin, Collins reveals the extent of her depravity gradually, in stages; whereas with Mistress Coyle, by the time you hit the hundredth page Ness is throwing up big neon signs reading “BY THE WAY, HAVE YOU NOTICED YET HOW THIS CHARACTER IS ACTUALLY JUST AS BAD AS HER ARCHENEMY? HOW ABOUT NOW?” and repeat ad naueseum. Then repeat some more.

On the other hand, Mayor Prentiss was built up right from the start as a genius, charismatic despot, who could conceivably mastermind and oversee the kind of dictatorship Ness displays. President Snow, by contrast, barely appears in book 1 and only really begins to show his mettle as a villain in book 2. Which is all fine, but I'm starting to find it annoying how dictators in fiction are always evil masterminds. When I think of real-world dictators (and leaders of imperial and colonial powers), I suspect only a fraction of them were masterminds of any sort.

And while I do think Collins did very well handling the whole grimdark aspect, it irritated me when she started playing Horror Movie Director with the final mission (i.e. picking off the redshirts in ones and twos throughout the course of the mission). Maybe that's realistic, but then what am I to make of the fact that all the most important characters are, coincidentally, about the only ones to survive? And anyway, I've just seen this scenario played out one too many times.

When I listened to Mockingjay, I didn't remember much from this review, but I did think “the Ferretregulars would probably resent this detailed analysis of 'the Hanging Tree.'” Myself, I listened too it on audio as I said, and I'm lazy, so I was just as happy to have Collins spell out what's going on.

The downside of the audio is that you hear the reader actually sing it, and then you have it explained to you in detail. Congratulations sucker: not only have you been introduced to one of the fecking creepiest songs you've heard in years, but now you're going to have it stuck in your head for at least the next month. Enjoy.
Wardog at 00:11 on 2011-05-01
@Frank
I feel satisfied with Katniss not killing anyone who didn't deserve it because Collins showed Katniss willing (resigned?) to kill Peeta when they were the last two in the Games.

I see your point but, again, I think there's always been a narrative gap between Katniss being prepared/willing to kill if necessary and *really* having to do it. I'm probably being slightly unfair but by that stage I wasn't especially worried that Katniss would have to kill Peeta since I knew the author was going to save her from it.

Is she grateful? I don't recall her feeling that way, but it's been a month or two since I devoured the series.

Well...I don't think it's explicit but I got a sense that Katniss sort of felt she 'owed' Peeta for his various schemes to keep her alive, which culminates in her making a deal with Haymitch to finally sacrifice herself for Peeta. I got a bit impatient with musical martyrs to be honest. But it's been a while since I've read the books as well so I could be wrong.

I didn't mind that a weakened Katniss ended up with Peeta, and ended up having children with him. I read it, however, as evidence of just how broken she was. I didn't see it as romantic or triumphant. But, again, this could be a stubborn misreading, since I found the "romances" of the trilogy so problematic.
Wardog at 00:18 on 2011-05-01
In fairness, I think part of the reason for the enthusiasm (at least on my part) was that this development injected a life-saving dose of plot into Catching Fire, which for me was seriously floundering at that point

Hah yes, probably. I don't recall it as floundering precisely but I think it has an air of slowly building, stifling political menace that makes you long, as a reader, for the simpler triumphs of the games. Also the first book is so fucking exciting, in a terrible sort of way, that I remember wanting to replicate that ... which, interestingly, the books deliberately never do.

One of the things I really liked was how Collins allowed people from the Capitol (especially Cinna) to be actually good people. I also liked the way Katniss' prep team is portrayed as basically decent but not at all self-reflexive about their privilege, which is still harmful

Yes, I liked them too - although Cinna might as well have been wearing a "Doomed To Die" sign from the moment he walked in. I also liked the fact they were treated quite badly by District 13 - well, not "liked" but I thought it was an illuminating, if not exactly subtle, reversal.

Huh, I did not get that.

Well, the romance is handled *so badly* I would prefer to read Katniss ending up with Peeta as further evidence that her experiences broke her utterly than some kind of affirming triumph.

Well, in fairness, Peeta and his wellbeing are a major feature of Katniss' motivation from the half point of book 1 onwards.

Yes, but Katniss is a protector, as Gale says, it's what she does. It's not actually romantic for her.

That's a compelling set-up, and I think it would've made for a really powerful narrative if that uncertainty remained throughout the whole of the book

I guess, but it would be a different book? I'd rather analyse what's there.
Wardog at 00:21 on 2011-05-01
PS - I'm not quite ready to tackle The Hunger Games versus Chaos Walking, especially thinking about the can of worms of awful that was the discussion makes me shudder, but on the subject of creepy songs you actually can't creepier than this and it's not even sung in the damn book.
Robinson L at 15:30 on 2011-05-05
I don't recall it as floundering precisely but I think it has an air of slowly building, stifling political menace that makes you long, as a reader, for the simpler triumphs of the games.

Huh, it felt more like faffing to me at the time. Political menace, yes, but without much direction. Still, it's been a while since I read the book, too.

… Cinna might as well have been wearing a "Doomed To Die" sign from the moment he walked in.

I actually did not get that at all, and I'm usually very good at predicting that sort of thing. At the time, I was just so convinced “he's going to turn out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing and it's going to be such a surprise which reveals the True Nature of the Capitol to Katniss, isn't it?” In that I was pleasantly surprised. I also think it's interesting that they never come out and confirm Cinna's dead … which in a lesser series would mean that surprise! he's actually alive, but here it just means you don't get confirmation, which is a lot like real life political murders.

I also liked the fact they were treated quite badly by District 13 - well, not "liked" but I thought it was an illuminating, if not exactly subtle, reversal.

Yes, I think that neatly describes my reaction as well.

Well, the romance is handled *so badly* I would prefer to read Katniss ending up with Peeta as further evidence that her experiences broke her utterly than some kind of affirming triumph.

I think there may be some middle ground, though. I definitely didn't consider it an affirming triumph, but I didn't see it as a terrible defeat either. It read more to me like a nice thing for Katniss that probably gave her some joy and comfort – not a sign that she'd “won,” but not an indicator that she'd lost, either.

Yes, but Katniss is a protector, as Gale says, it's what she does. It's not actually romantic for her.

Right, but I think not all readers are going to pick up on that nuance. They see “Katniss cares about Peeta” and interprets that as “it must be True Love.” And in most YA series, they'd' be right.

it would be a different book? I'd rather analyse what's there.

The ending would certainly be different, but I think the rest could remain largely the same. But that's just some counter-factual speculation on my part, and if you don't want to get into that, okay.

on the subject of creepy songs you actually can't creepier than this and it's not even sung in the damn book.

Maybe so, but it didn't creep me out to the same extent - or get stuck in my head either, which is a big factor.
Sister Magpie at 02:32 on 2011-08-14
I'd started reading this review when I hadn't finished the series and then decided to wait to avoid spoilers...and then promptly forgot about it. So I wanted to come back now and say I enjoyed it! Interesting timing, too, as I was just reading a secret on Fandom!Secrets that led to a discussion about the meaning of Katniss having children in the end. And it seemed like there were a lot of comments that just blithely erased the entire context of the story in order to project ideas that had no relevence to it. There was one particularly cheerful view of Katniss/Peeta that reminded me of an ep of the Simpsons where Homer says that the theme of Moby Dick is "Be yourself."

So it was nice to read this interpretation that seemed much closer to what actually happened!

I was happy reading the book that it wasn't written in the 90s when "reality shows are awful!" was a more prevailing sentiment because I thought Collins did a great job mixing the good and bad aspects of reality shows without it seeming like she was making a melodramatic point about reality shows ARE the Hunger Games. She was just familiar enough with how they work that she could convincingly add actual mortal combat. I'm surprised the NYT reviewer seemed so clueless about it. It's interesting, too, that the book makes clear that the experience of the Career tributes is so different in terms of how they relate to the Games. It probably makes the games much less emotionally stressful for them afterwards too.
Sister Magpie at 03:05 on 2011-08-14
p.s. Forgot, I wanted to say wrt Peeta's manipulative behavior, there were a couple of things in the books that I really appreciated that made it easier to take. 1. One of the themes of the books seemed to be everyone doing this sort of thing to everyone else, and it wasn't a good thing. Katniss is used by everyone, and she even does this sort of thing to Peeta as well, and she doesn't like it. So it wasn't a case of Katniss the ordinary teenager who meets this one guy who pulls this stuff and confuses it for love.

2. I liked the convo Peeta and Katniss have before the first games where Peeta says he just wants to stay himself in the games. Katniss originally doesn't understand, but later comes to see what he means. And I could believe that since Peeta would assume he was going to die in the games, it made sense for him to want to make a narrative for himself that he felt was his own and gave him some control even if no one else ever knew about it. So I could see how making himself Katniss's protector was about giving his own short life a private meaning instead of it being totally about love.

3. I felt like his brainwashing, in a nice twist, wiped a lot of that away. I felt almost as if the author was saying that of course if Katniss was going to end up with this guy he couldn't be like this. He needed to get a healthy dose of putting himself over her and not seeing her as his everything, even if she had to do it via fantastic science.
Ibmiller at 08:14 on 2011-12-07
So, I finally caved to the pressure that is my social circle (who, spurred on by the higher profile that is the movie, have been reading the books with an enthusiasm and sameness that rivals the lemmingest Potter or Twilight fan). I actually read the first book sometime early this year, and read Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the past two days.

And I have to say, the initial "blah" reaction I had to the first novel and led to the eight-to-ten month gap in reading really was exactly the same reaction I have to the series as a whole.

I am, admittedly, very much as Jane-Austen-give-me-nice-romance-and-adventure-I-don't-want-grimdark reader. So, quite apart from my judgment of the writing quality (poor) and the worldbuilding (somewhere between abysmal and appalling), this series is fairly obviously Not For Me. Despite having a female main protagonist (one-up on Potter already).

I must say that the repeated motif of the Hunger Games (and why couldn't there be a labyrinth, for all the Theseus inspirations?) started to feel really lazy the second time around, and by the time Katniss was trudging through the Games-inspired "defenses" of Capitol in Mockingjay, I was really, really tired of it. I mean, how many incredibly unbelievable and boringly horror-ific monsters, traps, and thingies do we need to see eviscerate, drown, electrocute, etc our beloved redshirts? I mean, again I want to acknowledge that as a squeamish fellow all this is clearly Not For Me, but really, I don't think it's terribly well done even granting my biases.

Oddly enough, despite my hatred of the Nice Guy (in fiction and real life), I really, really liked Peeta (though maybe that's because I felt everyone else was either a cipher - Gale - or so reactive as to make Bella Swan look like a go-getter - Katniss). I didn't really get the sense that he felt he deserved Katniss's love in return for his own. Appreciated her love (or her pretending to love her), but I didn't feel that horrible "I've been so good to you so I deserve your love (and loving)" vibe. But I could just be missing it. Plus, I was definitely looking for the romance, so reading the books as anti-romance probably wouldn't have helped me.

Probably a huge part of my overall reaction to the series (note for posterity - I finished Mockingjay about thirty minutes ago, so this is fairly fresh) is the fact that Peeta's decency (at least, I judged it as decency) was perverted and absent for most of the final book. Since the final book is pretty much "introduce them and then kill them in incredibly implausible but prettily gory fashions ten to a hundred pages later," I felt the absence quite keenly. My affinity for Peeta is probably similar to my affinity for Sam Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, so that's probably part of my problem with the ending - though both Katniss and Frodo have a similar sense of inability to heal (epilogue notwithstanding - and I think that can be done much more poignantly on film, where the incredibly annoying narration style will be erased by the skill of actors), Sam's decency (though of course not perfection) still buoys up the narrative so that we get equal helpings of shellshock/PTSD and cheerfulness. Collins pretty much just gives us "war sucks you suck we all suck. Suck suck suck. Oh, and babies." (And I like babies, so the fact that this doesn't work really sucks).

I do think the triangle thing is especially dumb. Particularly given how boring Gale is (basically a male Katniss? Come to think of it, that's probably really why I think he's so dull, and part of my frustration with Katniss - they're both the same, so I get the same thing twice, which I might have been able to tolerate more if the character was only iterated once). As for the "Teams," I think the fact that Collins included a scene pretty much ripped from Eclipse (Twilight book 3) in which the girl pretends to sleep but really listens to her two love interests talk about how they love the girl and the girl has to choose is...interesting.

A note on the narrative, since I just bashed it - Collins seems to be playing with the "narrator who is severely deficient in some observational capacity, but I'm going to use my own extremely sophisticated writing style so people won't complain and might say "oh, it's really well written"" trick. Which is all well and good - I mean, Charles Dickens did it in Bleak House - there's no way Esther Summerson should have been that articulate - but the combination of annoyingly crippling emotional insensitivity and a tendency to describe things in faux-poetic fashion really grated after, say, two pages. It's one thing to try to make your narrative readable, but really, how hard would it be to use deep-penetration third-person limited perspective, then? You could still dip in and out with free indirect discourse, catching the flavor and immediacy of the uneducated and stunted but admirably survivalist Katniss's mind without breaking the illusion through the descriptions.

Robinson, you make an interesting point regarding Coin. Not having read Ness's work (and having been spoiled as to Coin's fate), I'm not sure I could really appreciate her gradual reveal. She pretty much seemed pretty horrible throughout, in a "lesser of two evils when one evil is a Baby Murderer who Eats Blood." But that could be my own reading process (which, basically - read Abigail Nussanbaum's review, read first book, read Wiki summaries, wait ten months, read other two, vent).

Oddly, despite my rather vicious hatred of the lazy camerawork in the trailer and my general mehness on Jennifer Lawrence, the Reaping scene in the trailer actually gets more emotion from me than the entire series put together. So I'll probably be a sit-me-down-upon in the seats, funding the franchise. Sad day.
valse de la lune at 14:35 on 2011-12-07
As for the "Teams," I think the fact that Collins included a scene pretty much ripped from Eclipse (Twilight book 3) in which the girl pretends to sleep but really listens to her two love interests talk about how they love the girl and the girl has to choose is...interesting.


To be fair--and keeping in mind I've read neither book--this is a fairly common trope, I believe. I've certainly seen it elsewhere before, unless you mean specifics match.
valse de la lune at 15:21 on 2011-12-07
Oh, and I thought Peeta was a girl because the name sounds like "Petra," so I was very impressed and got all ready to read these books. Then I discovered it's a boy and lost all interest. YA romance is bad enough, but YA romance that involves boy is, like, doubleplusungood.
Ibmiller at 01:43 on 2011-12-08
Interesting - I've not really come across that situation in my recollection. It does seem a bit contrived (though it's actually sort of happened to me, so I know it's not implausible). The way Collins presented it seemed extremely similar to the way Meyer did, though.

While Peeta is not a girl, I would be interested in seeing a gender construction analysis applied to all three central figures, since Peeta and Katniss seem to be playing against type - not severely so, but enough that it made it more interesting than Abigail Nussanbaum's review seemed to grant.
valse de la lune at 07:16 on 2011-12-08
Reading Nussbaum's review. That is surprisingly lukewarm, seeing as the rest of the Internet is completely ga-ga over Collins' trilogy (excepting present company).

Still would have read without hesitation, despite my general prejudice against YA, if Peeta had been a girl. Boo.
Alasdair Czyrnyj at 22:04 on 2012-04-05
Okay, I have an esoteric question here for anyone who's read the books or seen the movie: does Suzanne Collins get into any detail regarding the relationship between Panem and the United States? I know Panem is explicitly described as a post-American nation that occupies territory and populations formerly claimed by the United States, but do the books/movie discuss how exactly the legacy of America is interpreted by the people of Panem? Is America seen as a model to copy or a horror to avoid? Does Panem internalize any cultural or political behaviors from America or base claims to legitimacy on comparisons to America akin to how the Roman Empire has been used by every country in Europe? Are there still people wandering around who identify themselves as ethnically "American"? Is there any policy centered around reclaiming the lost heights of America's heydays (i.e. extending the southern border to the Rio Grande, rebuilding the Transcontinental Railroad, etc...)?

The reason I'm asking is that I have something of a minor fascination with the idea of the United States undergoing a fundamental break with its historical tradition, something that never seems to happen in American history but seems to happen at least three times a century everywhere else on the planet.
Ibmiller at 22:24 on 2012-04-05
Not that I recall. I would have found it much more interesting if that had been the case. Partly because of POV choice (which I think was not ideal) and partly because of less-than-thorough worldbuilding.

My guess is that Collins was more interested in "Minotaur/Reality TV Mashup! Go!" than saying "Hey, what would happen if the US did such and such." Which is, hey, cool, but I thought at least some thought into how everything fit together might have been nice.
http://serenoli.livejournal.com/ at 06:23 on 2012-04-17
Is it just me, or does Katniss strike you as a Bella-rerun in Mockingjay? For example, after moving to District 13, she goes through that whole holier-than-thou phase - refuses to follow everyone else's routine, refuses to make friends -while everyone just LOVES her. And then too the obsession with getting Katniss on TV seems to dominate all the war plans (yeah. War council = discussing what clothes she will wear, as opposed to what to do if the Capitol attacks). And the few times Ms. Everdeen screams stuff at the camera she describes herself 'as floating in heat that emanated from my very being' and then claps when she watches herself again.
Or the moment when she brought down Capitol jet planes with a bow and arrow? And when she watched it again, this is Katniss' reaction: 'then some amazing shots of the rebels, Gale, and mostly me, me, me knocking those planes out of the sky.'

.....
Is it just me, or does Katniss strike you as a Bella-rerun in Mockingjay?

I don't know anything about Twilight specifically, but Katniss does seem to develop the typical swollen ego of child heroes. But after years of Harry Potter and his and his author's smarmy false modesty, it barely registers with me. Collins does seem a bit insecure about whether we'll like Katniss as much as she wants us to, but I already felt Katniss had earned most of her good press and chose to ignore the clumsy pandering.
Ibmiller at 16:16 on 2012-04-17
Actually, I completely agree. Especially when you get to book 3, and the love triangle becomes annoyingly book 3 of Twilight repetative. Up to and including the moronic "heroine listens to two suitors bicker while supposedly sleeping."

But I actually find Katniss more passive than Bella, which is somewhat hilarious, given Bella's singlemindedly passive mindset.
Andy G at 16:37 on 2012-04-17
@Alasdair: There are a few points where the relationship between the USA and Panem is discussed, but it's not developed much. I think Katniss wonders how if the USA was really such a paradise it could possibly have given birth to Panem.

@Ibmiller: Isn't the fact that she is denied agency part of the point? She is effectively denied private romantic feelings towards either Peeta or Gale; her emotional attachments are determined by the circumstances she finds herself in. Or are we supposed to think it's a happy ending?
http://ninjacatman.livejournal.com/ at 22:27 on 2012-04-17
@Andy: When I read the third book I did feel the final chapter and epilogue were meant to be a happy ending.

**SPOILERS**

While Katniss' feeling for Peeta are confused and forced to go faster then she is ready for I felt the narrative implied heavily that she did have strong feelings for him. And they being able to marry and have children is a happy ending.

Katniss initial statement that she doesn't want children is based on the world she lives in. She almost from the get go expresses a distaste for the stardom and wants to live a quiet life. The final chapter/epilogue show us that Katniss has the life she wanted in a world she feels safe having children in. It's not perfect but it felt like it was meant to be happy.
District 12 is located in the former Appalachia, and I believe the Capitol is supposed to be somewhere near the Rockies, which I guess is supposed to establish Panem as a ghost USian empire, the way Caesar and Seneca and all the rest are supposed to be Roman Empire ghosts.
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