Friday, January 04, 2013

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins*

*and sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay

Wasn’t going to read these books, nuh uh, too much publicity, can’t relate to teenage protagonists, don’t enjoy first person narratives, and it’s about teenagers killing each other? No way. I had better things to do. Then my niece talked me into watching the movie with her and I was hooked. Surprise, surprise. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong. I read all three books in quick succession.

Here, in no particular order, are the things I liked about Katniss: she’s physically skillful, she forms strong relationships with other women/girls, she is brave, she doesn’t need or want a boyfriend, she is smart, she doesn’t like to be manipulated, she is unconcerned with her appearance, she doesn’t put up with any crap, she has empathy, and she is imperfect. Here is what I liked about the story: it’s unpredictable and suspenseful; it challenges stereotypes; it addresses complicated issues of oppression, rebellion, and civil war, of manipulation of  the masses by the media, and the uses of modern warfare; it delves into moral gray areas; and it doesn’t come to a neat conclusion/traditional happy ending. If at times Collins's language is simpler than I might like, or her points are spelled out a bit too plainly, well, that is small potatoes in the complaint department.

I am not the first to point out the connection between Katniss and Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt, protector of young girls, expert with the bow and arrow, whose hunting companion Orion (Gale, in the books) was her only true love. It never hurts to be able to cite a bit of mythology when defending one's reading choices. But if you are still on the fence I suggest watching the movie, as I did. It’s very well done and if you like it, you will like the books, too. And if you are hung up on the fact that this is YA fiction, or girls’ fiction, or just popular fiction, I say, get over it. Katniss Everdeen is now and forever a feminist icon and if you don't read these books you won't really understand why.

(Books 35, 36, and 37, 2012)

7 comments:

Kugel said...

Well put. I also liked these books, though I don't think I could have articulated why so well.

Anonymous said...

I'll second Kugel (and third you?).

In fact, I generally like YA fiction series (Harry Potter, Eragon, dare I say Lord of the Rings). I enjoy watching the protagnists -- and the themes -- maturing through the series.

I have to say that I really didn't see The Hunger Games as girls' fiction at all, apart from the fact that Katniss is a girl, of course. This series (unlike Twilight, which I dropped 100 pages into the first volume) held my interest quite intensely to the very end.

So... is Katniss really a feminist icon? One imagines she would have preferred to be a humanist icon.
(rbkraus)

gina said...

I enjoyed the hunger games books. So did my 13-year-old nephew. I was pleased that a boy enjoyed a book with a strong female lead. I wouldn't really consider Katniss a feminist icon (though she certainly could be) as much as a strong admirable sympathetic character who appeals to girls and boys.

beckster said...

Well you have certainly gotten your mojo back! And you have given an A to every book you have read since then. I will have to check out the ones I have not read, although I will say I am generally put off by the Hunger Games. Will try to get over it.

Shelley said...

As a writer, I didn't think it was possible for anyone to convince me that these books have value.

But you did. There are so many boy-crazy, looks-obsessed "young adult" books out there for girls, that your defense of these novels makes perfect sense.

Unie said...

I completely disagree with you. I've only read The Hunger Games, but I thought it was very predictable and used lots of stereotypes. However, I enjoyed the movie much more because I wasn't in Katniss's head. Katniss's thoughts were annoying and very discriminating against others at some times. Her thoughts about Prim were the most aggravating thing ever. I honestly wanted Katniss to die in the book.

I don't see Katniss as a feminist icon at all. She's not mentally wise enough to be one in my opinion.

Tony Lama Boot said...

I loved this book. I'm glad that you did too. I think you might enjoy all the characters more in the second book especially Peeta. I think the flirting thing comes in again much later. I'll be interested to see what you think about the rest of the series.

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