Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hunger Games: Re-read

This is not so much a review as it is my thoughts upon re-reading The Hunger Games.  I'm going to assume that nearly everyone who had any interest in reading this novel has done so already so beware of SPOILERS!

This book is fantastic.  You know that, I know that and (hopefully) after the movie release next week, the rest of the freaking world will know that.*  The first time around, I was so caught up with anxiety and fear for Katniss' life that I missed some of the more subtle nuances of this incredibly intricate book.  I discussed some of these points with my book club but I wanted to get some feedback from other people. 

1. SHOW, DON'T TELL:  Collins really got this one right.  This was clear right from the start when Katniss spoke about Prim's cat.  The startlingly powerful image of a young girl attempting to drown a worm-ridden kitten because she didn't need "another mouth to feed".  We are never bogged down with info-dumping or forced to listen to Katniss whine about her circumstances (even though some whining is probably warranted).
2. ACTION: There is very rarely a dull moment in this book.  The only time that I can think of it even slowing is while Katniss and Peeta are in the cave.  Instead, this is where a lot of the relationship building occurs and where we learn even more about both of the characters.**

3.HAYMITCH: The first time I read this book, I saw only the surface character of Haymith: the bumbling drunk who was jaded by watching years of unsuccessful tributes meet their death in the games.  After re-reading, I was able to see the intelligence in Haymitch.  I no longer believe that his falling off the stage was an accident and now see it as a carefully orchestrated move to distract from the fact that Katniss was about to cry after receiving the salute from the crowd.  The way that he communicated with Katniss via what he did or didn't send was pretty incredible.  I was really able to see the parallels between the two characters and it was a little chilling to have a constant reminder of what Katniss could become if she didn't have the influence of her friends and family. 

4. ROMANCE: The romantic arc in this story is very well done.  There is no insta-love and it is made very clear that Katniss has difficulty separating her feelings for Peeta from her actions as part of the game.  Even though we do see evidence of a love triangle, the two boys are never in direct competition and Katniss shows fierce loyalty to both of them but undying love to neither.

5. AUDIENCE: I am constantly looking for books to recommend to my male students.  The hardest sell is usually grade 9.  Last year, I suggested The Hunger Games to one boy and he went on to rave to his fellow students about how "Awesome" it was.  Shortly thereafter, nearly all of the class, boys and girls, had read the books and I was able to interest many of them in other books like The Giver and The Maze Runner.  There is an old trope that boys will not read books about girls (rumor has it this is why J.K Rowling chose a male protagonist in Harry Potter) but Suzanne Collins crushes this when she created a world that interested both genders and a character that all readers can root for.

So, what do you think?  Do you agree with my points? Disagree?  For those who have re-read, did notice anything new the second time you read it? Are you ready to cheer Katniss on when the movie is released (not to mention ready to bawl your eyes out when Rue dies)?

Teacher/Parental Notes:

Age: 13 and up
Gender: Both.  There is enough action for the boys, and enough romance for the girls.
Sex: None
Violence: LOTS.  IMO, most kids of this age group could handle it but be aware of students who might have experienced violence in the past.
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: Heavy drinking by an adult character

*Seriously, have you seen the trailer?  I say "trailer" because I am so excited that I have limited myself to only watching the first one so EVERYTHING is new to me when I finally get to see it.

**I wonder if we had been given a chance to get to know Gale this early on, would we have been more split in who Katniss should end up with?


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