“If only you could frost someone to death.” – Peeta Mellark

Back in January, I wrote a post on why I haven’t read The Hunger Games series.  I promised at the end of that post to write a second post if and when I read past the second chapter of the book.

I have arrived at that point.

My original points regarding why I didn’t like the book and hadn’t gotten past page four were as follows:

1) It is in first person POV.

2) She wanted to kill the cat.

3) I can be, on occasion, contrary.

I break it down, below the cut.  Spoilers for all three Hunger Games books, and the movie.

 

THE FIRST PERSON POV

Still not a fan.  I think the first person is pretty necessary, for a few reasons, but I think that choosing to write the book this was has actually taken away from the story, much in the same way that JK Rowling’s choice to use deep third person POV painted her into a corner in book seven, or how the climactic battle at the end of Twilight was totally missing from the book because Bella (our first person POV) gets knocked out.

The Good

- We get a lot of details about the world, including personal impressions, through Katniss herself, in ways that just wouldn’t work if the novel had been in third person.

- I think if we saw Katniss through a third person lens, she would be unbearable.  Her personality and behavior is such that I felt like having access to her inner thoughts and processes was the one thing that kept me reading, in that while I hated her choices and thought she was acting like an idiot about certain things, I could understand where she was coming from a bit better when I was in her head.

However, after watching The Hunger Games movie, I think I may have to re-revaluate my position on that.  The film was outside POV- we didn’t get any internal monologues or narration that would have allowed the filmmakers to incorporate more of Katniss’s personality and voice into the film.  Instead, we had outside POV, even though she was clearly the main character, and I liked her so much MORE in the movie. 

- Her voice is pretty compelling.  I don’t like her, but I was drawn in to her world view and how she saw things based on her experiences in District 12.  She has a sarcastic wit that I enjoyed, and in certain circumstances could really cut people down to the quick.  Sadly, she wasn’t able to do that everyone (hello, Peeta!).

- The one moment in the story that we really, really need to understand what’s in her head is the reaping scene.  I don’t think it would have had the power it did if it had come from an outside POV.  We needed to understand her desperation, the sheer terror that she was feeling that made her, in those brief seconds, decide to throw herself into the literal ring in place of her sister.  That moment really, really worked.

The Bad

- Still not a fan of first person and while the later pages and books are much better than the first few pages of Hunger Games, I still had a lot of issues with the first person usage.  While I feel like Collins is a powerful world builder and has given us this unique view on a world that we all hope we never see, I feel that her prose isn’t as strong as it could have been or should have been.  This is one of those series where the story itself transcends the actual writing, to become a massive hit.  I think we’re seeing something similar with E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.  The writing itself has a number of pretty serious flaws but the world building, the overarching story, and the characters overcome the mediocre box they were born in.

- The first person POV, especially as used in Mockingjay, was a “get out of jail free” card, in terms of giving up actual details of what’s happening in the world.  When we’re with Katniss, we can only see what she sees, know what she knows, etc.  So, if there are exciting things happening beyond the scope of that POV, the reader only finds out about them when KATNISS finds out about them.

Which means that there is a lot of telling in these books, especially in Mockingjay.  There were a lot of really fascinating plot points that were dropped on us in this offhanded way, almost like Collins just didn’t want to write that scene so she just didn’t.  I wanted more from the scene where Peeta attacks Katniss.  I wanted to know more about how it went down, how they pulled him off of her, who helped, who didn’t- that is the kind of scene that really SHOWS us character.  Instead, Collins continued to resort to TELLING us who these people were and it’s not nearly as much fun.

 

SHE WANTED TO KILL THE CAT

 I found it really funny, in a kind of “fuck you, Katniss” kind of way that Buttercup makes it all the way to the end of the series.  The use of the cat is really well done later in the book, although I don’t think the initial introduction to the cat or to Katniss’s relationship with the cat was even close to being as effective.

Did this element of the book show me that Katniss is logical and that extra mouth to feed was a real danger?  No.  It’s pretty clear that Buttercup takes care of himself.  If that’s the case, then what the fuck did it matter if she let him live?  And clearly, the cat takes care of himself better than Katniss ever could, seeing as he survives both the District 12 and District 13 bombings, and makes it through the revolution alive and willing to give Katniss a second chance to be awesome.

Was Collins trying to show us Katniss as an anti-hero, or trying to twist the “save the cat” moment by having her not kill the cat but not being happy about it?

Either way, I thought it was poorly done and not a particularly good way to introduce us to Katniss.

 

I CAN, ON OCCASION, BE CONTRARY

I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted to be the one dissenter in this whole Hunger Games whirlwind. 

I mentioned in my last post on this that I had purchased the e-book version of the first novel, and my husband decided that he wanted to read it.  He finished it very quickly and told me that I would need to read it ASAP, as we would be going to see the film that weekend and I needed to have it read before then.

I wanted to argue the point, and there was a part of me that wanted to wait and just watch the movie first.  I find that if I do that, I tend to like both mediums, instead of loving the book and being annoyed with the movie.  However, Bear was standing his ground, so I told him I would read it.

I didn’t like Katniss the first few times I tried to read it and that did not change this time.  I don’t see Katniss as particularly heroic.  She’s a survivor and she does what she needs to in order to survive.  I don’t see that as particularly heroic.  She makes a lot of stupid decisions and her interpretation of other people’s motives (*ahem*Peeta*ahem*) are TERRIBLE.

One of the moments that really stood out to me is Katniss’s unwillingness to ask for help.  When her father dies, and her mother checks out of reality for a while, their family is struggling.  Katniss decides that it would be better to pretend that everything was okay, because if people found out that her mother was not taking care of them, then they could be taken away and sent to the Hunger Games equivalent of the County Home.  All the kids who live there have really horrible lives and Katniss can’t let that happen to her dear sister Prim.  So she pretends that all is well and they slowly (oh, so slowly) begin to starve to death.

One of the key moments in the book is what happens when Katniss first meets Peeta, the boy with the bread.  She is mere days (possibly one day) away from LITERALLY DYING of starvation, when, while she’s trying to find something in the trash by his family’s bakery, Peeta burns some bread and throws it to her.  He takes a good wallop from his mother for his trouble but he does it anyway.  His burnt bread quite literally is the turning point for Katniss and her family- without it, and without that moment, they would all be dead and Katniss would never have become the Girl Who Was on Fire.

My problem here?  Katniss had so much pride, or she truly didn’t understand the consequences of her actions, that she was willing to let her sister die rather than ask for help and risk the County Home.  I get it- she didn’t want them to get split up, she didn’t want them to have to live in those kinds of conditions, but a shitty life is better than being dead, and it’s certainly better than starving to death.  It’s not a quick way to die, nor is it pleasant. 

I have to ask- were there no other people that she could have gone to for help?  Her father seemed like a pretty cool guy- he didn’t have any friends that would help them out, with a little bit of bread or a bit of meat?  REALLY?

I saw this and just thought Katniss was an idiot.  Yes, I understand that she’s twelve.  But I have known tweleve year olds with much more sense than this, although that isn’t hard because Katniss is kind of stupid.  She is capable and she is savvy in the woods, hunting and what not, but she is rather dumb about people, about relationships, about why people (Peeta, for example) would choose to help her without wanting anything in return.

Regarding the whole contrary issue, I’m glad I was forced into reading this.  If I didn’t have anyone waiting for me to finish reading so we could discuss it, I think I would have stopped on page six.

I did like reading about the world.  It was really well drawn, and the darkness and danger inherent in it really pushed my “dark and fucked up” buttons.  I liked a lot of the other characters, and have spent a lot of time thinking about who these people really are, as opposed to who Katniss THINKS they are through the filter of her brain.

I fell in love with Peeta.  I can see so much of my husband in him, and my husband made a few comments about how he saw himself in Peeta as well, so it makes sense that I am a Peeta girl, as opposed to Gale.  My love for Peeta makes me even more judgmental of Katniss, because I just don’t understand how she is unable to see him for who he is, or why she continually questions his motives.  I just don’t get it.

 

Yes, please. I'll take all three.

Katniss is the kind of girl that has always driven me crazy, even when I was a kid.  She can’t decide between two dudes, but she’ll keep them both on the hook because what happens if she lets one go and it’s the wrong choice?  I feel like she’s incredibly unfair and even cruel to Peeta and his feelings. 

Regarding Gale, I feel like he’s been done a terrible disservice by Collins, in that I don’t think there is a whole lot of substance to him, beyond his anger at the Capital.  His entire personality revolves around his dissatisfaction with his life and the circumstances of his world, but there aren’t any hints of what he would be like if/when anything changed.  What would he do or be if the Capital fell?  All of who he is, is caught up in this desire to change the world and not a lot of time is spent on what he’d do once that change happened.

Peeta, on the other hand, feels like someone who could figure out his place just about anywhere.  He’s the kind of guy that can take things as they come and be happy with simple and small.  I don’t think Gale would be happy with the same.  That’s not to say that I don’t think Peeta wants change, because I know that he does, but he’s not wallowing in his misery in the same way that Gale seems to be.

And in color. Words are failing me.

I wanted her to choose Peeta from the beginning, except for the fact that Peeta is too good for Katniss.  I actually feel like it would have been a better ending if Katniss had ended up alone, with a million cats, all of whom followed Buttercup to her house, and none of which she actually wants but she just can’t get them to leave.

My husband brought up an interesting point.  The book is from Katniss’s POV, but what if Peeta is actually the main character?  That makes the book MUCH more interesting for the reader, if you have an outside POV telling the story instead of the actual main character.  This is a trope that I absolutely adore in fanfic, so the idea that Suzanne Collins could have used it in her novels is amazing to me, and super fun.   Doesn’t the thought just blow your mind?  I love it!

 

 

I think, in the end, these books made feel a lot of feelings.  I’m still cataloguing everything that is swirling around in my brain, trying to figure out just where I fall.  Expect, perhaps, to see another post or two as I work through ALL THESE FEELINGS that I have. 

I think that’s actually one of the truly brilliant elements of these books- it’s hard to nail down just one way to feel about them.  Despite my issues with certain elements of these novels, I found them to be engaging and thought provoking, and I really wanted to know more about how they got to the epilogue.  I’ll give Collins this much- her epilogue was WAY better that Rowling’s (not that it’s all that hard to do, sadly).

I’m admitting here, in public and on the interwebs (so we all know it will NEVER GO AWAY) that I have changed my mind, mostly, about The Hunger Games.

What do YOU think about them?

2 Comment(s)

  1. On Apr 2, 2012, DragoJustine said:

    Deciding to read it as Katness’ outside POV on the main character, Peeta, is basically the best thing I’ve ever heard.

    He ABSOLUTELY IS. It works beautifully. Especially given that all she does is hang on and survive, and is incredibly ill-suited by personality to the role she ends up in- whereas Peeta actually does have the skills and personality for what they end up doing politically. And goes through a way more interesting evolution.

  2. On Apr 2, 2012, Alison said:

    @DragoJustine- Yes! I totally agree!

    I have friends that argue that Peeta just hasn’t had the kind of life that Katniss has, and that he doesn’t understand how hard things are. But I think that’s the heart of the story- he doesn’t understand but he sure as shit learns.

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