For 2013 I am giving myself a 100 book challenge to thoroughly update my reading. Ever since my English literature degree ended in 2009, it has been a joy to read just for pleasure again but it shocks me to think of how little I’ve been reading lately, as the numerous books I receive as gifts and purchase for myself grow in number. Add to this a new partner who enjoys reading just as much as I do and has numerous volumes that he wants me to check out and this kinda results in a situation where I want to ramp up my reading for 2013.
In addition to this, I have recently become a member of Goodreads, a great and easy way to track book reading and meet people with similar interests. Goodreads offers you the opportunity to set yourself a reading challenge for 2013 so I happily jumped at the chance and have already tracked four excellent reads to ring in the new year. Three of which I’ve been particularly looking forward to getting my teeth into!
Hunger Games Trilogy
*Warning: Contains Spoilers*
Ever since I saw the blockbuster movie last year, I’ve been curious about the Hunger Games trilogy. Katnis Everdeen certainly seemed like a better role model for young women than I’d seen around lately and, seeing as my last journey into teen fiction involved the Twilight saga, I had something of a bad taste in my mouth that I wanted to remove. I’m ashamed to admit that I read this collection, even though it was intended as a Christmas present for my partner and I did it before he’d even cracked the first spine! This was a collection purchased from The Works and I want to make a quick mention of how poor quality these books are, developing scratches and bent covers in no time at all. I read through the whole trilogy in three days and, whilst the first book is easily my favourite this is also a great series that I would recommend to anyone. Whether you’ve seen the films or not, the Hunger Games revolve around a dystopian future in which children from 12 districts are set against each other in a fight to the death for the pleasure of their capital. This is a punishment for an ancient rebellion but when Catniss volunteers in place of her 12 year old sister, the capital gets more than they anticipated from this contestant. The major difference I found between the book and the film was the presentation of Peeta, the male contestant from district 12 who once saved Catniss’ family by giving her bread when they were starving. In the film he is flat and comprised entirely of his desperate interest in Catniss. His deep affection is still there in the books but we see him as a deeply considerate and charming person who teams up exceptionally well with her. They are the perfect pair thanks to Catniss’ unrelenting survival drive and Peeta’s ability to charm and play the game. The next books are going to be difficult to turn into films, in my opinion, as Peeta becomes more and more important and he really needs to be a more notable character.
I also enjoyed the Hunger Games for breaking one of my least favourite tropes in female teen literature. The continuing love struggle between the revolutionary and fellow survivalist Gale and the kind and charming Peeta is an area that gives Catniss some considerable consternation throughout the trilogy. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed this inner wrangling but Catniss is consistently portrayed as someone who is not comfortable expressing her emotions, especially to herself, thanks to her constant fear of losing people through the hunger games. To that end, it made some sense to me for her to be so torn but I honestly assumed that she would surely choose Gale. This is because whenever I read teen fiction as a girl it was always the dark and dangerous male who got the protagonist, never the sweet and kind guy who invariably ended up in the friend zone. I hated this from a very young age because I never saw what the two characters who apparently “really loved each other” really had to talk about and I’ve always considered “friendship” a great deal more important in and relationship than “passion” (or, as we may as well put it, “lust”). Catniss’s choice in the final book really turned this trope on its head, as well as her own pragmatic approach to how she may well have chosen differently if she’d never been to the games. This might frustrate some readers but this is also an idea that isn’t used very often in teen fiction but it often the case in life: we change so dramatically as we overcome obstacles that our needs may change as well. Catniss’s struggles within two Hunger Games, the loss of her district and her difficulties in becoming the Mockingjay meant that Gales angry and fervent approach to rebellion was a complete antithesis to what she knew such things involved. Peeta’s kind and sympathetic approach may have seemed wet and weak when they left for the games but Catniss comes to understand his trepidation of them changing him and respects his desire to protect people from all over Panem. That’s why this is one of my favourite books to represent how relationships can really develop and change over time, even if they begin for the worst of reasons.
It’s very unfair to write so much about the relationships within the books when I should be looking at the excellent characterisation with such quick-fire characters (many of which don’t make it through the games), the brilliant action scenes and the way this book reveals the story of this world piece by piece. Certainly the movie couldn’t hope to show the intricate relationships between the districts and I hope the next film will show the culture of each area. I also hope that Peeta is treated with the consideration he deserves, especially after Catniss brushed him off kinda nastily in the last film (didn’t happen in the book, Peeta is more the one who calls an end to it).
If you want to see what other books I’m enjoying as part of my 100 book reading challenge then check out Goodreads and maybe make your own!