What Jenny's Reading

{November 26, 2014}   Review: The Hunger Games, Pt. 1

Happy Thanksgiving week!  This will likely be my last post for the week, as we’ve go the holiday and all.

So this is that “Hunger Games” I heard so much about. I read “Twilight” because I heard so much about it and I didn’t want to feel left out. I regretted it. But I didn’t regret reading this series. I thought it was mostly good, up till the end, and we don’t have to talk about the end till I get there! Yay!

I just watched Catching Fire. Man, the filmmakers really wanted Katniss to end up with Gale at the end, didn’t they? Did the last book come out before the script for that movie was written? I check. Yes! It must have. Mockingjay came out back in 2010. The first movie wasn’t even released until 2012.

I have noticed that I tend to be really detailed when I write recaps of anything. I lucked out with that Spiderman thing, because I had forgotten so much and didn’t get the chance to be all wordy and shit. I guess I am afraid that if I leave stuff out, people will miss out on the story. Except they can always go and read the story for themselves.

Okay, so we get some background on the Games, but if you’ve read the story you already know all about the Treaty and the evil Capitol and Effie Trinket’s weird hair and clothes. Katniss and Gale hunt in the woods and we learn the heartwarming tale behind Gale’s dumb nickname for her: she can’t enunciate, and then had an awesome pet lynx with attachment issues. The heartwarming part ends when she kills the lynx and sells its pelt (sidebar: interesting foreshadowing, with Katniss killing something that loves her essentially because it’s inconvenient for her). This made me sad, so I ran and found my cat and gave him a hug. He didn’t appreciate it. Dick. YOU ARE NO LYNX WITH ATTACHMENT DISORDER!

The thing with the lynx made me think. Wouldn’t it have been great if, instead of killing the lynx, she’d killed Gale instead? And then the lynx became her hunting companion and they had awesome crazy adventures together? Like instead of a bow and arrows, her weapon was a trained kill-lynx that would hunt for her, kind of like how dogs used to do for fancy British people? And after she was reaped, the lynx somehow got into the arena and was all MURDERDEATHKILL on her opponents (second sidebar: my spellcheck recognizes “MURDERDEATHKILL” as a word. I don’t know how I feel about that.), and then when she was fighting Cato the lynx jumped out and was all “Surprise, bitch!” and ripped him to shreds? That would’ve been awesome.

Where was I? Fine. Gale. I’m not really a fan, if that wasn’t already obvious. He wants to run away with her, into the forest, and leave their siblings and mothers behind to their certain deaths, because he is a terrible person. This is apparently his way of telling her he likes her. But because Katniss isn’t a terrible person, she says no and they go back to sell their spoils and get ready for the reaping. Here’s another example of Gale being a terrible person: they go and sell strawberries to the mayor, and he’s rude to Madge, the mayor’s daughter. Because I guess he thinks he’s better than her because he’s poor and has more entries in the reaping. Because town kids don’t have to take out the tesserae, and have fewer entries, and thus fewer chances of being picked for the Games. (Yes, I know it’s not a fair system, but it’s not Madge’s fault, and it just makes Gale look like a dick for taking it out on her.) The best part about this is how he’s nearly immediately proven wrong when Effie picks out Prim’s name, since Prim has only one entry.

Katniss volunteers for her sister, obviously, because otherwise this book would be really short. Then Peeta gets picked (who is from town, Gale!) and Katniss has a freak out and we all wonder if maybe he’s some old crush for a second till she gets to the point about the bread. For my money, best line in the whole book: “Somehow it just won’t seem sincere if I’m trying to slit his throat.” Ha!

Then the goodbyes, where Gale gets to be “supportive” by telling Katniss that killing humans is no different from killing animals (foreshadowing, I see what you did there!) and Peeta’s father comes to see Katniss too, gives her cookies, and promises that he’ll make sure Prim doesn’t starve. Then Madge gives her the mockingjay pin that will become so important.
I like Madge. I wish we could’ve seen more of her. I don’t think she’s even in the movies, that’s how small her part is.

One thing I think is really weird. Katniss wears one of her mom’s really nice dresses to the reaping. Why, when they were starving, didn’t she try to sell them? I know she could have, because she was trying to sell Prim’s old baby clothes, so clothes are clearly traded at the Hob. And she may have gotten some takers for a nice dress rather than threadbare clothes. It’s a mystery.

To be honest, I found the beginning of the book pretty boring (except the lynx!). Not not worth reading or anything, just not as interesting as the rest of the story. It’s not the author’s fault, it’s all necessary set up and exposition. But let’s fastforward.
Effie Trinket is really creepy at first. I guess it’s their culture and all, but do the Capitol people really not realize that these kids are going to be killed? It’s not like American Idol or Big Brother where they just go home. (Unless…is that what happened to Nikki McKibbin?)

Haymitch is a drunk. He mocks their situations, but agrees to help the kids after they attack him.

You know, I’m finding it’s difficult to be funny when the social commentary here is just so depressing. I mean, they send kids to DIE. And not just die, but slaughter each other in horrible, disgusting ways. And they all watch for amusement, like Romans in the Coliseum. This book is no Twilight, is what I’m saying. Maybe I should switch over to reviewing that book (Brain: NO!).

Okay, something I find kind of funny: Katniss decides she wants nothing to do with Peeta, because she (understandably) thinks he’s plotting to kill her. She almost immediately, and frequently, goes back on this decision. Another thing I find funny is, when they’re getting ready for the chariot rides, and she’s so nervous about her fiery costume, she’s relieved to see him dressed identically because “He should know about fire, being a baker’s son and all.” Hee! Maybe that’s the best line in the book. Like how fire is really mysterious and no one really understands how it works, but Peeta, as a baker’s son, has some unique knowledge. I’m now picturing Peeta explaining fire to Katniss thusly: “It’s hot, and changes color a lot. You can cook things over it, but too close or too long and they get burned. Are you writing this down?”

Yes, I know. Not funny. I’m still thinking about all the dead kids. Seriously, HOW DO THESE CAPITOL PEOPLE SLEEP AT NIGHT?

I seriously can’t imagine living in a world where it’s not only understood that kids are going to kill other kids, but expected. Like, every kid knows they might have to go into the arena and either die or kill a bunch of other people. I mean, I guess when push comes to shove you can make yourself do a lot of things you didn’t think you were capable of. Like, I once had this really awful job in sales, direct sales to be exact. I worked it for two months and even though it was the worst job I ever had, I was able to force myself to do what I needed to do to make my (small) commissions.

Yes, I realize just compared my crappy former job to literal life and death. I’ll show myself out now.

I really wish synthetic fire were a thing. I would totally make that an everyday accessory. I want my own personal Cinna! Okay, I Googled it. Fox News wants us to know we aren’t far enough into the future for that, but it can be duplicated with lighting and colored silk. Lame!

Also? I seriously want that Capitol shower, especially the machine that untangles your hair. I suppose we aren’t far enough in the future for that yet, either. I was born too early.

Everyone hates Katniss, and I guess Peeta too, because they stole all the attention during the parade. Well, that’s their stylists’ fault, I think. Maybe they should be more exciting, like Cinna.

The kids go down to their first lessons in murder. Haymitch has already told Katniss not to show off her skills with a bow, and Peeta not to show how strong he is. So they futz around a bit, learning survival skills. The kids from the rich districts group up together and make fun of all the other kids, who they will soon be murdering. It’s touching.

Haymitch has ordered Katniss and Peeta to hang around with each other as much as possible, so they eat together and so forth, but Katniss finds this irritating. She thinks it’s all an annoying charade and they’re going to be killing each other soon anyway, so why bother? Well, he’s trying to keep you guys alive as long as possible, Katniss. I know he’s a drunk, but maybe listen to the guy. He did survive a Hunger Games, after all. The Super Hunger Games, actually. That’s why he’s here.

I wonder what the districts did in the beginning, before people started winning and they had mentors. Like, how long did it take some of the districts to have someone survive, and what did the tributes do if they had no mentors? Did someone just get appointed to help them, or did they have to fend for themselves entirely?

During dinner one night, Katniss realizes that one of the Avoxes (Avoxi?) is a girl she and Gale once saw while hunting in the woods beyond District 12. She was with a boy, and they were running. A Capitol hovercraft airship whatever came and killed the boy, and captured the girl. She saw Katniss, but Katniss did nothing to help her. She figures the girl hates her and will be cheering for her death in the arena.

Near the end of the week of training, the tributes have to show off their special skills to the gamemakers, who then rank them for the audience at home. A high ranking is both good and bad, because it means that you’re awesome but also makes you a target. Katniss goes last, because they’re in order of district and I guess we don’t do the “ladies first” thing since Effie picked Prim’s name.

She shows off her archery skills, but the Gamemakers aren’t paying attention because they’re drunk and eating a bunch of food. So she gets pissed and spears an apple that was in a pig’s mouth, and storms out. Hooray! Fuck those Gamemakers, seriously.

Everyone berates her for her poor attitude, like it fucking matters. Poor girl’s probably dead in the next three days. Katniss herself is worried that the Capitol will take everything out on her family. She and Peeta chat about it, and he tells her he was provoked a little too, which makes her feel better.

But when they watch the scores come out, it turns out they’ve scored her at eleven, the highest of all the tributes. So…yeah. Good for her, but also bad. Peeta was an eight, if you’re interested.

The next day is the interviews, and Katniss gets a nasty surprise: Peeta wants to be trained separately. She feels super betrayed and angry, but also understanding. So they split up, and she spends half a day with Effie learning to walk in high heels and wear fancy clothes and sit properly.

She’s supposed to work with Haymitch about developing her mystique, what will make her memorable. He gets frustrated because she doesn’t fit in any of the neat boxes he’s got already, like “arrogant” or “sexy” or “flirtatious.” She has a huge breakdown in front of the Avox girl, who helps her clean up the mess and soothes her. Katniss tries to apologize, but the girl essentially communicates that she doesn’t blame Katniss for what happened to her.

Cinna makes her feel better with an awesome fiery dress and some interviewing advice. Aw, Cinna! You rock. She manages to nail her interview, too, but can’t even compete with Peeta, who confesses that he’s in love with her and has been for a long time. She, of course, reacts as any girl who’s under tons of stress and thinks she’s going to die and is also being played reacts – she attacks him till he bleeds. It takes Haymitch, Cinna, and Portia to talk her down and make her realize what an edge she’s been given.

Of course all of this doesn’t last long. The next day they’re whisked away from the Capitol to the arena. Cinna’s the only one with Katniss in the launch tube, and he helps her into her new outfit: pants, boots, and a long jacket that will keep her warm. He pins on her mockingjay pin and promises that he’d bet on her if he were allowed. Then she’s in the chute, rising up to the arena.

For my American peeps, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  And if you head out on Black Friday, remember to stay hydrated, be polite to the retail clerks who are dealing with you, and above all, don’t rip another human being apart for the joy of purchasing the last 50% off DVD player or whatever.  Let’s not humiliate ourselves as a country for once, okay?


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