Sunday, April 18, 2010

Notes from a Reading Binge

I don't very often go on a reading jag, where I pretty much ignore all but the most essential duties (like being sure the family is fed). But from about Thursday until Saturday afternoon, I was totally caught up in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. I finished The Hunger Games on Thursday and went immediately into Catching Fire Friday morning, finishing late yesterday afternoon in time to cook something decent for supper (after throwing sandwiches on plates for lunch, ha ha).

I had several things I wanted to write about while reading, so instead of trying to tie it all into one coherent post, I'm going to stick together several small segments.

Katniss "Not Dynamic," Teen Says

When my son was first learning to read in kindergarten, I told myself I was going to be a mom who was on top of it all and keep ahead of what he was reading so we could talk about anything that might be challenging or questionable.  Ha.  I bet you can imagine how long THAT lasted.  He outstripped me on the Harry Potter series by the time he was in second grade.  I still try to read some of the things he's read, more now to be able to keep my finger on the pulse of young adult literature and culture than to keep my thumb on him (so to speak).  Every now and then, we do talk about those common things we've read.

For example, this morning on the way home from church, I asked him if he thought there was a plan in place all along to put Katniss in the Hunger Games to turn her into a symbol (more on that later). We shared perspectives on that for a moment, then he said, "Katniss wasn't a dynamic character."  Interesting comment to be coming from the mouth of a 14-year-old boy, so I asked what he meant.  He went on to explain that she didn't change much (I guess he DOES pay attention in his English class!).  Then he retreated back into the solitude of his iPod, so I'm left to ponder the validity of his statement on my own.

He has a point.  On the surface, some of the things Katniss does seem to be from unselfish motives, like volunteering to take Prim's place in the initial reaping.  But in reading her thoughts about everything that happens to her, I believe she's got a pretty self-centered outlook on the world.  When you get right down to it, the reason she doesn't want Prim in the reaping is because she herself couldn't stand the thought of her frail little sister being killed in the arena.  Ok, that's a good place for a character to start at the beginning of a trilogy.

(WARNING - Spoilers abound below!)

But while I was reading the conclusion of Catching Fire, I thought it seemed like Katniss was angrier about being used for the plan without anyone telling her than she was concerned with whether the plan was going to help the terrible life condition of the people in the various districts (which she had witnessed on her victory tour).  She says she thinks she hates Peeta for fulfilling his mission to keep her alive, and you get the sense it's because she feels that she failed in her mission to keep him alive (even though they believe he is still alive at the end of the book, he's most likely in the hands of the Capitol and may not have long to live).  She decides she's going to die from spite as a last, desperate way to try to spare him.  That seems to cheapen the sacrifices Peeta made for her.  A more mature character would possibly say, "Ok, you thought the cause and my role in it were important enough to sacrifice your life....the least I can do is make sure you don't die in vain."

I can't help making comparisons to Harry Potter, who was also the "chosen one" around which a rebellion of sorts centered.  Harry went through his whiny phase in Order of the Phoenix, but by the last two books, he was ready to take his place in the fight.  In all fairness to Katniss, Catching Fire is only the second book of three, so maybe in the third book, she will realize this thing is bigger than herself (to fall back on a cliche') and play her required role.  I'm betting she will, with typical Katniss intensity.

Well, that took more room than I thought it would, so I think I'll break this note into a short series of posts over the next few days.  Don't want this to turn into a dissertation.

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