quarantine book club: the hunger games trilogy

in an effort to take myself a little less seriously, i’m gonna head down a new track here and start a review/book club series of not-“serious” (by which i mean… probably weren’t added to the literary canon but fun to read) books, and who knows, maybe some tv shows/movies too! i’m thinking… review of the fashion in the walking dead (HA) or perhaps smallville or the vampire diaries *thinking face*. anyways… just for fun stuff!

we will commence with a not-so-serious review of the hunger games trilogy, which i reread this weekend in its entirety over the course of about 28 hours. y’all, i fell into a hyper-focus mode and just read the whole dang thing, who else has been there?

i was inspired to reread the hunger games by something almost too nerdy to admit, which is that i’ve been reading bethyl fanfiction (from the walking dead) and found a crossover fic that inserts beth/daryl in the hunger games world. i started to read the fic, but really it just piqued my thirst to reread the hunger games, and the rest they say, is my entire saturday and part of friday too.

here are my thoughts and take-aways:

  • i feel like katniss is supposed to be an anti-heroine in that she’s said to be cold and unlikeable, but i don’t know that suzanne collins did this successfully. i mean that, while katniss describes herself as being cold and unlikeable, this does not hold up against anything we actually see happening in the book — people tend to like katniss, they look to her as a leader, they have crushes on her and want to be her friend, and so on. so i just find that dichotomy sort of interesting — the narrative around katniss when the book came out, and from katniss’ perspective, was all “katniss is not like other girls! she’s cold, she’s selfish, she’s downright unlikeable!” — and i just don’t find this to actually be the case. i mean, katniss isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and she definitely shows herself to be self-interested, but… she’s also a teenager, so being self-interested is sort of baked into that. and throughout the series she proves time and time again that she cares for her family, her friends, and for people who are vulnerable, and she will go out of her way to protect others. she is shown as someone who does small kindnesses for people to prevent their feelings being hurt or to otherwise protect them (for her prep team, Effie, and Finnick, to name a few). i don’t know. i guess i’m trying to say that actually katniss is fairly typical in that she has all the necessary “feminine” traits to make her appealing, and i feel like suzanne collins/”the discourse” tried to make it seem like she isn’t and doesn’t. she’s pretty, thin, sings beautifully, and is a demonstrated protector-of-children — all pretty typically feminine, and all what you’d rather expect to see in a heroine of a YA book! i’m sure this has all been said before, but this is my personal review, so i am re-saying it !
  • anyone who shipped gale/katniss was wrong from the start!! i am firmly team peeta and honestly i think it’s pretty clear that katniss is not into gale from the very beginning. the only point at which her internal dealings with her feelings for gale at all point towards the romantic is when she’s thinking of whether she’d feel jealous if gale had a girlfriend, and decides she would. in my opinion, given the fact that gale was katniss’ only friend and really her only “equal” relationship for literally years (she was a caretaker to her mother and prim, and i think the fact that she mothered prim so much took away from her ability to have more equal sisterly bond with her) the idea that that could end or be “taken” from her is definitely enough to make her feel jealous, without it indicating that she actually has feelings for gale. also, every. single. time. she and gale are physically intimate (read: kiss) it’s because katniss feels guilty, or lonely, or like she’s lost peeta. none of which are very romantic feelings! red flags, people! meanwhile her feelings for peeta naturally grow and expand as she gets to know him better, she seeks out intimacy with him, and so on.
  • i learned from the wikipedia after i finished mockingjay that president coin of district 13 was president snow of the capitol’s DAUGHTER?? wild!! and i do not believe this is brought up in the books. i cannot believe that suzanne collins chose to write a humanizing novel about president snow when writing one about president coin (or, also, literally anyone else) was right. there.
  • in general i don’t take issue with any of the lore, except to snidely comment that it’s clear that suzanne had just read The Lottery and Battle Royale immediately before drafting these books, ha. i think the tech they use stays consistent throughout as well, which i liked because it doesn’t feel like they’re breaking out uber-tech during their face-downs with the capitol or anything. also most of it isn’t brain-stretching — all of the tech suzanne mentions feels accessible to the audience, stuff that either exists now or has been widely imagined. so it’s pretty cool and not distracting, and not really a focal point i suppose to the books anyways. honestly i like the concept a lot and would be interested in an entire other series set at another point, in a different district perhaps, or maybe a prequel about haymitch or something (NOT snow! i do not plan to read that). i think suzanne did a good job making clear a lot of the systemic disempowerment of each district, how they forced the districts to compete with each other not just at the games, but in their rankings for favor with the capitol, how they used propaganda and the capitol’s monopoly on violence to keep the districts in line, and so on.
  • the clear and definitive ranking for the books is:
    • 1) Catching Fire (Book 2
    • 2) The Hunger Games (Book 1)
    • 3) Mockingjay (Book 3)
  • mockingjay is clearly the worst book because it feels sort of rushed, the timeline doesn’t make as much sense/feel as coherent as the other two books, and honestly? it’s just really dark. was it necessary to kill finnick and prim? i feel like in series with a lot of death/gore/violence, writers tend to think they need to kill off fan favorites or beloved characters for the pure shock value of it. honestly sometimes i think it’s to punish the audience, kind of like, oh, you felt safe? you thought this character was safe? joke’s on you, no one is safe in my world!! (except the worst characters, who we have saved for an often ill-advised redemption arc.) i don’t think it was necessary to kill prim or finnick off. i feel like suzanne did it maybe to fulfill this sense of prim having avoided her fate for awhile after the reaping, like at the end she must fulfill fate and die (maybe suzanne was watching final destination at the time as well??). this would actually be a better reason than some of the others i think are possibilities, such as needing to kill prim so that katniss would blame gale for her death and she could cut gale out as a romantic option, and get back with peeta. unnecessary… and thank you, suzanne, for allowing another girl character to be used as fodder for the ol’ “dying to help someone’s character growth” trope. i suppose all deaths in literature are plot devices, sure, but this one feels unnecessary! also, we find out about 60% of the way through book 3 that finnick, another beloved character, had been forced into a decade of sex work by president snow, and finally, finally, when he has a chance to be free and happy with his lady love, annie, he is also killed off?? honestly — why? there were plenty of other characters to kill off in the tunnels, suzanne!! basically at the end of mockingjay, i felt sad and kinda empty and i’m sorry but literary quality aside i actually prefer when characters i like end up happy and safe in the end!
  • catching fire is, conversely, the best book because it has a clear and coherent timeline and there’s mostly no major character death, plus we meet a whole bunch of fun characters that really improve the whole series (johanna, finnick, mags, beetee!) and it’s just generally lighter and a more fun read. PLUS, wow, the quarter quell hunger games has a really cool set up and it felt contained and dangerous in the best way.

those are my main thoughts for now, perhaps i’ll add more later! agree, disagree? lmk!

quarantined

it’s day 19 of quarantine for me, personally. in the last several days i’ve realized that it’s a big risk to even go out for walks and bike rides (exercise, fresh air) so we’re pretty fully committed to staying inside all day, most days.

i’ve been feeling like i’m drowning. i’ve been feeling more empathetic than i’ve probably ever been able to towards disabled folks who are homebound, all the time, rather than just for a national crisis. i’ve been feeling spiraling depression. the cooking and baking and energy for productivity of week 1, where the whole thing felt kind of like FINALLY a break from the relentlessness of my life, is definitely over now, and i struggle to get anything done. i’m struggling, honestly. at the same time i’m breathing and remembering that so many have it worse, for so many reasons (unsafe homes, in prison, no home, sick, at risk, alone,…) and i’m remembering how to care deeply for my community.

i want to help, but i’m terrified to leave my house. i want to help but i barely know my neighbors, and i live in NYC, hardest hit area in the US thus far. i want to help but i’m already feeling i can barely help myself.

but still – i want to help. and we all should want to help. this is the kind of crisis that tests our mettle, shows us who we are in crisis. i don’t mean that in a shaming sort of way – of course you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others with theirs, as they say on the airplane, ha. but still, once yours is on, once a few weeks have passed and you’re getting your grip on things again, we should try to help each other and those who are worse off than ourselves. it’s what makes us human.

ways to help, that i’ve found and find accessible for my own situation/others in similar places:

IN YOUR BUILDING/NEIGHBORHOOD:

Get to know your neighbors and see if they need anything you can help with. I don’t really know my neighbors! I’m embarrassed to admit that. I’ve spoken with most of them but don’t have their contact information, which makes organizing against our common landlord quite difficult. I’m planning to post a note downstairs  by the door with my phone number and an offer to share needed supplies, get groceries, etc.

Engage in mutual aid networks! Facebooks got ’em. I found this hub today too, check it out.

VIRTUALLY:

First and foremost, stay in touch with your friends and family. Folks are struggling right now, and anyone who has mental health stuff going on is bound to be doing way worse in this new scaryandbizarre state of things. Reach out regularly. Offer financial support if you can.

Become a penpal. I just signed up with BlackAndPink, an organization that matches an outside penpal with an LGBTQ person currently in prison. It’s an anti-incarceration organization, so please know that and engage accordingly if you aren’t personally there yet.

Become a phone pen pal. I also signed up with DOROT, who are matching folks with elderly members of the community in NYC and Westchester for weekly or bi-weekly phone chats to help with the loneliness.

Help those who are blind/have low vision abilities. Just learned about the BeMyEyes app and can’t give an adequate review, but I’ve heard good things.

SUPPORTING OUR BIG COMMUNITY:

If you aren’t part of a rent strike and can still afford to pay rent, contact your landlords. Ask them how they’re supporting folks who can’t pay rent. I did this and got a moderately satisfactory answer (payment plans, no late fees, but rent is still due).

Organize a rent strike if possible! Lots of work being done by that through Housing Justice groups.

Call utilities companies and demand that they keep everyone’s utilities going during this crisis.

Call your reps and demand Healthcare for All, Free Rent for All, freedom for incarcerated folks, and so on. Rikers has a huge outbreak and folks there are basically being signed off to die by the state government. If you aren’t an abolitionist yet, at least think of the human aspect of that — thousands of people signed away to death even as they work for pennies to produce hand sanitizers for the state. That’s uh, pretty bad.

OTHER:

I don’t really know how to sew, nor do I have the supplies, so I am not currently planning to do this, but lots of folks are sewing their own masks and donating them to local hospitals and also wearing them when they must go out. Guidelines here and here.