Regularly scheduled Bad Books, Good Times returns next week. Longer explanation in the first post. Also, our senior theses are due today. Leave us reassuring comments.
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Okay, and thus begins the teen romance. On the one hand, we had pretty much nothing but survival in Part Two, which was nice in retrospect, but if the entirety of Part Three is Katniss slowly falling in love with Peeta, I am going to be a little annoyed. It’s occurred to me during this chapter, however, that my predictions about the end of the novel from the last post are probably completely wrong. If Peeta and Katniss win the Games because of their “star-crossed lovers” ploy to gain audience favor, they can’t exactly end the charade when they win the games, now can they? People would be furious. They’re gonna be stuck with each other whether after the Games for the rest of their lives, madly in love or playing it, whether they like it or not.
But Peeta seems to like it so far. Amirite???
I’ve made myself far more vulnerable than when I was alone. Tethered to the ground, on guard, with a very sick person to take care of. But I knew he was injured. And still I came after him. I’m just going to have to trust that whatever instinct sent me to find him was a good one.
The instinct of love, Katniss.
But here’s my biggest criticism against the turn this novel’s taken with the whole “Katniss nursing Peeta back to health” storyline. It isn’t so much that it’s boring YA romance bullshit (although it is), but it ruins the narrative pacing, which the novels’ already had a bit of trouble with. Part Two was all awesome all the time because it was Katniss fuckin‘ surviving and dudes fighting each other to the death with strategy, both shitty and no, and that was fun. Now it’s Katniss and a half-dead dude she can’t make herself care about romantically hiding under a rock and the other people trying to kill them are just kinda not here for some reason. Additionally, the whole “feast” thing just seems like cheating. I’m okay with the gifts from the sponsors and the Gamemakers setting fire after them and stuff, but this feels like them stopping and totally altering the game and I cannot say I am a fan.
Okay, even if I don’t like how we got there, I do like what went down in this chapter. Thresh, the tribute from Rue’s district, saves Katniss from a torturous death at the hand’s of Cato’s ally, girl from district 2 whose name I can’t remember, and this was genuinely unexpected. I suppose we already have Cato as the big, hulking enemy and Foxface as the dark horse, probably deadlier enemy, so intimidating wild card Thresh going all deus ex machina on Katniss’s assailant was a good move. And, of course, someone who was about to slowly carve up Katniss with a knife before actually killing her getting her head bashed in with a rock is pretty satisfying. If the next chapter isn’t more desperate, race against time violence, but instead more ruining the narrative pacing with another slow chapter of Katniss and Peeta somewhere between pretending and being in love, I’ll be more than a little upset.
Well, Foxface’s death was anticlimatic, to say the least, but clever. Which is kind of how I feel about most of what’s been happening during the Games. We never learned anything about Foxface aside from her scavenging survival strategy, we didn’t get any time to hate the Careers (and I mean really hate them, as opposed to a general “oh, those jerks” sort of emotion) before they got killed off, and we don’t even know how Thresh died. My point is that none of these characters are being adequately fleshed out. We only passively dislike them as Katniss’s enemies who are kind of not the best people in the world, as opposed to learning anything about them. Instead of getting caught up in the mind games that the dystopian society forces on these people, it’s all very underdeveloped. All we have left now is Katniss and Peeta, who have gotten so annoying by now that I can’t understand how they could possibly make for good television, and Cato. Now, admittedly, Cato’s probably the most fleshed out of the other characters, but that’s like saying a can of Coke has more caffeine in it than a glass of milk. Making things worse, Katniss and Peeta are each a case of Red Bull. Which is my roundabout way of saying that this could have been written better, and when that point can be made with a shitty metaphor about caffeinated beverages, there are issues.
But while I think I had a sense of Foxface, who she was and how she operated…
No, Katniss, this is exactly what I just made a shitty metaphor to explain you did not know!
…[Cato’s] a little more slippery. Powerful, well trained, but smart?
Ok, I can see how in this sense, the lack of characterization kind of helps add to the danger because we know very little about a very lethal opponent, but in general, this is not a very good way to make things more dramatic, and I still maintain that knowing much more about him would have made things way more dramatic. Think Ender’s Game and how well we got to know all of Ender’s child enemies and how great that made the novel, except don’t think about it too long since Orson Scott Card is a terrible person, okay?
Instead when Cato does finally show up, it’s more of what The Hunger Games has been doing the whole time: avoiding direct confrontation. Turning the competition away from each other, momentarily, and against whatever new threat the chapter leaves them all running from. Admittedly, if the chapter just ended with a fight scene between the three characters, that would probably have been kind of boring, but the way we’ve avoided much direct interaction at pivotal moments between the tributes – Thresh and Foxface dying off screen, without confrontation – it’s kind of spoiling the novel’s dystopian “make children fight each other oh ho ho aren’t we horrible” thing.
HOLY SHIT GAMECHANGER RIGHT HERE HOLY HOLY SHIT. I realize I was just mocking the dystopian government for not being particularly dystopian at the moment but now they have turned dead children into murderous wolf-human hybrids. What. The. Fuck.
And then Cato dies and the “two candidates from the same district can win” rule is revoked, very predictably. Far more interesting, however, is Cato and Katniss’s “fuck you, Capitol” simultaneous suicide pact, which I’ll admit is a fantastic rebellion against the Capitol that I totally didn’t see coming. So they unrevoke the rule and “unrevoke” is totes a word now.
This chapter totally saved Part Three. The one-two punch of the, again, because I can’t get over this, murder wolves made out of dead children, and nonchalant betrayal of the promised rule change just restored all the hatred and horror the reader held towards the Capitol before the Games began, and possibly heightened it. We know we can’t trust the government, and with two chapters left after their last desperate stunt, I seriously doubt Katniss and Peeta are actually out of trouble yet.
Well, the predictions I made at the very beginning of Part Three came true, at least. Nothing I guessed at the end of Part Two came true. No loss of limb, Peeta totes wants Katniss and always has. Not sure about Prim yet, so maybe I’ll get something. Although I did call this ending, just much later than I’d like to admit.
…I hear Casear Flickerman greeting the audience. Does he know how crucial it is to get every word right from now on? He must. He will want to help us.
Actually, this brings up a good point I haven’t thought about until now. Who’s actually in charge of the Capitol? So far everybody we’ve seen in the Capitol seems to hate it, or at least side against it. Who are we really supposed to be scared of? Who is Big Brother?
The anthem’s playing yet again and we rise as President Snow himself takes the stage
Oh, okay, that’s who.
I guess. We still have no idea who the fuck he is though, except that he’s the leader of a dystopian government that the entire nation now sees as someone who was outsmarted by two teenage lovebirds. Which would probably be bad for his reelection campaign, but he probably doesn’t have to worry about that. But seriously, this is the real big bad. Who the fuck is he?
“New leg?” I say, and I can’t help reaching out and pulling up the bottom of Peeta’s trousers.
Okay, this is tragic, but HA I GOT ONE PREDICTION RIGHT.
Gale. The idea of seeing Gale in a matter of hours makes my stomach churn. But why?
OH MY GOD. KATNISS. PAY ATTENTION.
“It was all for the Games,” Peeta say. “How you acted.”
OH NO, KATNISS, NOW YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE NO BOYS.
“I don’t know. The closer we get to District Twelve, the more confused I get,” I say. …
“Well, let me know when you work it out,” he says, and the pain in his voice is palpable.
…I can’t explain how things are with Gale because I don’t know myself.
Also because we literally haven’t seen the other romantic interest since Chapter Two, so maybe that has something to do with it.
His voice isn’t angry. It’s hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me.
This actually turned out to be much more interesting than I anticipated. The love triangle exists not so much because Katniss can’t decide between two boys; she’s got much worse shit to deal with right now. She defied an Orwellian government and now they’re going to make her pay. At first, I still wasn’t convinced this would be grounds for a sequel, since the open ending is much more haunting and powerful. But then I realized the one thing that would not only legitimize the sequel, but also make it really, really good, and have to admit, with a certain sort of horror, that it’s the love triangle. I bet anything that in the sequel, it’s Gale’s turn to participate in the Hunger Games, as punishment for Katniss’s actions. And Peeta has to train him, simultaneously hating him as Katniss’s other love interest, and doing his best to help him, both for himself (as a genuinely nice guy), Gale (who will hopefully get lines eventually), and Katniss (the girl who broke his heart). For added fun, maybe they throw Prim in there as tribute too. Just to kill Katniss a little more. Because not only will Gale and Prim have to participate in this, but you can guarantee that the Capitol won’t offer two victors again.
Of course, the book’s been out for a while, so I probably could just look up the plot summary on Wikipedia to find out, but that doesn’t seem sporting.
It wasn’t as good as I was hoping, but it certainly had some fantastic moments. Its highest points came when it did the effects of the Orwellian government best with the absolute nightmare fuel like the reaping, the tracker jackers, and the mutated wolves made of, again, dead fucking children. Yet it pulled a surprising number of punches, primarily Thresh’s off-screen, never-detailed death.
Overall, I’d say I liked it, but it had some big problems with narrative pacing. There were only a handful of times throughout the Hunger Games themselves that the tension felt like it was rising more than it was keeping steady or, worse, falling, and ultimately it was difficult to get any sort of climax out of it, and I’m trying very hard not to make a very inappropriate joke right now.
Which leads into my next point: the love triangle (okay, I did my best to not make a joke). I’m actually pretty content with it. I know, call me crazy, but as far as young adult fiction romance goes, this was not only tolerable, but genuinely added a lot to a narrative that focused on the effects of a dystopian, Orwellian government. The fact that Katniss got sucked into the romance to put on a show that she absolutely had to put on for her survival and broke some hearts in the process is a legitimately interesting angle, and sets up some great potential for the sequels.
So if you’re on the fence about reading this book and, somehow, still want to read it after I broke the whole damn thing down chapter-by-chapter, and you take nothing else out of it but this: The Hunger Games is NOT Twilight. It’s not “Which boy do I pick? The one that’s secretly loved me forever or the one that’s secretly loved me forever?” driving the entire plot. It’s more like a side-effect of the plot. The plot itself is all dystopian politics, and it’s genuinely engaging, and I can recommend it.
Of course, for all I know, the sequels could be all “PICK A BOY, KATNISS”.