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I am in the Hunger Games. And I am going to win.
December 21, 2010 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to the Hunger Games. Some call this trilogy the next Twilight, though others beg to differ. Either way, Stephenie Meyer is a fan (as is Stephen King) and the upcoming movie is generating all kinds of buzz, even two-plus years before its scheduled debut.

Who will play Katniss? The director is open to casting an unknown. Here's one who would like to be considered. (Spoiler warning for previous two links.) Previously and previouslier.
posted by cereselle (95 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I enjoyed the first book, but not enough to see the point of any sequels. But yeah, Katniss kicks all kinds of ass. I've secretly named my daughter that, just don't tell my wife.
posted by NoMich at 12:08 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine how Hollywood is going to make these films without an R rating if they stay true to the books. There is serious violence and death and gore of all sorts.

There isn't any reason these books should be compared to Twilight at all. For one thing, the story is much more interesting and original, and they aren't even in the same genre. The only thing they really have in common is a precipitous decline in quality by the time the last book in the series rolls around.
posted by something something at 12:09 PM on December 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


How is this different than Battle Royale? Old meme.
posted by cior at 12:09 PM on December 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


Some call this trilogy the next Twilight , though others beg to differ.

Well, The Hunger Games isn't an incompetently written, Mary Sue, misogynistic and racist screed, so yeah, I'd say it's definitely different.
posted by kmz at 12:11 PM on December 21, 2010 [30 favorites]


It's also be interesting to see if they white-wash the casting of one of the major characters, Rue.
posted by kmz at 12:14 PM on December 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's also inspired some songs written by their fanbase.
posted by litnerd at 12:14 PM on December 21, 2010


kmz: Well, The Hunger Games isn't an incompetently written, Mary Sue, misogynistic and racist screed, so yeah, I'd say it's definitely different.

Word. When did Twilight become the bar for any kind of qualitative judgment?
posted by mkultra at 12:15 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


it always blows my mind when people haven't heard of The Hunger Games. It's absolutely the biggest thing in YA, has been since before Catching Fire (book 2) came out, and has topped the bestseller lists for ages. It's also nothing like Twilight in the slightest bit whatsoever. It's far better and more complex; its popularity makes sense, whereas most of us look at the Twilight phenomenon as one of those tipping point cases of right time, right type of book.

in my own opinion, I very much liked the first book, liked the second, and had some big problems with the third, sort of like the His Dark Materials trilogy. I look back on both trilogies sort of wistfully, as almost-theres.

also, in advance:
This is just like Battle Royale!
This is just like The Running Man!
This is just like The Long Walk! etc.
posted by changeling at 12:15 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


it always blows my mind when people haven't heard of The Hunger Games. It's absolutely the biggest thing in YA

Even if we're not YA?
posted by benzenedream at 12:19 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I loved the first book. I mean, really, really loved it. I thought the second one was ok. I'm partway through the third and am quickly losing steam. It's unfortunate, really - the first book is such a well-plotted, dark, moving, beautiful young adult novel, and it's a small shame that she couldn't keep it up for the whole trilogy.

To me, the strength of the first book was the Games, and not the world they live in. It's a type of future that's been written about many times before, and though it's necessary to provide the context for the Games, I felt disappointed that the other two books focused so much more on the world outside of the Games.

Still, a pretty great achievement, and the first book is probably the very best of its genre I have ever read.
posted by ORthey at 12:20 PM on December 21, 2010


Stephenie Meyer is a fan

Now I don't want to read them just out of spite.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:20 PM on December 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


kmz, Rue's whitewashed in the fan/audition film linked above. I dearly, dearly hope that won't be the case in the actual movie. Given that Suzanne Collins is heavily involved with the film, I have hopes.
posted by cereselle at 12:23 PM on December 21, 2010


Also, casting Katniss & Co has raised some interesting race-centered debate. A much-loved secondary character, Rue, is most definitely non-white in the book; however, Katniss's race is subject to question:

Described as having “straight black hair, olive skin [and]... gray eyes,” Katniss is an accomplished hunter who keeps meat on the family table and trades excess on the black market to keep her family in necessities such as oil and grain. She’s also, in large part, a positive role model (okay, she has some issues, but it’s still a valid point). Although physical description is, generally speaking, a less-significant detail, Katniss’ status as a non-white heroine is important because she’s that rare commodity: a big time, mainstream non-white heroine.


p.s. Chloe Moretz is WAY too young to play Katniss anyway.
posted by changeling at 12:23 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, The Hunger Games isn't an incompetently written, Mary Sue, misogynistic and racist screed, so yeah, I'd say it's definitely different.

A boringly written Mary Sue is what I got from it. Did she ever miss a shot with that bow and arrow of hers? Is it a YA thing that tense scenes need to be diffused before the reader gets too upset or is that just particular to this book?
posted by Space Coyote at 12:26 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even if we're not YA?

I should have completed that thought. They're not just huge in YA, they're among the biggest bestsellers of 2010, period, and you really can't walk into any bookstore without being accosted by Mockingjay pins.
posted by changeling at 12:26 PM on December 21, 2010


That's for this thread! Now I know all there is to know about the Hunger Games!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Honestly I pretty much expect white-washing these days. I figure then I can be pleasantly surprised.

(At least Marvel seems to have listened to the outcry when the first casting calls for The Runaways' Nico didn't mentioned that she's Asian.)
posted by kmz at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2010


My wife fucking loved these books. I dunno, I dunno.
posted by boo_radley at 12:37 PM on December 21, 2010


Adults and teens alike ask for this series at the library quite a lot. Many adult book discussion groups have read it.

I think the movie could be done PG-13. There is a lot of death and violence in the Harry Potter and Eragon books but they made it onto the big screen without an R rating.

I'm Team Peeta.

Finally, the librarian in me must complete this comment with a little bit of reader's advisory. If you liked The Hunger Games, you might also like Graceling and it's prequel, Fire. Also try the Chaos Walking trilogy. Patrick Ness outdoes himself.
posted by morganannie at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


The first book was fantastic, but I never got around to the second — which differs it from, say, Harry Potter or His Dark Materials in my mind — with those series, I just had to keep reading. I just felt the first book worked well as a singular entity. But maybe someday I'll get around to reading the second and third, and I'm sure no matter how good/bad they are (heard good things about the second, not-so-good things about the third) they won't come close to being nearly as bad as the best part of Twilight.

Hunger Games reminded me a lot of Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series, which my sister really liked and I enjoyed, in a bubblegum-dystopian-future-teen-lit kind of way, like The Hunger Games.

I'm really interested in what makes books like Twilight enter pop culture consciousness, yet The Hunger Games — despite the massive number of books sold — never does. The Hunger Games is better written, better characters, with a better and more layered plot, but less commonly known to anyone outside of the tween demographic. Why?
posted by good day merlock at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


It always blows my mind when people haven't heard of The Hunger Games. It's absolutely the biggest thing in YA

I've certainly been hearing about it a lot, to the point where I should probably check it out. It seems to be *the* YA novel that people namecheck if they want to distance themselves a little from the more commercially established Twilight and Potter.
posted by Artw at 12:45 PM on December 21, 2010


It always blows my mind when people haven't heard of The Hunger Games. It's absolutely the biggest thing in YA

I don't know any young adults.
posted by empath at 12:46 PM on December 21, 2010


I was a little disappointed by the first book- I actually thought it was slightly incompetently written (not the worst! just sort of mediocre) and kinda Mary Sueish.

But maybe that's a problem with writing in first person. I've noticed that unless you are a world-class writer, first person makes your main character sound kind of like a tool. You know? As the author, writing in third person, you can describe your main character's "thick braid" and "amazing shooting skills" and it's probably fine. If you're writing in first person, and the character describes her own rad hair and bow-and-arrow awesomeness, it's tough not to sound mildly self-impressed.

(I think. This is just something I've noticed. I spent a lot of time thinking about The Hunger Games and why everyone loves it and I apparently don't on a long flight recently.)

However, it's certainly much better than Twilight. I understand that teenage girls like things the rest of us find mysterious, but dang. That book is terribly written, when I was a teenager I don't think I would have been able to skim through the awful fast enough to get to the romance.

I'm really interested in what makes books like Twilight enter pop culture consciousness, yet The Hunger Games — despite the massive number of books sold — never does. The Hunger Games is better written, better characters, with a better and more layered plot, but less commonly known to anyone outside of the tween demographic. Why?

I'm really curious about this, too. I wonder if the romance-as-plot (that is - there is no real plot beyond "Do all the boys love Bella? YES THEY DO." stuff) plus love-triangle of Twilight has more mass appeal to the 13-year-old consciousness than something like The Hunger Games, which has a plot that extends beyond the dreamy boys? Maybe talking to your friends about if you would choose the hot vampire or the hot werewolf is more fun than talking to your friends about if you think you would survive the violent gladiatorial games?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:50 PM on December 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


"Stephenie Meyer is a fan"

Well, to be fair, she hasn't actually read it. She just had a dream about something that she thought seemed a lot like what The Hunger Games must be.

Also, "...since the early days of Twilight"??? You mean, aeons ago, when publishers were desperately scrambling for the next Harry Potter? (Has it really been that long?) So this is the next next Harry Potter, but not really but it'll be marketed like it because for Heaven's sake the spice must flow?
posted by Eideteker at 12:50 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I don't know any young adults."
posted by empath


It's true. Court order.
posted by Eideteker at 12:51 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course people are comparing it to Battle Royale when it has the exact same premise. I mean, the comparisons to The Running Man and The Long Walk, well, okay, similar but not identical premises, but christ, throw in Beat Takeshi or just read the original novel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:52 PM on December 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


(YAs, Dude.)
posted by Eideteker at 12:52 PM on December 21, 2010


I'm awaiting the sequel to The Passage. It's been a long time since a multiple book series has gripped me.
posted by msbutah at 12:54 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Previously covered somewhat in this post about a New Yorker article that discusses the series.
posted by ekroh at 12:56 PM on December 21, 2010


From the TIME mag link:

After a life spent in freezing poverty, Katniss experiences pleasure--warmth, food, pretty clothes--with almost unbearable intensity, and that's where Collins' writing comes alive. (Not sex, though. The Hunger Games isn't just chaste, like Twilight; it's oddly non-erotic.) Likewise, Collins brings a cold, furious clarity to her accounts of physical violence.

So, gratuitous violence is in. Eros is more or less ignored. Does this mean I can now weigh in with some kind of grand and negative generalization about the state of kids today?
posted by philip-random at 12:58 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


At the local high school, I was book-talking The Hunger Games when it first came out and when I was finished giving a quick plot description a boy in the back of the room commented that it sounded just like Battle Royale.

1.) Score one for me for having the attention of the slouched kid in the back.

2.) Deduct that point because I had no idea what Battle Royale was and my face surely showed it.

I guess I broke even but maybe I won someone over.
posted by morganannie at 12:58 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the movie could be done PG-13.

Given the abstract logic the MPAA uses that makes a film as violent as The Dark Knight PG-13 while a non-violent drama like The King's Speech gets an R, who knows.
posted by bobo123 at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2010


Battle Royale was published in 1999, why isn't the publisher suing Scholastic? It's pretty much exactly the same thing, as Pope Guilty said.

Maybe they're wisely waiting for the movie deal / Hollywood money before unleashing the lawyers.
posted by exhilaration at 1:05 PM on December 21, 2010


You can't copyright a premise.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:06 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, gratuitous violence is in. Eros is more or less ignored.

It's like the 2000ad of my youth!
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on December 21, 2010


*sigh* Everyone says these are the best things ever, but I just can't get past the whole Battle Royale, kids-killing-kids-'cause-the-government-makes-them thing. I watch Criminal Minds, I read mysteries with serial killers, I used to read the freaking Anita Blake books and didn't turn a hair, so why does this plot idea make me squick? I have no clue.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:07 PM on December 21, 2010


There's something weird about Twilight, the Hunger Games and YA works in the last 10 years or so. Tell me if I'm crazy.

* Stories used to be, "I'm gonna do ... I'm gonna be ..."

* Now the stories seem to be, "This has happened to me."

Meaning, the heroes of YA works find themselves in situations, rather than seek out situations. It's not a "call to adventure." It's "greetings, you've been drafted." The former is self-actualization. The latter is "passive-aggressive oh noes."

* Bella Swan is just trucking along in Forks when ... oh noes ... Edward Cullen falls in love with her. And then Jacob falls in love with her. And then bad vampires are after her. She doesn't plan to do anything.
* Katniss Everdeen lives in a dystopian future where people are drafted into the games. Sure, she volunteers, but the bulk of the story is about what Peeta and the game's rules makers do to her after she volunteers.

Contrast this with Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter.

* Luke Skywalker chooses to become a Jedi. He could just walk away. But no, "I will come with you to Alderaan. There's nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father."
* Harry Potter is constantly undercutting other people's attempts to keep him safe. He's constantly jumping into danger out of a sense of his responsibility to pay back other people's sacrifices. Five minutes into the latest movie: "No. I'm not letting anyone die for me."

Is this a male / female thing?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:07 PM on December 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Luke Skywalker's uncle and aunt, the only family he's ever known, are murdered by the government and now the military is searching for him. Harry Potter discovers that he's a magician and that the most evil being ever, living or dead, wants him, personally, dead.

These aren't exactly sterling examples of agency.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:09 PM on December 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Eh, it's still different enough that it's not an exact copy. And that general storyline has been around for ages. I remember reading a short story in an old SF anthology about the Cold War evolving to something similar, with 100 participants each from the US and USSR. (Anybody have any idea what that might have been? Would be interested in re-reading that.)
posted by kmz at 1:10 PM on December 21, 2010


Battle Royale was my first thought from the summary, for people who have actually read both, what are the similarities?
posted by empath at 1:13 PM on December 21, 2010


Luke Skywalker ... now the military is searching for him.

No, they're not. They're searching for the droids that escaped with the plans to the Death Star. Luke could easily give ol' Ben Kenobi the big middle finger, hop into his speeder and take off, and the Empire would never know he existed. Moreover, well prior to this, Luke was already looking for way to join the Rebellion.

Harry Potter discovers that he's a magician and that the most evil being ever, living or dead, wants him, personally, dead.

And everyone he knows is trying to protect him and keep him from knowing the truth, and he subverts them at every chance he gets to save the day. Every book is, "don't do it, Harry!" And in every book, it's long odds and, "but I must!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:17 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm really interested in what makes books like Twilight enter pop culture consciousness, yet The Hunger Games — despite the massive number of books sold — never does. The Hunger Games is better written, better characters, with a better and more layered plot, but less commonly known to anyone outside of the tween demographic. Why

As for me, I'd never heard about Twilight until I saw the trailer for the movie. (And from the trailer, it seemed almost interesting, until I heard more about it.)

At least I have heard of Hunger Games, even though I won't ever read the series and I won't watch the movie.
posted by Billiken at 1:19 PM on December 21, 2010


I'm really interested in what makes books like Twilight enter pop culture consciousness, yet The Hunger Games — despite the massive number of books sold — never does.

I don't think I'd ever heard of Twilight until the movies came out, so there's that. Perhaps THG will get greater mind share among the 18+ crowd just because of the inevitable media onslaught. Vampires are also trendy (not so much dysptopian novels) and Twilight looms large in that space.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:25 PM on December 21, 2010


msbutah, I just finished reading The Passage, and can't stop thinking about it. Am so excited there is going to be a sequel, because even though it stands alone, the ending gutted me.
posted by szechuan at 1:27 PM on December 21, 2010


These recaps, which I coincidentally stumbled across just a couple days ago, are an ideal way to not-read The Hunger Games, if you're curious about the plot but not curious enough to actually read the book.
posted by ook at 1:29 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


you really can't walk into any bookstore without being accosted by Mockingjay pins

Any bookstore? Ridiculous. I admit I've seen a few people reading Mockinjay on the train or at the airport, but really, like a handful of people. I saw it promoted a little bit this summer at one Barnes & Noble and that is it. I go to various bookstores every week.

To me, it does not compare at all to The Girl Who Appeared on All Those Books. And those movies seem like they're going nowhere.

It all smells a bit like marketing to me.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:43 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I swear, I am not going to turn into a hateful bastard and ruin this series, but I have to say this: I really, really hate first person present tense.

God, I really, really hate that site. Three paragraphs and I'm ready to tear my eyes out. So horrible.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2010


re: Mark Reads, fwiw. I am obviously not the target audience.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:46 PM on December 21, 2010


Well, The Hunger Games isn't an incompetently written,

Well, I read through a few pages. Amazon's samples, downloaded in my browser. Doesn't seem to like sentences. Complete ones that is. Expressing exhausted determination, I get it, character's voice. Not my cup of tea.

I'm surprised my gothy teenage daughter hasn't brought this home; she reads and rereads the Twilight junk and some other horror/scifi-ish stuff. I might have to recommend them to her, but it I dunno about recommended something overly violent. It doesn't sound too gratuitous, but the violence might also be why she hasn't been reading them.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:01 PM on December 21, 2010


The Hunger Games is a chilling, bloody and thoroughly horrifying book,

I've recently come to realize that there are a lot of YA books out there that actually seem a bit more A than the A books I thought I was reading.

By way of example, there is a scene in the opening pages of one of Pratchett's Tiffany Aching YA books where a fifteen year old girl is calmly trying to convince a drunk, who has just beaten his thirteen year old daughter into a miscarriage, to flee town before the mob that is coming for him finds him and either beats him to death or hangs him.

As I'm reading this, all I could think was "Fuck, this kid is hardcore. Kids today got it good with the books being targeted at them..."

And then I remember Twilight and I have to reconsider that position.

Now I'm going to have to check out The Hunger Games. Sounds promising.
posted by quin at 2:16 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed The Hunger Games, even though I found the ending kind of a let down and I didn't like the romance part. I felt the romance was a really unneccessary way to advance the plot or create tension; I think this is where the Twilight comparison mostly comes to play, as Bella has to choose between Edward and Jacob. It was also a way of saying "Gee Katniss, you need a man to feel complete despite all your bad-assery!"

I found the first two books well written, but the last one...there's some valuable lessons in the last one, but what made the series so exciting was its race to the finish pacing and cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. This probably made ending it tricky for Collins. However, still a good read. Many people are bothered by the fact that it's a series about children killing children, but this didn't bother me for some reason.

I'm so envious of today's YA. It is so good! I remember YA growing up in the 1980s and 90s to be rather bland and uninspiring. I pretty much wrinkled my nose at the genre until a few years ago.
posted by Calzephyr at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nitpick: Hunger Games is not a trilogy. There are only the first two books. There never was a third.
posted by kurumi at 2:35 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed reading the Hunger Games trilogy. Literary masterpieces, they are not. I mean, it's not Charles Dickens or Shakespeare up in here or anything. But they're a pretty entertaining, quick read for what they are.
posted by kerning at 2:39 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I will say that I had never really given any thought to the casting of the movie until I started watching Skins. My boyfriend told me that Kaya Scodelario, who plays Effy, was supposedly being considered for the role of Katniss. I'm okay with that.
posted by kerning at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2010


Nitpick: Hunger Games is not a trilogy. There are only the first two books. There never was a third.

huh?
posted by morganannie at 2:44 PM on December 21, 2010


I think one of my favorite things about the Hunger Games is how it just can't tie things up like a normal book would. It's not enough to make a stand and change one thing, it's not enough to make a big statement. Single actions are never really the cause of change, and it might actually make things worse before they get better. It's the perversity of how complex the world actually is, while a lot of YA plot points seem to build to the ONE BIG THING THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING. That's the sort of thinking that turns us into people who'd rather make one big gesture rather than see something through in the long haul.
posted by redsparkler at 2:44 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Clearly few agree, but I actually liked and very much respected the last book. I've hardly ever seen a YA novel deal with depression and PTSD like that, particularly one that tackles the difficult issue of PTSD while you're still in the middle of fighting a war. The fact that the plot crawled as the heroine spent most of her time weeping in closets was kind of remarkable, if not the funnest read. It was probably the most interestingly fervent anti-war YA book I can recall, particularly given the ambivalent ending and repudiation of almost everything that transpired in the first book.
posted by chortly at 2:47 PM on December 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Battle Royale was my first thought from the summary, for people who have actually read both, what are the similarities?


I have read them both - but I read Battle Royale right when it came out so it's been awhile.

Spoilers ahead

The plot is very similar - evil government sends kids to fight it out to the death. The motive of the government in both cases is to keep the population under control, but The Hunger Games has a more "bread and circuses" feel to it. The games are televised and the entire population is forced to watch. In the well off Capitol (which doesn't send any children to fight), it is a big reality TV event with stylists, opening ceremonies and interviews. Think American Idol ... with killing. It is implied that the citizens in the Capitol are living such carefree shallow lives that they don't see anything wrong with the games.

Even though both books feature kids killing kids, I found Battle Royale the more disturbing of the two books. I think that was probably because in Battle Royale, the plot follows multiple viewpoints, so a lot of the people you get to know end up dead. Since the Hunger Games is all told in first person, you only know the other kids through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen.

Also, Battle Royale had guns - which were not allowed in the Hunger Games (too easy to kill with)

I totally loved the trilogy, even the third book that everyone seems to hate. I dressed up as a clueless capitol Katniss fan for Halloween (complete with facial tattoos, crazy hair and mockingjay pin), though nobody knew what I was supposed to be.
posted by Lapin at 2:49 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


jenfullmoon: *sigh* Everyone says these are the best things ever, but I just can't get past the whole Battle Royale, kids-killing-kids-'cause-the-government-makes-them thing. I watch Criminal Minds, I read mysteries with serial killers, I used to read the freaking Anita Blake books and didn't turn a hair, so why does this plot idea make me squick? I have no clue.

Children represent the future, innocence, and rebellion against adults. Kids killing kids, especially at the request of adults, shows that the future is doomed, innocence is dead, and they're too selfish or self-centered to gang up against authority.

empath: Battle Royale was my first thought from the summary, for people who have actually read both, what are the similarities?

From the current Wikipedia summary:
In the book, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death. The Hunger Games exist to demonstrate not even children are beyond the reach of the Capitol's power.
And from the Wikipedia summary of Battle Royale, the novel:
According to the rules, every year since 1947, 50 third-year high school classes are isolated, and each class is required to fight to the death until one student remains.
Apparently the reasons for this vary between the different forms of release. Apparently, the book casts it as a way to terrorize the population (similar to The Hunger Game). In the manga, the economy collapsed, and the government created the Program to revitalize it. In the film version, the economy has collapsed, joblessness rates have skyrocketed, and adults fear the youth. They have a random class of kids kill each-other off to regain some control.

In short: it depends.

Nitpick: Hunger Games is not a trilogy. There are only the first two books. There never was a third.

morganannie: huh?

See, the joke is that there is only one Matrix movie, where there were really three. And that was then applied to the Hunger Games trilogy, implying that the last book was no good.

And that is how you beat a joke to death.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:50 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Single actions are never really the cause of change, and it might actually make things worse before they get better.

Going a bit afield from the main topic, this is why I feel you must read at least Dune Messiah to fully understand Herbert's thesis with Dune. There's hints in Dune to the coming darkness, but you can read it as a self-contained triumphant messiah story. DM completes the story, the tragedy of messianic myth.
posted by kmz at 2:53 PM on December 21, 2010


Is this book anything like A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka? Because I really liked that one.
posted by adoarns at 3:00 PM on December 21, 2010


I'm surprised my gothy teenage daughter hasn't brought this home; she reads and rereads the Twilight junk and some other horror/scifi-ish stuff.

This is where I point you at Poppy Brite's Lost Souls and warn you that there's explicit sex.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was probably the most interestingly fervent anti-war YA book I can recall, particularly given the ambivalent ending and repudiation of almost everything that transpired in the first book.

Have you read Chaos Walking books? They also dealt with war in what I thought was a very unexpectedly serious way for a YA series. Again, though, I thought it lost steam in the third book.
posted by something something at 3:23 PM on December 21, 2010


Is this book anything like A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka?

Nah, it's more like American Hunger by MF Grimm.
posted by box at 3:27 PM on December 21, 2010


I read The Hunger Games just a few days after I had watched the excellent movie Winter's Bone.

Katniss Everdeen struck me as a virtual doppelganger of the movie's protagonist, teen-aged Ree Dolly - played by outstanding newcomer Jennifer Lawrence - surviving and taking care of her family in the midst of crushing rural poverty in the Ozarks, as opposed to Katniss' doing the same amidst the crushing rural poverty of District 12. The atmospheric similarity of tone - in my mind, anyway - was really strong.

I suspect anyone who has seen Winter's Bone would agree that Jennifer Lawrence not only should be the choice to play Katniss, in a sense she already has played the role.
posted by John Smallberries at 3:27 PM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


You probably already know that Winter's Bone is based on a novel by 'country-noir' author Daniel Woodrell. I think his books are great.
posted by box at 3:30 PM on December 21, 2010


BTW, speaking of dark YA books, did anybody read Robert Cormier back in the day? I loved his stuff, though I didn't read his whole oeuvre. Both I Am The Cheese and The Chocolate War have fun sounding titles but incredibly dark and disturbing storylines. And After the First Death is one of the few YA books I know of that delves deeply into terrorism, from the point of view of both hostage-takers and hostages.

I wonder if they'd still hold up if I read them today. Might be time to hit up Amazon.
posted by kmz at 4:15 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had never heard of The Hunger Games. I was heading to Burning Man and wanted to bring something fat and juicy to read while hiding in the shade, so at Costco one day, picking up last-minute Burner supplies, I found this book in the reading section and threw it into the pile.

As I was waiting for my friend, I sat down to eat my $1.50 Polish sausage and Diet Coke combo meal, and started to page through the book.

"It's awesome," a chirpy little voice next to me said. I looked up, and there was this 10 year old Hispanic kid, round face obscured by thick glasses, with a grin as wide as the playa desert. "Seriously, awesome. I just wanted to tell you that you won't regret reading it. Have a nice day!" and with that, he flashed another heartbreaking grin, and disappeared into the masses.

Any book that has a 10 year old coming up to a 40-something woman who is a complete stranger to tell her something is seriously awesome is seriously awesome.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:08 PM on December 21, 2010 [25 favorites]


It's been bothering me all day what the plot reminds me of, and I've now suddenly realized.
posted by randomination at 5:25 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I did read Cormier, kmz, and it blew my sheltered little mind. Books that didn't end happily? Main characters DIE WTF? I think it started my obsession with dark and angsty stories, which went on to be fed by William Sleator.
posted by cereselle at 7:03 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm really interested in what makes books like Twilight enter pop culture consciousness, yet The Hunger Games — despite the massive number of books sold — never does.

My guess, having never read either (but having read a lot about Twilight) is that Twilight is way more conformist and in support of the status quo: find a guy, let him stalk you, marry him, have babies. Hunger Games, like Battle Royale, sounds like it essentially teaches the message that the rich are evil and want to exploit and torture kids. It may get super popular, but works that glorify youth rebellion AND class warfare have a few strikes against them when it comes to penetrating the mass consciousness to become cultural phenomena the way Meyer's drivel has.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:54 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Robert Cormier and William Sleator? This is turning into the best possible of all MetaFilter threads.
posted by Zozo at 10:04 PM on December 21, 2010


Cormier's harsh Fade is slated to be a movie soon.
posted by benzenedream at 11:39 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread caused me to download and read the first book in one sitting. Pretty entertaining! And yeah, it somehow reminded me much more of The Great Outdoor Fight than Battle Royale.
posted by painquale at 12:50 AM on December 22, 2010


This is so timely! I just wrapped up the third book an hour ago!

Also, @HeyAllie: Any book that has a 10 year old coming up to a 40-something woman who is a complete stranger to tell her something is seriously awesome is seriously awesome.

I had the same experience in Hong Kong. And yes, awesome it was.
posted by the_royal_we at 2:09 AM on December 22, 2010


I suspect anyone who has seen Winter's Bone would agree that Jennifer Lawrence not only should be the choice to play Katniss, in a sense she already has played the role.

Reading Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games side-by-side you can see how YA really doesn't measure up to A.
posted by ninebelow at 3:49 AM on December 22, 2010


You know you are old when the thing everyone says this is a ripoff of is a) something you never heard of and b) itself a ripoff of at least 2 prior things you know of.
posted by DU at 4:42 AM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm in the this-is-still-Mary-Sue-territory camp. Nothing on the same level as Twilight (which I still think is just Meyer writing about her imaginary friends from some lonely teenage fantasy), but still enough to leave me completely uninterested in Katniss's plight (and actually a little bit hostile towards her).

But, that said, a strong female character who isn't reliant on the men around her for protection and direction is a welcome counterpoint to Twilight, whose only real effect on the undead was to have third-wave feminism spinning in its grave.
posted by citands at 5:08 AM on December 22, 2010


Hunger Games has somewhat subtle, twisty depth. It's a world with consistent rules that aren't immediately apparent, and it pushes back at Katniss in consistent ways. That was refreshing. The emotional anguish that steadily amped up through the three books was just wow. Cathartic and draining at the same time. I still have mixed feelings about vicariously living it.
posted by zeek321 at 6:35 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think people in this thread understand that "Mary Sue" implies a character with no flaws (or bullshit ones, like "she's too nice," or "she can't stop herself from saving other people") and who never actually fails.

Katniss is an expert archer (justified: she's been hunting to feed her family for basically her entire life) and a general badass when she has to be, but she's also deliberately written as petty, childish, cowardly, arrogant, selfish, obtuse, and reckless, and these flaws lead directly to significant failures with major consequences.

There's plenty to criticize—she's not overly burdened with emotional depth, and the constant romantic waffling drives me up the wall—but let's not redefine "Mary Sue" as "character I don't like" the same way we've defined "fascism" as "crappy things the other team does."
posted by Zozo at 7:46 AM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


A Mary Sue, as people are using it here, is a term that implies that the main character is essentially an avatar for the author.

"Pollyana" maybe the term you're thinking of, but that's more relentlessly optimistic than lacking in flaws.
posted by mdaugherty82 at 8:58 AM on December 22, 2010


No, I'm thinking of the term "Mary Sue" as it's used to mean a character who's "exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas," "lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws," and by whom the "protagonists are all overwhelmed with admiration for her beauty, wit, courage and other virtues." It can certainly imply an author avatar with these properties, but that's in the context of fan fiction, not an original work.

Of course, the above link goes on to say that "Mary Sue" is difficult, if not impossible, to define, and is used so broadly it barely has any meaning anymore—but the connotations of too-perfect, too-successful, and too-beloved are generally accepted, and I don't really see any of them applying to Katniss.
posted by Zozo at 9:17 AM on December 22, 2010


...at this rate I might as well just pop over to the NetHack thread and start arguing about the merits of amulets of reflection vs. silver dragon scale mail and whether re-rolling your wizard until you start with a spellbook of identify and a ring of slow digestion is as ethically bankrupt as save-scumming.
posted by Zozo at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2010


Zozo, I admire your rigorous defense of the "Mary Sue" trope, but you're defending an incomplete definition. Inherent in "Mary Sue" is that it's a projection/wish-fulfillment of the author. Yes, it lends itself well to fan fiction, where it's obvious when authors basically insert themselves into existing canon, but it can also apply to new fiction.

Granted, I haven't read either book, but I've been bombarded enough about Twilight to say that it's not a real "Mary Sue" moment. Bella is an outsider, but not an outcast, and is modelled after countless "commoner wooed by a prince" characters. She also lacks the "minor character improbably saves the day" element that "Mary Sue" generally relies on.

Twilight is just Victorian-style sexual repression packaged neatly for tweens.
posted by mkultra at 10:03 AM on December 22, 2010


Inherent in "Mary Sue" is that it's a projection/wish-fulfillment of the author.

I probably shouldn't have been so quick to dismiss that aspect, so: granted. But a) being the author avatar doesn't, on its own, a Mary Sue make, and b) I don't see anything to support the idea that Katniss is supposed to be an author avatar anyway.

But now I'm just being pedantic of the sake of it. And because it's a slow day at work. I'd rather talk about my ideal cast for the inevitable film, but I just realized I don't really know any young actors anymore.
posted by Zozo at 10:24 AM on December 22, 2010


"Mary Sue" seems to be applied to every strong female protagonist written by a female author.
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


These recaps, which I coincidentally stumbled across just a couple days ago, are an ideal way to not-read The Hunger Games

Worth it just for their use of the romantic portmanteaus Peeniss and Katpee.
posted by zerbinetta at 11:04 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really liked Nancy Kress's blogpost on the plausibility of the series.

I enjoyed the first a fair bit, though I also thought it was hopelessly derivative. The second had a fantastic first half--which actually made me cry--and a second half that was an over-the-top, ridiculous near-parody of the first. I pretty much despised the third. It was emotionally overwrought and, at times, manipulative. Though I enjoyed the epilogue there, I found it otherwise drab and didactic. I get tired of books that lecture endlessly, and it's essentially a lecture on how all morality is grey, except, like, war is evil and, oh yeah, there are some evil bad guys.

It also made it clear something I thought abundantly illustrated from the beginning, but that apparently most readers missed: the love triangle was manufactured; Collins always knew which "team" was going to win, and had to rely on contrivances to keep the triangle going for as long as she did. Why even include it? It could have been a touching and stirring love story, or a good war story with a strong love subplot, otherwise.

I think out of all of the trends YA has gotten from Twilight, the love triangles are the ones I've hated the most. There was only one author I recall who used them heavily when I was a teen--LJ Smith, who I deeply suspect was an inspiration for Meyer. But her love triangles tended to take a specific, and fairly interesting path of development. A girl would be caught between two guys, a perfect golden boy, and a dark, smoldering loner. Usually, she'd be initially matched with the golden boy. Like, really matched--we're talking bf/gf, none of this waffling, I-can't-decide stuff. But then, over time, our heroine would realize that she had more in common with the loner. Simultaneously, he'd be learning about himself and gaining some ounce of humanity, redeeming himself slowly so that he wasn't just some stalkerish creep (YA trope #2 that I hate). At the end, the logical choice for our girl would be clear, even if the choice wouldn't have been wise at the time.

Meyeresque triangles tend to be different. The girl is usually much more clearly attracted to one guy, despite the fact that they're both, you know, cute. But she either emotionally manipulates the other guy or waffles endlessly over who she likes best. In the LJ Smith model, realizing that you're with someone you don't really love is a sad, painful thing. In the Meyer model, it doesn't really matter if someone is getting hurt here, because not choosing gives you some tangible benefit. It always makes it difficult for me to empathize with these girls. I hurt a few boys in my time, but rarely in such a protracted, selfish way as the way that, say, Bella does Jacob (I know, I know, he gets her daughter. It's still terrible) or Katniss does to, you know, that guy that she doesn't choose.

Anyway, Collins is still a trend initiator. I can't tell you how much derivative dystopian novels with love triangles are coming out soon. Also, like her book, they're all (gratingly: I'm not a huge fan) told in first-person present. Collins isn't the first YA writer to do this, of course, but now it seems depressingly requisite.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:14 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The publisher's web site for these books is a video. God help us every one.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:22 PM on December 22, 2010


Bella is an outsider, but not an outcast, and is modelled after countless "commoner wooed by a prince" characters.

If you're telling me anything in Twilight had any deliberate literary construction that went into it, I'm calling bullshit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:33 PM on December 22, 2010


It also made it clear something I thought abundantly illustrated from the beginning, but that apparently most readers missed: the love triangle was manufactured; Collins always knew which "team" was going to win

Well, yes. She presumably plotted the main points of the series in advance, and "what will Katniss decide" would be a main point. I agree that the "who will she choose" story was contrived, but it wasn't contrived because Collins knew the ending, it was contrived because it wasn't realistic.
posted by jeather at 6:17 PM on December 22, 2010


It's not really that it wasn't realistic, though--not precisely. It's that she never formed a compelling argument for the other party. If you read the first two books carefully, it wasn't just foreshadowed; instead, there was no question, really, what the correct choice was.

If you're going to make the characters' difficult choice between two hunky guys a main plot point, and drag it out for several books, you need to make the losing party seem to be a sensible choice, too. Otherwise you're reducing her to a tease.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:24 PM on December 22, 2010


Spoilers on the off chance you do not know who Katniss chose to spend her life with.

Bearing in mind that I agree that the "which attractive boy who adores her will Katniss choose?" plot was badly done, I think the intent with Gale was not that he was a good choice in the way Peeta was, but that Katniss knew him, could already trust him, trusted him to take care of her family, and already loved him. Like a brother, yes, but she did love him, and not choosing to be with him risked losing him permanently. (I think that would have been a more authentic way for her to choose; I dislike the way that plotline ended, which seemed to get her off the hook in a lot of ways.)

So I think the argument wasn't who Katniss loved, it was what kind of future for herself she wanted to choose -- to simplify, fighting and loyalty, but less love, with Gale, or hope and risk, but more love, with Peeta. I don't think it was well-done; I don't think that the options were well-defined, and I think that who she would choose was telegraphed from book 1 (but it always is -- the Uglies trilogy, the Twilight books, etc etc), and I think that the way she chose was a copout (but better than if they'd just killed one of the guys off, so she doesn't really need to choose at all). But I do think that there was a kernel of good idea in the triangle plot.
posted by jeather at 6:54 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The manufactured ending to that love triangle was the thing that irritated me the most about the third, very irritating book, and I'm glad to see I'm not alone on that. It was clear that Collins wanted Katniss to end up with Peeta but couldn't come up with a good reason for her to reject Gale; that contrived business with him being a bomb inventor was just total trash. I'm getting mad all over again just thinking about it.

I really expected so much more from that third book, particularly with regard to Peeta's character development. Collins had made him seem so key to Katniss's character in the first two books, but we'd never had the opportunity to get to know him at all. In the third book she had plenty of opportunity, but never developed him to be any deeper than any of the other soldiers Katniss fought alongside. Really disappointing.
posted by something something at 11:18 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Expressing exhausted determination, I get it, character's voice. Not my cup of tea.

Lisa: Almost done -- just lay still.
Linguo: Lie still.
Lisa: I knew that! Just testing.
Linguo: Sentence fragment.
Lisa: "Sentence fragment" is also a sentence fragment.
Linguo: [shifts eyes around] Must conserve battery power. [shuts himself down]
posted by ostranenie at 6:52 PM on December 23, 2010


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