Tuesday, August 31


For those of you anxiously awaiting the end of the Dani-reads-The Hunger Games-saga, I'm done.


I'm ready to get back to real life.

I think taking longer than 24 hours to read Mockingjay will make you go crazy. I did it in in like 20 -- sandwiching eight or so hours of restless, Peeta-dream-filled sleep -- and three hours later my mind's still spinning and I'm hoping a stream-of-consiousness blog post will settle things down so I can get something done for the first time in several days.

So obviously this book is totally engrossing. Engrossing is an understatement..."consuming" might be better. I liked Catching Fire the best, except for how it ended leaving you dangling on a precipice waiting for the next installment. I'm just glad I read these when I did and not sooner. But back to Mockingjay...

**Alert: spoilers below**

First, what I loved. Mostly I loved Peeta (though not his name -- too close to pita bread). Not really like a character-crush, but like an aching for someone you care a lot about. At one point I felt like he was too good to be real, but I think his character gets rounded out enough to be painfully believable.

So I should be happy with the ending, right? At first I was. I almost cried. I was certainly relieved. Initially I was satisfied. Satisfied but depressed (like you said, Debra). But...

I needed more. More ending. I needed more...what did I need more of? I think I needed to see more of how Katniss changed, how she came around, how she recovered. Because two pages and a short epilogue weren't enough to counter the seemingly endless time(s) she spent in a drug- and/or grief-induced haze. And I wanted to see her final rebirth. There are so many times where she pulls through just to be crushed again, and each time we see her emerge stronger. But this time...she's down so long, longer than any of the other times, yet it takes just a few paragraphs to pull her out and suddenly we're supposed to see her living (mostly) happily ever after? The ending left me remembering her at her weakest, even though I was told she came through and learned to be happy again. I guess I wanted to see that.

Aside from that -- which I think is what's leaving me stomach-tied still (unless I'm catching a bug or something -- or wait, maybe I haven't eaten today?) -- I have a few other issues to process to try to purge it all from the forefront of my consciousness.

The last half of this series (half of Catching Fire and all of Mockingjay) is a rollercoaster. I started to feel manipulated. Like the plot twists begin to depart from plausibility and are there just to jerk your heartstrings in a new direction. [The torture/brainwash, for example. I almost couldn't take it. I thought, Seriously?] It's like a primetime drama-turned-soap opera (ER comes to mind), every episode has to be more intense, more incredible than the last. Just when you think things are on the up-and-up...crash. Again and again. Then all the battles and barely-introduced characters getting killed off and Katniss getting knocked out...it all started to blend together and I was tired of it, ready for the book to just end. Just tell me how it ends and let's get it over with. Yet I was anxious with the anticipation. It just felt drawn-out. It was...draining.

And yet some aspects felt almost too hasty...Coin's villainy, Prim's death, the Gale resolution, Peeta's recovery...

So I guess the bottom line is that I think...I think it was a great series. I still think a lot of it was contrived and sensational. But still, it engulfed me, and more importantly, really moved me. And I think that counts for quite a bit.



It just hit me. The reason that the ending left me wanting more, plot manipulations aside. Katniss is impulsive, hot-headed, and even vindictive. But more than anything else, I think her biggest flaw is that she's selfish. She often fails to see the bigger picture or the view from someone else's perspective, and instead she sees only how things affect her. And we never really see her grow out of that. And that -- that maturity -- would be what makes her worthy of someone as good as Peeta. But do we see her grow in that way? I don't remember anything that would seem like we did.

What do you think?

Monday, August 30

Catching Fire: A humble review


Contrived still? Yes. Violent? Yes. Cruel to use a chapter-ending cliffhanger to end the book? YES.


So, so good. SO good.

What else is there to say? There's the satisfaction of being one step ahead of the protagonist, the exasperation at the stupid things she does because you know (or are pretty sure you know) more than she does, the exhilaration of flouting the oppressive authority, the trepidation of just who might die next, AND the confusion over which boy she should choose (assuming one of them doesn't get killed off)!

Am I really still hungry after a big lunch or is my stomach tied in knots?

Wednesday, August 25

You will probably disagree with this, or "I liked it but it bugged me"

So I just finished The Hunger Games (I know I'm like two books behind) and my feelings about it are on my mind. And since I'm the sheriff 'round these desolate parts I'm going to put it out there.

And if you're in my book group and haven't read it yet, maybe save this blog post to read for later.


The Hunger Games irritated me.

It was entertaining—gripping even. Perfectly paced, with some well-rounded, likable characters. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. I binged and read it in two days. I was anxious to know how it would end (though I hoped for a little more resolution than I got). And it wasn’t even all that predictable.


It was just so…contrived.

I was engaged until Collins turned the romance on strong somewhere in the last third. (Disclaimer: eye roll.) Then I started thinking that this whole book was just an excuse to tell this sort-of, does-she-or-doesn't-she love story. The author doesn’t really ask us to think about the politics or the economics or the social questions raised by a hegemonic government that pits 24 teenagers in an arena to kill each other on live TV (not to mention the plausibility issues with this premise). Our heroes don't even really struggle against the system. This twisted dystopia was just a venue for girl to nurse boy back to health and snuggle up to him in a sleeping bag and have him brush her hair away from her face. (Which I would guess is the most popular aspect of this book anyway.)

And that’s the irony. The Gamemakers manufacture this grisly event for the morbid pleasure of the unquestioning Capitol citizens (whom we should detest), and the leaders then manipulate the rules for maximum romance-drama to keep the audience engrossed and coming back for more. Which, when you think about it, is not that different from what Collins does to her readers: we take the killing in stride, we root for our favorite character(s) [who, thanks to the first-person narrative, we know won't die], and we gobble up the gooey stuff.

Maybe Collins was trying to make that deeper point after all...but I doubt it.

(all of which does not mean I won't be reading Catching Fire sometime soon)