The Girl Who Was On Fire

*spoiler alert for people who haven’t read The Hunger Games Series. This book is an analysis of the series

The Girl Who Was On Fire by Leah Wilson is probably the first secondary source I’ve read since university. Reading a book of short essays/articles about another book may seem dull or nerdy to some, but I love it. I’d like to write books like this, in fact on my second reading of The Hunger Games I took notes and highlighted quotes with the intention of writing an in depth analysis. I haven’t gotten around to writing it, or the one I started about the show Dollhouse, or any of the projects I’d love to do if I had a year off. Someday I’ll probably get around to it, but the thing is the market for these things passes so quickly and I don’t have the time to dedicate to it.

So about the book….

The introduction and first chapter made me cringe. I worried this was not the brain food I wanted but a happy meal in disguise. Would it just be fans gushing (says the woman who spends most of her time on this blog doing just that). Thankfully, the deeper I got into the book the more I liked it.

In “Your Heart is a Weapon the Size of your Fist” Mary Borsellino explores how President Snow’s reign is a mix of Big Brother from 1984, and Big Brother the reality show. What a horrifying combination that makes! Resistance through love may sound like a hippy slogan but Borsellino makes some compelling arguments.

“Love when there isn’t supposed to be love is a hugely subversive political act”(33)

Katniss and Peeta end their Hunger Games by choosing to kill themselves rather than one another. Borsellino argues this is the ultimate act of defiance under their circumstances. They have been dehumanized by the games, and the Capitol expects them to kill for survival but the young characters prove that they can not be manipulated into giving up their humanity, even if it means giving up their lives.

Katniss’ love for Rue is also notably rebellious and played down by the Capitol. That she made a true friend in the arena and mourned her with respect is part of how she gains the support of some districts in the rebellion.

“The effect of this tiny, humanizing act-singing to a dying child-has immediate and far reaching consequences.”(34)

In her article “Smoke and Mirrors” Elizabeth M. Rees points out a few things I missed in the book.

“comparing her eyes to “slush” foreshadows that she is really a counterpoint and twisted mirror image of the Capitol’s President Snow”(56)

This is actually a really important thing to notice in the description of Coin. Her character’s corruption is so essential to the story, because it eliminates the black and white of Capitol=bad and rebellion= good. She adds an extra element of reality to the rebellion, as the rebels become  what they were trying to destroy.

I very much enjoyed Carrie Ryan’s “Panem Et Circenses” mostly because of her acknowledgement that we are drawn into the violence of the Games just like the characters we criticize:

Even while Katniss rails against the Games as disgusting and barbaric, we the readers turn the pages in order to watch them. We become the citizens in the Capitol, glued to the television, ensuring there will be another Game the following year. Thanks to us, the ratings are just too high to cancel the show.” (111)

This is a very important observation. It is not just the Snow’s government guilty of orchestrating this violence, it is the viewers who attract sponsors. This should make us think about how we as consumers and bystanders are guilty of allowing horrors to happen in our world. It should also make us think about how trashy reality television is only on the air because we (as a society) watch it.

In “Not So Weird Science” Cara Lockwood reminds us that the Mutts in the Games are not so far fetched. She points out scary genetic experimentation in real life and compares them to those manufactured mutations in the novel. She argues that “science is a tool; it’s how you use it that matters” (119) and I agree. Science in itself isn’t evil, but it can be used for it. This reminds me of magic is treated in Harry Potter. Witchcraft isn’t inherently evil, it’s what you do with your power that defines you. The problem with science is, like Lockwood points out, once you invent something you can’t control how it will be used. Sometimes scientists are well intentioned but the consequences are horrific (think nuclear bombs). The uncontrollable nature of genetic mutation and “playing god” is symbolized like so many things by the Mockingjay.

If the discussion of ethics, science and politics aren’t your thing, don’t be turned away. There’s also an article “Crime of Fashion” by Terri Clark that analyzes the importance of appearances and clothes in the novel and in real life. I have a friend who went to fashion school who I think would love this chapter. What I found most interesting was the part about Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin. The impact their wardrobes had on their campaigns really put’s Cinna’s work into perspective.

In “Bent, Shattered, and Mended” Blythe Woolston examines how the characters in the novel demonstrate signs of PST. Based on her analysis I think Collins did a fantastic job.

In Sarah Darer Littman’s “The Politics of Mockingjay”  she discusses (among other things) how Katniss differs from Gale. In that “she’s still capable of seeing the so-called enemy as individuals, rather than as a monolithic entity”(171). This is one of the reasons I’m so happy she doesn’t end up with him. Gale is an extremist, and hates the people of the Capital with such lack of mercy that I can’t abide by him.

There’s a lot more to this collection than I have shared and if you are a big fan of Collins or a pop fiction literary analysis geek such as myself I think you’ll enjoy it.

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The Hunger Games Trailer

I’ve written before about how in love with the Hunger Games I am.  I was really worried the movie would ruin the book for me but this trailer gives me hope for the movie!

Here’s why I think the trailer promises a good movie:

-They aren’t glorifying the fighting. Collins wrote the Hunger Games as a social commentary not just an action packed story and it’s really important to me that the movie makes you think about the fighting. Peeta talking about still being himself when he dies shows that they are going to stay true to the story.

-The people in the Capital look ridiculous and they are doing the whole makeover thing in a way that questions the validity of prettying her up for the slaughter, which is perfect.

-I think the look of horror on Katniss’ face at the reaping when Prim’s name gets called was perfect. I was skeptical about Jennifer Lawrence but I think she’s going to rock this role. Prim’s grief also looks just right.

-They didn’t give away too much for the people who haven’t read the books but they gave those of us who have read them glimpses of  all the key characters.

Overall I think I’m going to love the movie and it will create even more readership for a wonderful trilogy.

Delirium

Delirium by Lauren Oliver is a fantastic example of a YA dystopian novel. Dystopian stories appeal to teens (and me) for a number of reasons

  • They allow for honourable rebels. Teens are notoriously rebellious and dystopia validates this by creating a justifiable rebellion.
  • By the same token, they present characters like the good-hearted bad boy, a stereotypical ideal that appeals to young female readers such as myself (hey, I’m youngish!)
  • They elaborate on the flaws that trouble us in our own society and let us think about issues from a safe distance, stories in our own time sometimes hit too close to home and are harder not to bias about
  • They have the opportunity to include action, adventure, romance, mystery and basically anything you could want in a story

Love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all things, it kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

Delirium is a lot like Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, because there is a socially and politically mandated surgery that everyone undergoes. In both stories a piece of the personality is removed from citizens to maintain order and fix some perceived flaw in human nature. I find it interesting that in Uglies they remove intelligence and heighten emotion and in Delirium they remove feeling to focus on logic. Hyper sexuality vs. repressed sexuality but equally dystopian! Both alterations are disguised as prevention of heartbreak and loneliness but result in an irresponsible and dysfunctional population ruled by a totalitarian government.

This is a common element of dystopian novels, but Oliver does a great job of exploring the hegemony and brainwashing involved. She also create an interesting social structure that reinforces the control of those in powers.

Family history and the bond between children and their parents who have been disgraced feels incredibly real. The infatuation and the discovery of intimacy in the context of a sexually repressed society is well done. The giddiness of first love described in terms of illness is executed exquisitely. Oliver has a talent for portraying emotional connections.

There is some sneaking over an electric fence that reminds me of another great dystopian novel that’s gotten lots of attention: The Hunger Games. I don’t think she’s a copycat though, Oliver makes the novel her own with her beautiful diction and uses familiar tropes to explore a unique perspective of love.

If you like the statement “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, this is a book for you. Lauren Oliver is definitely an author to keep track of.

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and The Bookish please check out their blog for details

This week’s question Most Inspirational Characters

*I’m sorry that several of these are not from YA but I adore them so much I can’t not include them.

  • Richard Rahl from Wizard’s First Rule (Not YA): he was a kind, curious, humble woodsguide who was thrust into a life of violence, magic, and politics. I’m less inspired by the multiple times he saved the world and more impressed by the little things. That he sees good in everyone (including his enemies like Denna), insists on treating animals well, and respects hard work more than rank or wealth are what make me love him. He makes so many choices for the good of others at cost to himself, and risks loving a woman who’s magic would undo him. He fights for the rights of minorities and women, always literally seeking the truth.
  • Rachel fromWizard’s First Rule: the poor, abused little girl who proves to be a survivor. Her courage and determination make a difference.
  • Peeta from The Hunger Games: I fell for the boy with the bread right away, he was sweet and generation and open. He makes this list because of his speech on the roof about not letting the Capitol change him.
  • Chuck Mitford from Freedom’s Landing (Not YA): he took a ragtag group of refugees and helped them survive incredible odds. He’s an amazing leader because he recognizes ANYONE with skills in a very racist , hateful situation,  and he listens to all opinions and takes them into consideration for big decisions. He protects Zanal even though he’s jealous of him, and does everything he can to make an egalitarian society.
  • Claire from Outlander (not YA): isn’t afraid to use her knowledge of medicine to save everyone she can even though it repeatedly ends up getting her accused of being a witch. She takes risks to save the man she loves and gives up daily luxuries like toilet paper, electricity and antibiotics to stay with him. She bloody demands to be heard in a time when women were treated like property.
  • Tommy from Generation Dead: he stands up for the rights of his people. Through seemingly small acts of rebellion, like dating a living girl and playing football he makes a statement that zombies have the right to live. He always sets a good example, resisting retaliation against those murdering his people because becoming violent would make him the monster he is thought to be. Tommy’s blog brings together zombies across North America, and he starts a civil right movement that could protect thousands.
  • Cinna from The Hunger Games: although he was raised in the Capitol (I think) he recognizes the faults of his society and uses his art (fashion design) as a form of rebellion. Art is my favourite kind of protest, and I find his creations inspiring. Even when Snow dictates a certain dress for Katniss, Cinna makes it into a masterpiece and a political statement that he knows he will pay for.
  • Peter from The Resistance: resists the temptation of eternal life because he believes that new generations are necessary and deserve a chance to live.
  • Melanie Stryder from The Host: Very few people would be strong-willed enough to not only survive the ordeal of having an alien take over her body, but end up becoming friends with that alien. Melanie is a fighter, but is also amazingly compassionate.
  • Jessica from Wonder: I actually don’t remember much about this anymore but when I was in Gr.7-8 this book had a huge impact on me. I do remember being so influenced by Jessica. I’m really sad this is out of print.  

What characters have inspired you?

End of 2010 Survey!

The Perpetual Page Turner is hosting this survey. Go to her blog to link to the responses by tons of bloggers.

White Cat (Curse Workers, #1)1. Best book of 2010? This is hard! Since there are so many great books I’m going to interpret this as: best YA book published in 2010 to narrow it down. Holly Black’s White Cat was pretty incredible. It has action, mystery and suspense, not to mention character depth and all around awesomeness. I’m picking this book because it’s not just something I loved myself, it’s one that I confidently recommended to my younger brother, my mother and my friends. It is very rare that I think a book would appeal to all of them but Holly Black’s writing will be appreciated by a variety of audiences.

Dateable Rules, The: A Guide to the Sexes2. Worst book of 2010? I’m not usually a book basher, but there was this really terrible book I picked up at work. Dateable Rules, The: A Guide to the Sexes was really awful. At first I thought it looked pretty cool, but um no on closer inspection it’s incredibly sexist and makes me angry. According to this book men need to “conquer” and be in power in the relationship, and women need to “learn to shut up”. The fact that I disagreed with the religious nonsense just added to my general dislike of the book.

linger cover art3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?  I was most disappointed with Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved Shiver so much that I over-anticipated the sequel. It’s not that it was terrible, it just didn’t live up to the hype in my mind. I’ll still read the next book in the series but my expectations have gone down a few notches.

Generation Dead (Generation Dead, #1)4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? I was most surprised by Generation Dead. I forced myself to read a zombie book (I’m quite squeamish) because I was TRYING to have a zombie night at the library for teens (no one showed up but that’s a different story). I was pleasantly surprised by Daniel Waters! His book is a beautiful social commentary about discrimination, and I found myself loving the zombies and their friends. The book I was dreading turned out to my one of my favourites, and I’ve been recommending it a lot.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? I have a hard time answering this because I recommend things every day, at work, to friends, on the blog…I’be probably promoted Scaredy Squirrel the most but that’s not YA. My recommendations really depend on how I’m recommending it to.

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset
6. Best series you discovered in 2010? The Hunger Games trilogy! I can’t believe I resisted reading it for so long. Everyone kept telling me to read it and I was like “kids killing each other? Ick!”  because I thought it was just violence for violence’s sake. Once I realized that Collins is critiquing violence, reality tv, and oppressive governments, I was all in. I love dystopia and social commentary. Plus there’s tons of suspenseful action, Katniss kicks butt and Peeta is a sweetie, how could you not love the series?

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Suzanne Collins, Daniel Waters, Gemma Malley, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Kim Harrison, Simone Elkeles….

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?  The Feegles in The Wintersmith had me laughing pretty hard.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?  The Hunger Games trilogy. I read it in 4 days and it would have been less if I didn’t have to wait to get the next book.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? I think it was Linger but I mentioned earlier how that worked out.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?


nightshade cover links to reviewRules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)Sisters Red cover art

12. Most memorable character in 2010?  I was most struck by Cassel from White Cat, Chloe from the Summoning and Haymitch from Hunger Games but so many more characters touched me this year

 13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? I love the Scottish and formal language of The Forest Laird. Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times was pretty poetic.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Most books have a pretty big impact on me, I don’t think I can choose.

 
15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?  The Hunger GamesI’ve already explained why

 Book Blogging in 2010 (optional)

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2010? To be honest I just started really following any blogs in 2010. Jan 2010 my friend Erin opened my eyes to book blogs and I’ve been eating them up ever since. Some of my favourites are The Green Bean Teen Queen, Forever Young Adult, The Story Siren, Pure Imagination, and YA Bliss. I’ve also been reading Mark Reads  every day and he’s a good one to follow for a specific book but he has less variety.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?  I liked reviewing The Resistance, Generation Dead, and Sisters Red (I have a lot of trouble deciding)

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?  I wrote a post about why sometimes reading formulaic books is reassuring. I unfortunately haven’t had enough people commenting to work up a good discussion between people. It’s something I’d like to have next year.

 4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog? I really enjoy the discussions on the Forever Young Adult blog. They manage to be hilarious but bring up serious issues at the same time. For example their post about resolutions that makes some good points about changes I’d like to see in YA writing/publishing but is laugh out loud funny.

 

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? The Ontario Library Association Super Conference was amazing. It was my first conference and I was thrilled just to be on the expo floor getting autographed books, fighting stormtroopers and learning about new technology. That I got to go to informative sessions beyond that blew my mind. I can’t wait for more conferences.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010? This is all really new to me and I’m pretty easily excited, so I have trouble picking a specific moment.

7. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Um I’m gonna go with book trailers, I don’t think I knew about them in 2009 and they are a great way to promote books. I also love my new Kobo.

First Half of The Forest Laird

Since The Forest Laird is a bit longer than what I normally review on the blog and I haven’t had much reading time I want to record my impressions as I go.

Speaking of which I have been really enjoying Mark Reads’ chapter by chapter reviews of the Hunger Games. I like experiencing books along with others, and reading his impressions of small details and his surprise as he goes along rather than a summary when he is done makes it feel like talking to a friend about books you are reading more than reading a review of a book you might want to read.

Anyway back to the Forest Laird! I remarked earlier on how much I love Jack Whyte’s use of language and half way through the book this is still true. I think the formal almost poetic language of the narrator suits him, after all Jamie is both a priest and a librarian and his education at the Abby would be very formal. Will’s dialogue has a celtic slang to it that I would love to hear out loud but he is still much more formal than most characters I read in YA. This makes sense because a) the time period b) his education at the Abby c) his upper class family so even though he prefers a lifestyle of physical exertion in the forest he would speak what seems like formally to contemporary youth.

I’m torn on how I feel about Jamie narrating rather than Will. I find Jamie’s perspective on Scotland as a whole,  the library, and Will’s childhood interesting. However I’m just past a point in the book where Will hadn’t been seen in years, and I would have liked those years to be recounted by Will himself. I think Whyte could have used letters to Jamie as a method of getting Will’s perspective in there. I was under the impression that this was going to be the case but haven’t come across it so far. Sometimes Jamie is too far removed from the action and I’d rather be in the thick of it.

Jamie is also a conscious narrator, and he acknowledges that his story is being read by strangers in the future.

“I live already in a land full of people who have never known the fear and uncertainty, the daily terrors and hopelessness, that haunted their parents and their grandparents in those now fa-off times. The Scots folk today rememeber nothing of the Grand Cauuse, apart from dreary, scarce believe old tales by their elders…..Thus i am forced, if some future reader is to understand my tale, to deal to some extent, at least, with recent history, if for no other reason than to identify  the people and events that were to shape my unfortunate cousin’s destiny”

I understand the point of this passage. I am one of those ignorant people in the future, unsure of what happened in that historical time period. I don’t remember how it all went down and I need the background story. I also know that for him to outline it all wouldn’t make sense as someone from that time unless he was intending on recording it for future generations (as a priest and librarian in his time period this would be a priority for him because back then monks were like publishers and only religious matters or history deemed important by them was recorded). Despite my understanding of the need for the passage I found it alienating. This is partly because I’ve been reading things like The Hunger Games trilogy where present tense first person narration makes me feel like I am experiencing the action first hand. To be made aware that the action is long over takes away an urgency, and to point out he does not have direct knowledge of much of it makes me long for Will’s story in his own words.

I’m enjoying the book but not devouring it as I have been plunging into some YA recently. I think this is because there is a lot more exposition than action and while I see that William Wallace is going to be an intreagueing Robin Hood figure (Whyte indicated he has reason to believe Robin Hood legends are based on Wallace) it is taking much longer to get into the Robin Hood days, or for Jamie to really be aware of what his cousin is living like.

More on this book soon

Mockingjay

The fact that I read Mockingjay in the bus terminal, on the bus, on my break at work and in noisy places in general made it difficult for me to be as absorbed in the book as I was with the first two novels.

For the most part I loved it, although there was more politics and personal crisis with less action so how you feel about it may depend on what you liked about the rest of the series. The characters were developed even further.

One thing Collins did really well was explore how the media is influenced by those in charge and how those in charge and the military are influenced by the media. I liked that it worked both ways in the novel, because I think this is true in real life. If you are interested in that subject you should also read Amusing Ourselves To Death and Homer Simpson Goes to Washington. Both are nonfiction but presented in such a way that they are enjoyable for people who prefer fiction.

I have to say that while Peter gained sympathy in this novel I lost a lot of respect for Katniss when she voted “yes”. I won’t give away what the vote is for, but I was shocked that a character who had lived through the Hunger Games would allow any more violence against young people.

The cover art is great and I love that the feathers are textured! I adore when books have an extra tactile experience.

So now my debate is which Katniss outfit should I wear next Halloween or if we have party at the library that calls for dressing up like a character?? Cinna’s creations are awesome but hard to replicate. I think I could really have fun with a Hunger Games Party.