I just finished reading Mockingjay, the third and final book in the Hunger Games series.
You know when people say reading can transport you to different worlds etc etc? Well, this series is a prime example of that. Yes- it’s a “young adult” novel and yes- it is popular right now (the feature film version of the first books comes out on March 23), but the series is also a really well crafted and rich story written by Suzanne Collins.
It fits into the genre of “dystopian sci-fi”, or at least that’s where I’d put it. I also like to throw “with strong female characters” in there because I think that is important to the story, and a big part of why I enjoyed the books so much.
In a lot of dystopian stories gender roles are exaggerated- as if things can only get worse from here. Women are sex objects in the most obvious ways, and while sometimes this is a useful tool because the commentary of the story is focused on gender, it is also sometimes used just to shock (or even to say “see how good you have it now, ladies?” ugh barf!) .
The Hunger Games focuses on Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl. And while that’s not the most important thing about her character, it’s also not ignored. Katniss is a hunter, a provider for a family that has suffered not only because of the loss of her father but because of the world they live in. She is stubborn, and sometimes selfish, and not at all self aware (she often recognizes her selfishness, tries to change, and fails). There are countless other female characters (okay, I could count but there are enough where I would actually have to write them down and that’s awesome). If the movie is true to the book it will certainly pass the Bechdel Test.
If you are unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test watch the video I linked to above, or just google it. It is used to measure representation of women in movies. It can also be modified to look at the representation of people of color as well.
What struck me, from a feminist perspective, is the representation of female characters in this series and the way (as I mentioned with Katniss) that their gender was not more important than their role in the story. They were soldiers and presidents, and healers, and cooks, but with the same blank slate of “you can be anything” that generally only white men are afforded.
There were not so many spoilers up there… but down here there might be!
If you want to avoid spoilers, scroll down (without reading) until you see the big blue “no more spoilers” image I made just for you!
SERIOUSLY, THERE ARE IMPORTANT PLOT THINGS HERE SO DON’T KEEP READING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOKS OR WANT TO RUIN IT FOR YOURSELF!
A big part of the story is Katniss’s relationship to Peeta (the other tribute she goes into the Hunger Games with) and Gale (her hunting partner and best friend. I’ve seen people reacting to this “love triangle” (again, ugh barf!) in a similar fashion to the Twilight fandom with “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” things. I even saw a colored pencil drawing of Katniss up in a tree (presumably during the first Hunger Games) with a thought bubble that says “boys…”.
The way this boils the story down to just Katniss being consumed with thoughts of boys really bugs me. There are a lot of reasons why but here is the one that I think pinpoints it best: her relationships to these “boys” only exist as part of a much bigger picture. She meets both essentially because of the dystopian government that leads to poverty in her district and holds “games” where the country’s children are forced to kill each other. Peeta may be in love with Katniss but they are both pawns in the games, and it is often unclear if Katniss loves either of them at all anyway. Their relationships are completely situational. So to boil the story down to “who will she pick” is to ignore all the factors that go into her making, or not making, that choice.
This is not to say that many of the moments I cried while reading the books were not centered on their relationships, just that without the more interesting storyline (evil government, rebellion, etc) those relationships lose all meaning.
Nothing in these stories is simple, but at the same time it is written in a way that does not hide the complexities from you or make them obvious in a way that cheapens them. I like this.
I just have so many feelings about the three books that I can’t quite gather coherently, so here are some outbursts (mostly from the third book because it’s the freshest):
AH! Finnick who is supposed to be this ladies man admitting President Snow was selling his body!
AH! Katniss shooting Coin because anyone who takes power instead of being granted power is dangerous! AH! so good!
AH! I actually didn’t think it was necessary to give so much closure to the Peeta/Gale thing!
AH! Everyone dies all the time and it’s never not sad, but it still is always surprising when an important character dies.
AH! These books were so good!
Okay, you’re safe now. I just had to get all those out.
I want to apologize for what is probably a very silly essay type blog I just wrote about these books, but I’m not going to (why apologize for something so fun!). Also this is the longest post I’ve ever written and I could go on and on if I didn’t stop myself.
It’s been a long time since I read any fiction books just for fun that held my attention the way this series did, which is why I’m glad they are being turned into movies. I don’t know if the movies will be anywhere near as captivating as the books but I’d like to hope they will do Collins’s work justice, and get people excited to read the series.
After I see the movie I’m sure I’ll have a lot more AH! moments to report.
Thanks for reading, I hope you come by next Wednesday when I post about the awesome patches I made inspired by the book (see image above)!