…Or How My Faith in Young Adult Novels was Restored through Dystopian Rebellion, a Kickass Heroine, and the Absence of Sparkly Vampires
Well readers, I did it again: I found another book series to love. Will it be like my love for Twilight, where I later realized how stupid I was for liking it in the first place? Eh, maybe. But for now, my allegiance hasn’t been swayed. You could say, that the odds of me continuing to like it are ever in my favor.
If you didn’t catch the reference, or just haven’t been paying much attention to the news recently, I’m talking about The Hunger Games trilogy. The first movie in the series came out last week and has been getting plenty of coverage, most of it favorable (okay, I’ll stop). After years of prodding from my friends, I finally read the books over winter break and was shocked at how much I actually enjoyed them. Granted, they were extremely depressing, but they were also quite the page-turners. For those of you haven’t read the books, they follow the story of 16-year old Katniss Everdeen and her struggle in a dystopian society in the future. Wikipedia sums the series up nicely:
The Hunger Games trilogy takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of the current nations of North America, in a nation known as “Panem”. Panem consists of a rich Capitol, located in what used to be Rocky Mountains, and twelve (formerly thirteen) surrounding, poorer districts which are under the hegemony of the Capitol. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol wherein twelve of the districts were defeated and the thirteenth destroyed, every year one boy and one girl from each of the remaining twelve districts, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected by lottery and forced to participate in the “Hunger Games”. The Games are a televised event where the participants, called “tributes”, must fight to the death in a dangerous outdoor arena until only one remains. The winning tribute and his/her corresponding district is then rewarded handsomely with food and plenty, seeing as the lower districts are starving.
Pretty badass, huh?
Normally if I enjoy a young adult novel, I’ll write it off as a guilty pleasure. THG is definitely not a part of this category. Sure, the plot lines aren’t as complicated as some of my other favorite books, but author Suzanne Collins thought a lot about the emotions of her characters in difficult situations. She also makes readers realize the dangers of our affinity for reality shows and she gives a realistic perspective of the aftereffects of a war. I certainly can’t say the same for Stephenie Meyer and the morals that come from Twilight (um, if you’re average in every way, a supernaturally hot guy will fall in love with you?).
So why does this make people think of Twilight? Oh yeah, because there’s a bit of a love triangle in THG. All together now: groan.
A little over a year ago, I wrote about my “love” for Twilight. Besides the fact that Meyer’s writing is terrible, Bella Swan is the poorest excuse for a female protagonist that I have had the misfortune to stumble upon. Comparing Bella to Katniss is not only an injustice to capable women, but it gives a bad rep to THG. While Bella dedicates her whiny self to chasing Edward, Katniss takes care of her family and goes off to fight in the Hunger Games. Sure, she’s manipulative when she pretends to love Peeta to gain sponsors. It’s not a positive quality, but hey, it makes her a more interesting character. As Tina Fey said, “Bitches get stuff done.” We know this from other powerful female protagonists. In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara uses her deviousness to get her way. Nobody likes her, yet she’s such an interesting character. I could go on and on with more examples. You can bet that a female character won’t be considered strong unless she is smart/clever, she acts, and she stands up for what she believes in. Katniss, unlike Bella, has these three qualities, and she is actually worth getting to read about.
Another reason why the series aren’t comparable is the fact that they’re different genres. They’re both targeted at young adults, but Twilight is a romance series and THG is set in a dystopian society. Even though there were a couple of battles in Twilight, no major character died. In THG, Collins was merciless in who she killed off—even more so than JK Rowling—which makes sense, considering Collins’ father fought in Vietnam. While hundreds of pages of Twilight are dedicated to how pretty Edward is (seriously, I lost count at how many times Bella described his beauty), Collins’ books are spent in warzones with Katniss fighting for survival.
You may be asking yourself, “What about the love triangle?” Ah yes. We’ve all heard about Bella’s debacle with Edward and Jacob, because she’s in love with both of them. In THG, the story is a little more complicated. Gale, someone who she befriended while hunting, gets feelings for her (not shown until the second book, however). Peeta, the boy tribute from her district, admits that he has always loved her, which she uses to her advantage in order to gain sponsors. Throughout the second and third books, Katniss never officially falls in love with either of them. Sure, Gale’s feelings confuse her, but his radical ideas push her away. On the other hand, she feels bad for hurting Peeta’s feelings, but she sees it as part of a deep-rooted friendship. Although she considers what it would be like to be with one of them, the focus of the series is with the war, not her love life.
As with my first Twilight post, I could continue this analysis. However, I think I’ve made my point pretty clear. THG isn’t the newest concept for books (others are calling the series a remake of the Japanese novel Battle Royale), but there’s no reason why people should be reminded of Twilight. If you get the chance, I’d recommend reading the books and watching the movie. Jennifer Lawrence did an amazing job of portraying Katniss’s fierceness and the visuals are stunning. As a bonus, there’s not a single vampire in sight.