19 August 2010

Literary Discussion: The Hunger Games

Excitement is sweeping the young adult literary nation this week as they count down to the August 24 release of the final book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. Personally, I haven't looked forward to a book release this much since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out in 2007.
I have resisted the Hunger Games books for about a year now. I recall reading on Stephenie Meyer's website that she loved the book and couldn't put it down, but I was in grad school and pregnant at the time and didn't have a lot of free time left for reading. Now that school is over and Sam doesn't require my constant attention (ha ha), I have had a lot more time for books on my hands. I requested The Hunger Games at the library, but was number 155 on the list to check it out.
One hundred fifty-five? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I knew instantly that I was missing out on something good. No way I was going to wait for 154 slowpokes to finish the book before I got a crack at it. My good friend Mary responded to my Facebook plea for help, showing up at our apartment with both The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire. That was a Monday night. I promised Mary I'd try to get the books back to her in a week.
It took less than 24 hours. That's right, almost 800 pages, devoured overnight. That's how good these books are. I stayed up Monday night reading as fast as I could, and pretty much ignored Sam and Ryan the next day (they got over it). So let me say, without further ado- READ THESE BOOKS. The third one, Mockingjay, comes out next Tuesday. I am number 285 on the library's hold list, though Mary assures me I can borrow it from her when she's done with it.
At this point of the blog post, you should stop reading if you haven't read Hunger Games yet but think you might. If you've read the books and like overanalyzing them, read on.
First of all, what struck me immediately about the books is how dense Katniss is when it comes to interpreting the feelings and motivations of others. She pretty much assumes that the world is a certain way, and has great difficulty seeing past her own viewpoint. This is a very handy strategy used by Suzanne Collins to intentionally deceive us in order to twist the plot. She's not the first to use this strategy. Remember in the first Harry Potter book, how Harry is absolutely convinced that Snape is trying to steal the Sorcerer's Stone? Because the book is written from Harry's perspective, we are unable to consider the possibility that someone else might be after the stone. When JKR reveals that it's actually Quirrell, we're blindsided. And good thing too! How boring would it have been to suspect Quirrell the whole time and be right? No, readers enjoy being wrong. Suzanne Collins enjoys misleading her readers into being wrong, and bravo to that, I say.
Here are a few examples: In Hunger Games (THG) when Katniss is saying goodbye to her friends, Madge insists that she take her mockingjay pin, not only to the Capitol, but into the Hunger Games arena itself. Why? It doesn't seem to be a bit odd to Katniss, but if you reread the scene it certainly stands out as a little bit weird. And how about Cinna constantly removing the pin from Katniss' discarded clothes to return it to her? Why should he give a crap about her pin? Again, Katniss glosses over how odd this is, but we as enlightened readers should not. By the end of Catching Fire (CF), the mockingjay has become the symbol of the rebellion. Madge and Cinna (if he's not dead) probably both have big parts to play in the coming book, as shown by their attachments to the symbol of the rebellion.
Another example along the same lines: In CF, Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Head Gamesmaker, shows Katniss his watch with mockingjay hologram during a dance. Katniss, with her disdain for all people associated with the Capitol, assumes he's just another idiot jumping on the mockingjay bandwagon. And then at the end of the book, you find out that Heavensbee is part of the rebellion! Katniss was surprised, but I was not. By then, I had learned what an unreliable narrator Katniss is, and decided not to trust her opinions about people.
If you have time before Mockingjay is released, go back and reread THG and CF. Don't trust Katniss' evaluation of things, and you'll find that a lot of the surprises in the books make sense. I expect that as Katniss is growing up more and more, she will become a more reliable narrator, and we'll see more careful thought from her in Mockingjay. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Katniss as an unreliable narrator and predictions for the 3rd book in the comments!
And I also can't wait to see what will happen re: Gale and Peeta. Yep, I'm a sap.

09 August 2010

Veggie Pasta!

Our fave next-door neighbors, the Andersons, went to Europe today. As a thank you for driving them to the airport, they gave us the perishable food from their refrigerator. I got mushrooms and tomatoes, which I hate but Ryan loves. Tonight is Ryan's friend Martin's last night in town, so we invited him and his wife over for dinner. Martin is Muslim, so he can only eat meat prepared by other Muslims.
Free veggies+enforced vegetarian guest= Pasta a la Kara! I sauteed onions, red peppers, asparagus, and mushrooms in olive oil, and tossed it with spaghetti. Top with tomatoes and grated mozzarella cheese... heaven. I abstained from the tomatoes and mushrooms, and thought it was delish. So there you go, friends. A simple, healthy, delicious meal.
In other news...
Sam is a hilarious kid. He recently discovered this stuffed monkey that he's had since he was a couple months old. He wrestles the heck out of that monkey. Sam is not one to play lying down, but not when it's monkey time!
We are moving into our two bedroom apartment in exactly 1 month! We are incredibly excited! Right now, Sam sleeps in a pack and play at the foot of our bed. It's hard to get into our room late at night to go to sleep without waking him up. And if he is awake, he probably looks something like this:
Or sometimes this:
If our kid played baseball, I'd call him Sammy So-sad. GET IT?? MWAH HA HA.
And finally, the summer semester is over, which means I now officially have a master's degree. I want to be addressed as Master Reynolds for the next week. Thanks guys.