The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I can honestly say that The Hunger Games was better the second time around.  I haven’t reread the final two novels in the trilogy, but the first was just so much more dynamic when I wasn’t focused on the major plot points – like who lives or dies.  I got to sit back, enjoy the characters, be amazed at the world Collins creates, and feel fully vindicated in my utter obsession with this series.  Yes, I am a total TwiHard for The Hunger Games.  I make no apologies.

After reading several YA duds, I really needed to revisit something I loved to reassure me that YA can be done beautifully and take its readership seriously.  In all the movie press junkets I’ve watched recently, I’ve been really struck by how much Donald Sutherland believes in the political and revolutionary atmosphere of Panem, especially in regards to young people.  In an election year and a world already obsessed with TERRIBLE, STUPID reality television programs, The Hunger Games could not be written or filmed at a better time.  And trust me, I’m not a bleeding heart liberal political activist by any means – or a conservative ready to take away women’s rights either – but I do believe in being aware of the world we live in and holding ourselves accountable for things we have the ability to affect or change.

Sorry for the PSA, back to the book!  When I initially read the trilogy in fall 2010, I thoroughly enjoyed the books, but didn’t LOVE them.  Honestly, I loved what they did for the Litwits book club more than what they did for me.  They were our first books and a smashing success – I’m not sure we’ve had a better discussion.  So what bothered me the first time ’round?  Easy – everyone’s obsession with the obvious to most (but not to me) love triangle.  I preferred Gale to Peeta as people, but wanted Katniss without either one.  Nothing about any romantic relationship with Gale or Peeta rang true to me and felt very forced.  I thought Peeta was lame, weak, and very manipulative.  Gale was strong, more an equal to Katniss, but firmly in a platonic way.

Now, I’m hardcore, full-on, TEAM PEETA.  Like in the completely disgusting, you’re-too-old-for-this, cougar-stalking, totally-up-for-robbing-Josh-Hutcherson’s-cradle kind of way.  Again, no apologies.  And I’ll be upfront and honest, the movie casting does play a slight role in this change.  Miley Cyrus ruins Liam Hemsworth for me (sorry, Liam – but that dress she wore to the premiere and her comments about being arm candy were puke inducing).  Josh Hutcherson, however, is just too cute to be true.  Even with his Vanessa Hudgens past.  He succeeds in encapsulating the vulnerability that I’ve come to love about Peeta.

Sorry…I digress.  That first time through, I thought Peeta was weak.  Here’s this physically sound boy with love as his motivation to survive and he lies down to die in a  mud puddle.  I believed Katniss, with her slightly blackened and shriveled heart, would eat this boy alive if they were to actually date.  Romantic love doesn’t register with Katniss – that kind of love is far too superfluous, indulgent, and silly – things she has no time for while keeping herself, her mother, and sister alive.

But Peeta is not weak.  His strengths are just softer (sorry for the lack of a better term).  They lie somewhat outside the traditional male role and masculine stereotypes and I’m ashamed for not noticing them.  Peeta’s strength is his ability to care, to empathize, to put others before himself, and to understand that to love is much stronger than to hate.  Katniss needs Peeta because Peeta’s the only person qualified to teach her about love – the one thing that wholeheartedly mystifies her.  Sure, she loves Prim, and perhaps her mother, but she’s a survivalist at heart.  And so now, when Peeta climbs into that mud hole, ready to die after sacrificing himself to save Katniss, I know what he’s really crawling into is the rather large hole or system of holes that reside inside Katniss – the loss of her father, her mother’s depression, her fear for Prim’s safety.  I’m obviously over-thinking things a bit, but my madness keeps me warm at night.

I still don’t know if I can see Katniss and Peeta ending up together in any real world scenario, but I do believe Peeta would be essential for Katniss to ever end up with anyone.  So, you Peeta lovers win.

I rambled on there, huh?  In other news, Cinna is awesome and I can’t wait for the movie!