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The Girl Who Was on Fire - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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December 16th, 2010


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09:04 pm - The Girl Who Was on Fire
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is the first book in a trilogy that has taken the YA lit world by storm. I knew the basic premise but very little else, but the basic premise pretty much ensured I would love the series, because if there's one thing I heart, it's dystopias. (Except there are many things I heart, as you must surely know by now.)

In the futuristic world of The Hunger Games, the Capitol forces each district in the country to offer up one boy and one girl. And then they take these children into an arena. And then these children must kill each other until only one survives.

Let the Hunger Games begin.

(And did I mention the Games are televised? Yes, this is entertainment, folks.)

The above was pretty much the extent of my knowledge, and if that is enough to whet your interest, just stop reading this post now and start reading the books. You'll thank me later, after you curse me for your inability to do ANYTHING ELSE BUT READ THESE BOOKS.)

Oh, yes, this is a capslock-y series. Is. It. Ever. The story is told in first-person present tense by Katniss Everdeen, a badass archer who has a heart but is not very in touch with her emotions, which is probably good since she's about to have to either kill a bunch of teenagers or be killed by them. Some people don't like first-person present tense, but I love it, as it puts you right in the character's head as things are happening. You are experiencing everything with her. She doesn't know what's going to happen, so neither do you. It makes the action scenes that much more visceral and immediate, especially since Katniss is literally fighting for her goddamn life.

Collins's prose is not extraordinary, but it's easy to read and gets the job done. Where she really shines is her ability to continue raising the stakes higher when you didn't even think they could go any higher. Her cliffhangers are fucking evil, but they're not cheap: the danger they portend is real and continues into the next chapter. There are surprises at every turn, making the books nigh impossible to put down. There's practically as much HOLY SHIT and WHAT THE FUCK and SHIT JUST GOT REAL packed into these three books as into all six seasons of Lost.

There is an element of romance in the books: the inevitable love triangle. I was prepared not to care, but Collins cleverly weaves the romance into the plot such that it becomes integral without being sappy. In fact, it's pretty fucked-up, as one of her love interests is in the arena with her...which means she's going to have to kill him at some point. That tends to put a damper on a relationship. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Collins adds several fucked-up layers to the romance in this story, which made it far more interesting.

Plus, you get the social commentary about reality television and our media- and fashion-obsessed culture and the political commentary inherent in stories about oppressive dystopias. I grew to really love the Capitol, and by love I mean they are AWESOMELY TERRIBLE.

I hesitate to give any indication of what happens in Catching Fire and Mockingjay, as I had no idea whether they still took place during the Hunger Games or whether the Games were only in the first book and there was more story afterward. I will say that there is more to the series than the Hunger Games. There is the dystopia to address, after all. And one thing I love about the series is that Katniss, like Buffy, like Aang, like Harry, like so many before her, is a Chosen One, but it is because of who she is and what she does, not just a twist of fate.

I will also remind you of my comment about stakes. The books get progressively darker, more hardcore, and more grim. You may think you know what you're in for. YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW, YOU GUYS. YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW. Collins so often defies expectations, rarely taking the easy way out. This is not a "safe" narrative at all.

Finally, you should really be reading these books if only to follow Mark Reads The Hunger Games. Mark is foolishly reading one chapter at a time and posting his thoughts, and it's almost as fun reading his reactions. Also, it's funny every time he declares that SHIT JUST GOT REAL because shit gets real, like, every chapter. This one time he said he was finally prepared, and we all laughed at him. YOU WILL BE UNPREPARED.

This is it! Now is the time for you read the Hunger Games books! Ask for them for Christmas! Or buy them for someone else but read them before you give them to her, like I did! Or you can try to get them all from your library, but you may have trouble with all the holds on Mockingjay, and, believe me, you'll want to read these books one after the other. Go, buy, reserve, read! And may the odds...
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(32 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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[User Picture]
From:zenkitty_714
Date:December 17th, 2010 11:54 am (UTC)
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Okay! You convinced me! I buying them now! Dammit.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 17th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
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Hurrah! I am convincing!
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From:lareinenoire
Date:December 17th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
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...be ever in your favour!

::grin::

I need copies of my own. I want to reread them and pick them apart now that I theoretically have spare time.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 17th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for not leaving me hanging.

I bought them in hardcover just to read them before gifting them to a friend, but I'll be buying them in paperback to own.
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From:grammarwoman
Date:December 17th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
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I heard so much hype about the series that I actually went out and bought the first book. Then two days later I bought the next one, and then the one after that. Then my husband read them. They suck you in HARD.

I don't know if I can even go back and re-read them anytime soon, but they were definitely worth it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 17th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC)
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They suck you in HARD.
THEY TOTALLY DO.

they were definitely worth it.
They're good stuff. I'm glad they're popular. Katniss Everdeen is way cooler than Bella Swann.
(Deleted comment)
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From:behindpyramids
Date:December 18th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
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I've heard about them, avoid them, but you've convinced me. If I was sitting in a plane right now I'd be headed to the library.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 18th, 2010 06:40 am (UTC)
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I love when I am convincing! I can't wait to read your thoughts.
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From:cran
Date:December 18th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
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I read The Hunger Games before there were even sequels. How do you think that felt? ;) It wasn't fun, let me tell you! It was especially difficult when some of my writer friends got hold of Catching Fire ARCs and kept talking about how great the book was.

I am following along with Mark Reads, but I'm getting a little annoyed at people in the comments (and Mark himself) complaining about how "clueless" and "dense" Katniss is for not realizing Peeta's feelings are real. The girl's fighting for her life! A crush should be the farthest thing from her mind. It makes sense that she only starts realizing it during the "boring" chapter where she actually gets a chance to sit and think for a while.

I hear that at the Mockingjay release parties, there were little girls in "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" shirts, which... ugh. Shipping is NOT THE POINT of these books.

Also, I hated the ending of Mockingjay. I actually didn't like Mockingjay much in general... but damn, do I ever love the first two books. They're among my favorite books now. I love dystopian fiction.

(Sorry about the repost -- accidentally posted this as a reply to an unrelated comment at first. My new layout is confusing.)

Edited at 2010-12-18 03:37 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 18th, 2010 06:44 am (UTC)
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I read The Hunger Games before there were even sequels. How do you think that felt? ;)
Hee! Oh man.

It wasn't fun, let me tell you! It was especially difficult when some of my writer friends got hold of Catching Fire ARCs and kept talking about how great the book was.
How evil of them! But, yeah, it was great. I was afraid it'd suffer from Middle Book Syndrome and be boring and full of setup for a rip-roaring third book, but, no, it was kickass on its own!

I hear that at the Mockingjay release parties, there were little girls in "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" shirts, which... ugh. Shipping is NOT THE POINT of these books.
Shipping is the point of everything in the world, Amy.

Also, I hated the ending of Mockingjay. I actually didn't like Mockingjay much in general
I definitely prefer the first two books, but it had its merits.

They're among my favorite books now. I love dystopian fiction.
Meeeeeeee too. I think I'll finally tackle the Uglies books next month.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 18th, 2010 06:49 am (UTC)
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They are some of the most compelling books I have ever read.
Seriously!

And even if it is not always enjoyable, per se, I have to admire that she has the balls to follow through her set-up to its logical conclusion. Damn.
Agreed.

And I was all, I went to bed at 430 because I could not stop reading! Got several funny looks, but anyone who has read the series gets it.
Hee!

I really don't see how they are going to make movies out of these!
I know, right? I mean, there's lots of stuff I can't wait to see on the big screen because it'll be AWESOME, but there's so much shit they'll have to cut. And change. Some of this stuff ain't gonna fly with mainstream Hollywood. They've let the HP movies get darker along with the books, but still.

The first was a present, I didn't know it was the first in a series and I was all AGHGHHGHGHGHHHH and flaily when I got to the end.
It's such a sweet ending. Because it basically says, "So, you thought the story was over? OH IT'S ONLY JUST BEGINNING."
[User Picture]
From:chrryblssmninja
Date:December 19th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
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Collins's prose is not extraordinary, but it's easy to read and gets the job done. Where she really shines is her ability to continue raising the stakes higher when you didn't even think they could go any higher. Her cliffhangers are fucking evil, but they're not cheap: the danger they portend is real and continues into the next chapter. There are surprises at every turn, making the books nigh impossible to put down. There's practically as much HOLY SHIT and WHAT THE FUCK and SHIT JUST GOT REAL packed into these three books as into all six seasons of Lost.

There is an element of romance in the books: the inevitable love triangle. I was prepared not to care, but Collins cleverly weaves the romance into the plot such that it becomes integral without being sappy. In fact, it's pretty fucked-up, as one of her love interests is in the arena with her...which means she's going to have to kill him at some point. That tends to put a damper on a relationship. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Collins adds several fucked-up layers to the romance in this story, which made it far more interesting.


I agree so much
[User Picture]
From:thetheatremouse
Date:December 19th, 2010 04:22 am (UTC)
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So, I spent 20 minutes in a bookstore looking for these (it didn't have the kiosk computers where one can look things up oneself and the line for human assistance was obnoxious). Having given up, I waited in an arbitrary location for my companion.

And promptly realized I was standing in front of a display of them.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 19th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
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Ha.

The one time I went specifically looking for them, I also had trouble, not sure where they were shelved. Finally, I found them in the Young Adult section.
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From:the_narration
Date:December 19th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Another LJ friend of mine was also talking these up earlier this week, so now that I'm hearing the same thing from multiple sources I'm all intrigued.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 19th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
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Reeeeeeead theeeeeeeeem.
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From:beeker121
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
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I have book one at home but haven't started yet. Here's my question: Have you read Battle Royale? The premise sounds uber familiar and is part of the reason I haven't picked these up yet.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read it, but I just watched it a few days ago. Other than the basic concept of "kids being forced to kill each other until one survives," they're very different. There's much, much more going on in The Hunger Games. Just the fact that they're televised adds a whole different layer to the proceedings. Plus the reason behind them, the reward for the victor, the role of the Gamemakers, the layout of the arena, the...there's just so much more.
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From:raelee
Date:December 20th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
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I agree. Just got this set for my niece for Christmas (got her Uglies last year -- which she really liked) because I loved them so much and already had all of my friends reading them.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 20th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
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I'm reading Uglies next month, I think.

These books are so fun and exciting and yet SO TERRIBLE.
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From:audzilla_
Date:December 21st, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
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I grabbed a copy on Kindle today at noon on your recommendation. After six solid hours of reading, I just finished it. Couldn't put it down, for real.

Good recommendation! I just got the second one, but I'm hoping I have the willpower to save it for a plane ride in a couple days.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:December 21st, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
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I grabbed a copy on Kindle today at noon on your recommendation.
Yay!

After six solid hours of reading, I just finished it. Couldn't put it down, for real.
I TOLD YOU.

I just got the second one, but I'm hoping I have the willpower to save it for a plane ride in a couple days.
Unlikely.
[User Picture]
From:captainofidiots
Date:January 7th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
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I had been thinking about reading these but finally decided to go ahead and do so based on your recommendation, and OMG. I read all of them in about a week and I'm so sad it's over! There is so much depth and so many layers, with added punch of a really powerful message. THIS is what young adults should be reading, and I'm glad it seems like a lot are.

So, thank you for your review! I'm very tempted to reread them, even though I just finished them. I can't say that's happened ever happened before.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:January 7th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad I pushed you over the edge and that you enjoyed them so much!

If you want to reread them, I recommend reading along with Mark!
[User Picture]
From:foresthouse
Date:January 8th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
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Also, it's funny every time he declares that SHIT JUST GOT REAL because shit gets real, like, every chapter. This one time he said he was finally prepared, and we all laughed at him. YOU WILL BE UNPREPARED.

HEE HEE HEE. From everything I have heard, this sentence is absolute truth for these books.

I really do need to get them. :)

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