Thoughts on reading The Hunger Games

The day before yesterday, I read the last page of Mockingjay, which is the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Two weeks ago I barely had any idea about what The Hunger Games was about, other than that it seemed to be getting a lot of hype around an upcoming movie adaptation and a lot of people were calling it the next Twilight.

Well, I can tell you that The Hunger Games most definitely is not the next Twilight. It’s so much better than that. Yes, I occasionally have a guilty foray into Twilight (okay, so I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies) but I accept it for what it is: an easy-to-read series without much substance at all. And the movies are complete chick flicks.

The Hunger Games, on the other hand, is well written and compelling. I couldn’t stop reading. If, like me two weeks ago, you have no idea what it’s about I’ll try to give a brief summary of the central plot. But you really do have to read it yourself because there’s no chance that I can summarize such an engaging, polished and shockingly vivid series in about 100 words. But I’ll try to give you a taste of what it’s all about.

Picture North America, now called Panem. In an unspecified time in the future, after the destruction of North America as we know it, Panem is segregated into twelve districts which are all overseen by one threatening and sinister mega-government, the Capitol. In the past, the districts attempted and failed to overthrow the government. As punishment for this sin, the Capitol initiated the televised reality show, the Hunger Games. Each year, twenty-four competitors (one male and one female from each of the twelve districts) are placed into a vast outdoor arena and, in Roman gladiator style, have to fight until only one remains.

“The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland”, quote from The Hunger Games, copyright Suzanne Collins

The book draws on Roman and Greek mythology to create lucid details and imagery. The series is narrated in the first-person by Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old resident from District 12, who volunteers to take the place of her beloved sister, Primrose, in the Games when Prim’s name is picked.

It is difficult to describe how addictive and brilliant these books are (I read the whole series in approx. one week!) but they are not just another ‘Twilight’. They deal with some pretty deep themes — family, love, friendship, sacrifice, as well as the symbolism of the totalitarian government and a dystopian reality. There are similarities to George Orwell’s 1984 and there is a considerable amount of political allegory as well as some stunning imagery in the books. I even found myself crying at one very moving point. The author, Suzanne Collins, used to be a scriptwriter so she has a real way with words and a way to make things come alive in your imagination.

Although The Hunger Games is being marketed at young teens, I think that younger readers won’t get the symbolism. I am also concerned that the upcoming movie adaptation is going to be watered down for young viewers, missing out crucial parts of the book and focusing on a partly made-up love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, who are three of the main characters. Unfortunately, there is already a huge amount of comparisons between The Hunger Games and Twilight but don’t let that scare you away from it!

And please read the books before you go see the movie because I expect the movie makers will try to cater for a young audience of teen girls. I envision a Twilight-esque ‘Team Peeta’ versus ‘Team Gale’ showdown and I emphatically do not want that to happen! It doesn’t happen in the books and it shouldn’t happen on-screen but I fear it will. Yes, there is a love story in the series but it is by no means the central plot, unlike in the Twilight series.

The Hunger Games series is subtly and beautifully written. I didn’t expect that I would like it when I first started reading it as it’s not my usual type of literature but I was amazed by how blown away I was by the series. It’s been a long time since I read anything so thought-provoking, so tender in parts and yet so brutal at the same time.

Reasons why I want to move to Maine…

Maybe the title of this post should really be ‘reasons why I want to visit Maine’. It is a state which I have never visited, but it has caught my imagination and I have a dream of living in Maine…. Oh yes, The Pine Tree State is where my mind wanders when I should be doing other things, like paperwork and chores.

The natural beauty and scenery of Maine is spectacular. The landscape varies, from mountains to rocky cliffs to wilderness to beaches. And Maine hosts 281 miles of the Appalachian trail. The northern terminus of the trail is Katahdin: the highest mountain in the state of Maine. The mountain was named by the Penobscot Indians and its name means ‘The Greatest Mountain’.

There are thirty-two state parks in Maine and one of these is Acadia National Park:

Acadia Park, Maine (public domain image)

Public domain image: A Look Through The Trees by Shari Weinsheimer.

Maine is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and water is a prominent feature in the landscape of the state — shipbuilding was an important part of the state’s economy in centuries past. There are many pretty harbours scattered around the coast as well as the iconic lighthouses which a lot of people associate with Maine.

Camden Harbor, Maine (image copyright Back Road Journal)

Photo © Karen at Back Road Journal.

I love the traditional white clapboard houses with windows looking out on the ocean.

Old clapboard house (public domain image)

Public domain image: Old House by David Wagner

And the beautiful lakes:

Long Lake, Maine – image copyright Back Road Journal

Photo © Karen at Back Road Journal.

Maine is also home to lots of wildlife and native species. Moose is the state animal:

A female moose (public domain image)

Public domain image: Female Moose by Charles Rondeau.

As well as moose, Maine is the residence of much cuter animals:

Chipmunk (image copyright Back Road Journal)

Photo © Karen at Back Road Journal.

And the state bird is the pretty songbird, the Black-capped Chickadee.

Maine’s state bird: Black-capped Chickadee (public domain image)

Public domain image from: Black-Capped Chickadee by John Witherspoon.

Chipmunks and chickadees, black bear, beaver, coyotes, lynx, seals, puffins, whitetail deer, moose… Maine is filled with nature and beauty.

The state is diverse and that appeals to me. There are quaint little towns which have a quintessentially New England flavor and then there are state parks which are rugged, wild and perfect for hiking.

“In Maine
we are glad to be part of a land
that remains so beautiful under its green skin
of woods and open fields, that is glitteringly
bordered by thousands of miles
of breaking waves, and that is lovely,
too, with an unbroken tradition
of concerns, with the kind, enduring grace
of its neighborliness.”

(Excerpt from Neighborliness by Kate Barnes. Source: Poets of Maine).

It is a very special place and I long to visit. In the mean time, I will dream.

With thanks to Karen from the wonderful blog, Back Road Journal, for giving me permission to use her photographs of Maine in this post.

Hello 2012

What will you bring, I wonder?

Hello 2012!

I’m not going to lie — I didn’t take this photo today. When I woke up this morning, January 1, the dawn was gray and not very spectacular. I thought this image was more appropriate for a Happy New Year post!

“We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day” (Edith Lovejoy Pierce).

Have a wonderful 2012.