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Posts Tagged ‘Hunger Games’

“I am woman, hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore.” -Helen Reddy

In honor of Women’s History Day I present to you my list of the top five (with a bonus six, actually seven) leading ladies of literature, You Go, Girls! 

5. Liza from Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden. You Go, Gay Girl!
Ok, I have to start off by admitting that I have never in my life read Annie… (and surprise, surprise, it is not available in my school library or at the public one down the way). However, I did go to graduate school and take several classes in children’s literature and I am a school librarian so I have heard a thing or two about this uber controversial book. The book is 30 years old this year and I can understand the controversy behind it in the early 80s, but today it baffles me that in 2012 we are still having debates about gay characters in books (and women’s rights to contraceptives, but that’s a whole other discussion…). This book is consistently in the lists of the most challenged books, was burned in Kansas City, and had several questions on the Praxis II each year. Kudos to the first popular YA lesbian novel!

 4. Wonapalei from Islandof the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. You Go, Solitary Girl!
I remember reading this in the library of my mom’s school while she was finishing up her workdays one summer. I also remember being simultaneously terrified and intrigued by this premise.  This girl was stuck on AN ISLAND by HERSELF for years?!?! What was even worse was learning later in life that this book was inspired by a true story! The book was made into a movie and won the Newbery in 1961.

 3. Josephine March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  You Go, Historical, Semi-Autobiographical Girl!
If you have read my blog for a while now, you will know that I love Little Women and especially Jo March from this book.  Jo was a brave lady who wasn’t afraid to die alone and who was afraid to not be heard.  The book has been made into two movies. Jo’s character is said to be based on Alcott herself. Jo however was given the happy ending that readers wanted and ended up with Professor Bhear while Alcott died a spinster.

 2. Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. You Go, YA Girls!
Here’s the best thing about these two girls: they are not Isabella Swan, natch. Where Bella whined and moaned and almost died over a boy, these two girls kick ass and take names while relying on no man, dead OR alive. I loved both characters so much I could not choose which one to leave off the list, so I added them both. Both series have been incredibly popular and both characters give girls a role model to really look up to. Both series have been made into incredibly popular movies. (Exactly two weeks until the theatrical release of The Hunger Games! And, my friends daughter has a role in the film, how cool is THAT!?)

1. Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson, You Go, Punk Rock, Semi-Gay, Very fierce, Swedish, Hacker Girl!
What can I say about Lisbeth Salander that has not already been said; nothing. The character is fierce (hello revenge rape scene in Dragon Tattoo), she’s smart, she’s sexy, she’s barely even human. Rooney Mara’s interpretation of Salander was dead on in the 2011 film.  I love her quirkiness, her clever yet snarky attitude towards society and all things in general, and I love her loving nature that is just below the surface, but very much there.

 Bonus Girl: Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights. You Go, Storyteller Girl!
“She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”
The power of storytelling is very much the theme of this story. I love that a girl can utilize words and tales to keep herself alive and keep a man entertained. This lady forced a brutal king to not only spare her life, but also made him fall in love with her and take her as his queen. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that I would want to marry a man who had beheaded 1,000 women before me. God forbid he loose his temper one day! Should that happen I’ll bet clever Scheherazade will just once upon a time him…

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“I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite. ” -Katniss Everdeen from Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

“We can fight our desires, but when we start making fires
We get ever so hot whether we like it or not” -La Roux

In the spring of 2009 I arrived early to a class on The History of the Book. I always arrive early. To class. To work. To anything, really. I got there to pull out my Harry Potter that I was currently reading and found that for the first time in a long time there was someone who had arrived before me to class. She was a girl that I had had a few classes with and I knew her well enough to strike up a conversation. The Library Science program is small enough at UNCG that everyone knows everyone else and what they are doing at any given time. So, I asked her what she was obviously so engrossed in reading. This girl worked at the on campus Teaching and Resource Center that provided materials to those who may be seeking a degree in K-12 education. They got in tons of YA and children’s books and those that worked there got to read them before anyone else did (jealous).

The book that she was so into, she told me, was called The Hunger Games. She proceeded to give me the gist of what was going on in the plot up to where she was reading. It sounded just plain awesome. Cut to Fall 2010 when I am working in my first real, full-time, library job. I get some cash to order some books for the library and one of the books I pick is The Hunger Games. I will admit that one of the main reasons that I purchased this specific book was because I had been wanting to read it for so long. So, when the order arrived in November I took the book home with me for the weekend where I proceeded to do nothing but lay on my parents couch and read the whole book. It was just that good!

What I adored about this YA novel was how strong the main character was. Katniss Everdeen lives in a futuristic world in which the districts are ruled by an evil Capitol who forces two children “tributes” to play in an annual Hunger Games. During the games the children (one boy, one girl) are thrust into a thematic environment and forced to kill each other off until only one survives. When Katniss’s younger sister, Prim, is called forth to be District 12’s tribute Katniss immediately jumps to take her place. Katniss is a powerful female protagonist which I think that YA literature has been missing lately. The first comparison that comes to mind is Isabella (Bella) Swan in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Now, I want to say that I adore Twilight, like it or not, I do. I am in line at midnight for the opening of each movie and I’ve devoured the books and I loved them before they became pop culture phenoms. However, my one major complaint with that series was how weak and Edward-obsessed Bella was. As soon as she met the vamp, she lost all ability to think for herself and to consider her own dreams for the future. Everything became about a man (undead, but still) and she was willing to die for him. Katniss Everdeen is the anti-Bella Swan and that is exactly why I love her. Like in the quote I chose, she does NOT have time for kissing, this girls got more important things to think of, like leading rebellions, fighting wars, surviving, providing for her family, and taking care of everyone around her.

I know, I know I know. You can’t really have a YA novel without a little romance now can you? Enter Gale and Peeta- the two young lads who are vying for Miss Everdeens affections. Gale is the friend that Katniss has hunted with since Katniss’s father died in a mining accident. Gale is that first love, childhood friend character that the reader just roots for to win. Peeta is the artistic and articulate son of a local D12 baker. Peeta is the male tribute opposite Katniss. You see where that leads, right? Katniss must either kill Peeta or be killed by him. I won’t ruin the books for those of you who may have never read them, but Peeta AND Katniss are both in all three books. As is Gale. Triangle much?!

The love story is not the  main theme of the book though. It’s not just juvenile sappy romance. It’s about survival in the most chaotic, frightening, and evil of times. Children are killing children in gruesome ways here. The death scenes are amazing and creative. Katniss is a hunter, as I mentioned earlier. She has an acute ability to hit any target be it moving or still, human or not. The fact that this young teen girl has to provide for her poor mother and sister and does so without hesitation is what young girls should be reading about. They should be reading how a girl can beat the boys in something as fierce as a hunger game (spoiler: not once, but TWICE!). They need to be reading that boys are not the be all and end all of life. They need to know that they can all be a kind of Katniss and beat the boys and be in control of their own lives and survival. Are you reading this, Bella and Stephenie? I sure hope so!

My one complaint was completely about the last book. It didn’t read like the first two did. And perhaps this is because this is the only book in the trilogy that does not have a Hunger Games in it. This book felt rushed somehow to me, as if Collins was under an intense deadline to get this book written. It didn’t have the same feeling as the first two. I wasn’t as compelled to read this one. This one was more somber in tone. This one was about nothing but straight up war and revenge. There is an epilogue at the end of this novel that I could have so done without. We find out which suitor Katniss ends up with and what becomes of them. I don’t want to spoil anything, again for those of you who may not have read it all yet, but the future that Katniss has is not one that I envisioned for her. Reading the epilogue and how Katniss talks about her future, I also get the feeling that this is not a future that she envisioned for herself. I wanted Katniss to be out of the games and out of the control of the district and happy. I didn’t get the feeling that she was very happy. I would have rather had the book end open-ended so that readers could envision their own futures of happiness and hunting for Katniss.

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