oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
[personal profile] oyceter
Ha, my fluffy romance reading kick is now officially over. Instead, I am so depressed about school that I have turned to books in which you feel like you can trust no one and must fight tooth and nail for your life. I suspect the rationale is: "Hey, school sucks! But at least I am not stuck in a game arena with millions of killer traps or stuck in a sadistic school in which half the students would literally knife me in the back. My life now looks so much better!"

You can tell because the next books on my reading list are by Susan Beth Pfeffer and Octavia E. Butler. Any recs for other books like this welcome!

Second book in The Hunger Games trilogy

I liked the first book, and it was an incredibly compulsive read, but I wasn't quite as bowled over with it as most other people were. In the first third, I thought I would absolutely adore this book, but unfortunately, Collins makes some very strange authorial decisions. I don't dislike the book, but it's very flawed.

Also, while book one can be standalone, this one very much cannot.

Spoilers for both books

Even though Katniss has saved both herself and Peeta in the Hunger Games and made it home alive, the trouble's just starting. Not enough people were convinced by her lovesick girl act, and too many are taking her act as a symbol for rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss tries to keep up the masquerade to protect all the people she loves, but things aren't so easy to calm down.

This was the part I loved. I loved seeing the hints of rebellion everywhere Katniss and Peeta went on their Victory Tour, I loved the growing civil unrest, I loved the crackdown on District 12 and Katniss having to decide if she should run or fight. I love that she stays to fight. I love that Gale would never leave and that Peeta and Haymitch knew Katniss would fight. I wanted secret rebellions and getting to learn more about what was going on in the other districts, I wanted more about the backstory of exactly how Panem got to the way it was, I wanted more about Haymitch and Katniss' mother's comments about how District 12 was returning to the way it used to be. I wanted backstory on failed revolutions and a disheartened older generation.

And then, they announced that the former victors would go back into the Hunger Games, and I basically went, "BZUH?!"

It makes no narrative sense. All the drama is building up in the other districts, particularly the talk of the not-so-dead District 13. The important things are worrying about your family getting killed or your neighbors ratting you out. Everything is happening in the districts themselves, with Katniss as their symbol, and instead of having Katniss find out more about what's happening or having her join somehow, Collins... decides to completely isolate her in the arena.

Not only does it make no narrative sense, it is also a retread of the first book. And quite frankly, the reason why I wasn't as big of a fan of the first book as everyone else was was because I felt the Hunger Games were too structured and too predictable. Sure, the unexpected challenges and the narrative of forming and breaking alliances and always having to distrust everyone makes for very compelling reading, but all in all, it means nothing. That's the whole point of the Games: that they kill 23 people for nothing. And while it's horrifying and a Message about Media the first time around, the second time, it loses all the cool value and remains an empty game while continuing the themes of untrustworthiness, media empire critiques and etc. without adding to it.

Still, I will say that I enjoyed seeing more outfits on Katniss (the dress bursting into flames!), and I did like that having former victors changed the tone of the Games somewhat. But then, given the first third of the book, I was expecting all of them to somehow team up and forment revolution outside while they were still trapped in the Area, or to have the Games go by faster, or... something. And I can see why it would be a bit of a stretch to have a seventeen-year-old girl single-handedly organize a giant revolution. (Even though this is YA and it happens!)

Which is when they short circuit the force field, yank everyone out, tell Katniss she's been the mockingjay all along, and by the way, there's a full-scale revolt going on. Again: "BZUH?!" If Collins absolutely had to have Katniss in the arena again, I think the book would have benefited much more from a POV-change, much like the difference in POV between Turner's The Thief and The Queen of Attolia. The main action is not happening in the arena! Everything Katniss does in there is for pretty much nothing. If she had to be in there, at least let the readers follow where the real action is happening, rather than have major, major stuff going on off the page and then info dumping it in the last five pages.

It is like Collins had an awesome book planned about the rebellions turning into a full-fledged revolution in Panem (and I would have been completely in love with it, believe me), and then decided she had to somehow to do a repeat of book one, randomly stuck it in the middle, and then cut back to the ending of the book she had planned to write. While also making her active, smart, kickass heroine basically look behind the count and passive.

On a side note, I am now no longer on Team Gale, since Katniss herself doesn't seem to be in love with Gale. I am kind of on Team Peeta because though I thought they were incompatible in book one, shared nightmares about the arena is a fairly compelling argument. I do wish they'd let Katniss remain single though. Oh well.

I really hope the third book knocks it out of the park, because the trilogy deserves a great final book. Alas, this one doesn't just succumb to middle-of-the-trilogy problems (made particularly obvious because I read it right after Duey's book 2 in her trilogy), it succumbs to all the normal problems and then adds a few more of its own!

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jinian.livejournal.com
Yeah, I enjoyed it overall but the narrative seemed very patchworked. I thought maybe the publisher had required another Games sequence for eventual movie-making or something. I definitely want to read the revolution book!

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 04:40 am (UTC)
jadelennox: Manip of the cover of Westerfeld's Peeps with a marshmallow peep vampire (chlit: peeps)
Posted by [personal profile] jadelennox
I find this one almost the opposite of my reaction to Conspiracy of Kings. I very much enjoyed the retread of the games because I think she writes the games well, but I agree that it was a poor artistic choice. What I really like about this book is that Katniss isn't the super powered destined one true hero; the rebellion is going on with or without her, and the rebels are perfectly happy to use her for political purposes and whether she cooperates or not. I like that she is basically having to be bullied into caring about anyone other than herself and her nearest and dearest.

That being said, I completely agree that the retread of the games was a very very strange way of approaching this. You are right; the text sets us up to care about the revolution and what's going on all over the land, and then we never get a chance to see any of that.

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
coraa: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] coraa
That was precisely the reaction I had. There was this great momentum toward rebellion and revolution, and hard choices for Katniss. (I actually half-expected her [and her family/friends] to run off after the two women refugees she met in the woods; if not that, for the previous Victors to band together and do... something revolutionary.) And then... Hunger Games again? Really? Really?

I almost wondered if she lost her nerve and felt she had to do again what had worked so well in the first book.

I am still hopeful for a great last book, though.

(I would prefer single Katniss, but inasmuch as I'm in favor of any pairing I'm Team Peeta. Because at this point her affection for Gale seems not so much affection for Gale as longing for things to go back as they were, whereas her affection for Peeta is about acknowledging what's happened and moving on.)

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 05:09 am (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] lnhammer
I'm going to skip the review because I'm holding off reading till Mockingjay comes out, but I'll recommend something nicely dark:

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner -- a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy. The trees, they are not safe. Excerpt here, which is the first chapter, to give you a taste of the writing.

ObDisclaimer: I'm married to the author and the book is dedicated to me, so I'm slightly biased. But I'm also an editor and know professionally that it's a damn fine book.

(Reposted to fix mah borkity code.)


(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 09:10 am (UTC)
inkstone: Samurai Deeper Kyo's Yuya sighing over a book, caption: reading is money (reading)
Posted by [personal profile] inkstone
Yeah, this was my reaction to Catching Fire. Good read but narrative retread, bah. I also stopped being on Team Gale in this book, although I didn't switch to Team Peeta. I instead launched onto the crack ship of Katniss/Finnick.

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] rachelmanija
Me too! I am just contrary sometimes.

Oyce, have you read Sarah Waters? Victorian lesbians can trust no one!

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
inkstone: Samurai Deeper Kyo's Yuya sighing over a book, caption: reading is money (reading)
Posted by [personal profile] inkstone
It's the snark. I feel like the world needs more snarky couples.

And do you know? I actually found a fic for my crack ship on AO3! I was totally shocked! I thought I was the only person who shipped them.

(no subject)

Thu, Apr. 8th, 2010 11:12 am (UTC)
buymeaclue: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] buymeaclue

(no subject)

Thu, Apr. 8th, 2010 11:19 am (UTC)
inkstone: Michiko e Hatchin's Michiko in a green hoodie & sticking her tongue out (:P)
Posted by [personal profile] inkstone
Hahahaha, SORRY!

(no subject)

Thu, Apr. 8th, 2010 11:19 am (UTC)
buymeaclue: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] buymeaclue

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] thistleingrey
I read only the first half, and I am on Team Katniss for Herself, dammit, because Collins seems to be trying too hard to bend the interpersonal conflicts.

I had many of these reactions, most of them muted to a lower decibel level, hence the not even bothering to read most of the second half. That said, I too hope that book three knocks it out of the park--I want Collins to do better by these characters and scenarios. :) And to do better by the worldbuilding. Foo.

Contrary Sanguinity is Contrary

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 03:40 pm (UTC)
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sanguinity
I actually liked the return to the arena, precisely because it removed Katniss from the know and the action. That's what my life feels like: getting bad and scattered information about the big important things going on out there, but having to keep most of my attention on keeping my head above water here -- even though these things are are mostly not-important (except that my head-above-water is directly tied to them). So, erm, it spoke to me. :-P

And the bit at the end? I cheered. I'm sick of the YA you describe where a seventeen-year-old single-handedly organizes a giant revolution. Katniss has a role. She also has character traits that bring risks and liabilities with them, traits that strongly suggest that she cannot and should not be leading the whole shebang. She's just gonna have to find a way to deal with that; most of us do. (Again, the novel, it is speaking to me.)

I'm not sure where I am with Team Peeta and Team Gale. I've got consent issues around Peeta -- I don't feel that Katniss is really free to say no to Peeta. And that's not a personal endictment against Peeta, as he's trying his best to create space for consent where there isn't any, really. But that's my big sticking-point: not a whole lot of space for Katniss to say no. As far as I'm concerned, there's pretty much no point to rooting for Peeta until such time as the situation changes enough that Katniss could choose -- rooting for Peeta now feels like rooting for Katniss to fall in love with her rapist so that it won't really be rape. I think they could be good together, if they're ever given room to consent; but right now? I'm rooting for her to have the liberty to say no to Peeta.

And Team Gale? Hah. Not while Gale is busy sulking at Katniss over a situation that she didn't have any choice about.

I guess you're going to have to chalk me up for Team Katniss. I want her to have the space to choose or not choose. Until then, there's nothing/no-one else that I could root for.

(no subject)

Wed, Apr. 7th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I agree with you about the arena, and I thought it was a major weakness of the book until B. read it and was all 'oh thank God it went back in the arena I could not have taken one more second outside it'. Which confused me, and then he said that what he likes about these books is the riff on that particular premise and that it looked as though they were leaving the original premise for good and therefore totally abandoning what he was interested in. He doesn't intend to read Mockingjay. And I was like, well, if this attitude exists in a major chunk of her audience, now that I think about it I guess it is switching premises midstream. Which I am fine with personally and feel that books should have the liberty to do, but if I'd come for the original premise I might also be annoyed.

(no subject)

Tue, Aug. 7th, 2012 09:32 am (UTC)
Posted by (Anonymous)
I just got around to reading this. (I didn't finish "The Hunger Games" until after the movie came out, and I still haven't seen the movie.) I was also surprised that much of the second book wound up being about the Games again. But, in context, I think there's a world-building rationale for this, as well as a purely commercial, pandering-to-fans-who-like-the-series-primarily-for-the-Games, one.

Collins goes to some pains to establish that, despite apparently having no problem with annually watching 24 random kids from the oppressed outer districts fight to the death in a desperate attempt to survive, even the most empty-headed one-percenters from the Capitol tend to become emotionally invested in each successive year's victors, if only because the victors are given the opportunity to come to the Capitol every year and interact with its denizens as if they were honorary Capitolites themselves. So when the victors get sent back into the arena, for the first time the average Capitol viewer reacts more or less the way the people in the districts have been reacting all along: with empathy and horror over the imminent doom of contestants whom they feel as if they know--or might actually have met or even slept with, in the case of Capitol carousers like Finnick.

In other words, while the sheltered inhabitants of the Capitol mostly seem to regard the regular sort of Hunger Games contestants as little more than three-dimensional video game characters, even they realize that the victors are real people, and react accordingly. So when President Snow makes the draconian decision to punish the rising unrest and simultaneously rid himself of its symbol Katniss by using the Quarter Quell as an excuse to break tradition and send the victors back into the arena, the covert revolutionaries involved with the Games seize the opportunity to exacerbate the Capitolites' budding uneasiness and dissatisfaction at this development. When even some of the less admirable past victors stress in their pre-Games interviews how upsetting it will be for all their friends and supporters in the Capitol to have to watch people they know die and/or slaughter each other in the arena, and then Peeta ups the ante by claiming that Katniss is pregnant--so that her death will not only deprive the Capitol fans of the "royal wedding" they'd been looking forward to, but kill her hypothetical baby along with her--it presumably makes at least some of the usually blithely status quo-supporting Capitol airheads question the inherent cruelty of the Games for the first time, or at least wonder whether President Snow is doing the right thing by allegedly following the original Games-creators' Quarter Quell instructions to throw the surviving victors under the bus. Because, frankly, since the Capitol hogs the lion's share of the food and resources and renders it almost impossible for non-Capitolites to even find out what's going on in neighboring districts, much less travel to or communicate with them, the more sympathy the rebels have from non-Snow-crony Capitolites, the more plausible it is that the revolution could eventually succeed. If enough Capitolites begin to doubt things they'd previously taken for granted, like President Snow's good judgment and the worthwhileness of the Games, it's bound to undermine the government's effectiveness somewhat, and perhaps even lead to more people joining the covert resistance within the Capitol or subtly sabotaging, or at least warning the rebels about, various anti-revolution initiatives. Whereas if Snow had just gone ahead and held a relatively normal Games that year, without Katniss and Peeta's forced involvement and its various consequences, the vast majority of Capitol residents would probably have just continued to think that conditions in Panem were great, and been genuinely angry and indignant at the rebels if they succeeded in making enough progress that the government media was finally forced to admit that there were actually uprisings going on. And if virtually all the privileged people in the Capitol were still wholeheartedly behind Snow's policies, the Capitol resistance members would be much more likely to be exposed and the revolution crushed relatively early on.



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