Friday, June 08, 2012
My Inner Teenage Girl Is Screaming
I found myself pawing at the Kindle app on my phone, trying to turn non-existent virtual pages. What do you mean it ends there? It can't end there!! What about Gale? What about Peeta? What happens next!? What will Katniss do???!!!
I feel like I have been infected with some insidious disease. A slow creeping malediction has cursed me. I picked the book at random from the 2500 titles on my Kindle app and found the use of present-tense less irritating than I thought I would after a few pages.
By the time I was two chapters into it I couldn't put it down. This is so clearly written for young teenage girls, I kept on thinking if anyone finds out I'm reading this I'm never going to be able to show my face at any masculine venue ever again. My inner teen-age girl agrees. Except she says "evah" and "ZOMG! I'd just die if anyone found out!"
Writing a blog post about it is probably not the best course of manly reputation saving action then.
But I need to write about it. I need to analyse why this book gripped me so much. Mostly I think I need to justify my own secret delight in the story and perhaps accept that I have a girl teeny-bopper in my mental wardrobe of voices in my head.
I don't know if this is standard YA teen fiction. I haven't read any Twilight. I do read a lot of the Reasoning With Vampires blog. Which analyses just how god-awful Stephanie Meyer's writing is, and how her overly contrived story is probably making an entire generation of girls stupider. Even my inner teen-age girl is making gagging noises.
The key thing for me about Collins' book is that Katniss is the everygirl. She doesn't think she is pretty, or smart, or desirable. She is in a desperate situation and is adorably immature about boys and adult relationships. Of course she is smart, and pretty and desirable and she's also a damned good provider for her family. Her casual relationship with Gale is sweet. It's nice to see teenagers not focused on sex and true love and shit. Of course that they aren't thinking about sex all the time is what reminds me that this is a work of fiction.
Katniss (as we all know) takes the place of her younger sister Prim as the tribute for the Hunger Games. An annual facist celebration of victory over the rebellious and a chance to watch some young un's engage in some good old fashioned orienteering, wilderness survival and all the good Scouts outdoorsy activities promoted in books like Enid Blyton's Five series. The only difference is that while there are plenty of lashings (threatened at least) and other punishments are handed out like licks from Timmy there sure as hell isn't any gingerbeer.
What we do have is a grim and bloody headcount. People die in this book. They die badly and often. It's not just in the arena, that vast semi-VR wilderness where the tributes hunt each other to death. Death is a constant companion in Katniss' life outside the arena. She lives close to starvation. People die in the coal mines. People die of injury and and disease and malnutrition. She comments that the elderly are admired - for they have endured so much longer than anyone normally does.
This story is action packed. Katniss has great skills, the famous archery talent (which has of course lead to a spike in interest in the sport for kids). But hey the samet thing happened with the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released. It's good to get kids interested in an outdoor sport.
The action and tension are grim. The romance is a sub-plot and is meant to be another way of winning the games by guile rather than strength. Of course we have lots of conflict to muddy this but over all Collin's keeps it very safe by restricting it to kissing and fully clothed sleeping bag sharing cos it's damned cold. If I had a 14 year old daughter, I'd let her go camping alone with Peeta. I might not even feel it necessary to stab him in the thigh first.
Collin's doesn't bother with silly details like how does stuff happen. She has deus-ex-machina coming out of her cūlus. But that's okay. We don't care that things drop out of the sky, or that the entire environment can be manipulated in anyway shape or form. The focus is on the characters. The basic hunt and the way the experience changes Katniss. That's the heart of the story. She's a really great character.
The pretty dresses, the kissing and the rest of the story aren't bad either.