Young Adult

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I just did crack.Snap 2013-04-16 at 13.55.08

And by “did” I mean “read”.

And by “crack” I mean “The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins”.

I’ve actually never done crack (or any drugs) and I am not just saying that because my parents subscribe to this blog. But reading this book sure felt like what I would imagine a crack hit to feel like. Do they even call it a hit? I really don’t know.

So, even though I am probably one of the last people to read The Hunger Games, I promise to not to spoil anything about the story that took the world by storm, resulted in a movie that appears to be as loved as the book and is now a multi-million dollar franchise deal for Collins. That lucky duck. But I am going to tell you that I really enjoyed this book. Even when I was so anti-Hunger Games, to the point I was proud I had not read it.

Well, I am here to let you in on something: being wrong really smarts.

But you know that, so let’s not dwell on that shall we? Let’s talk about why this book works!

  1. A Kick-ass Female Lead. There’s lots of girl power in this dystopian YA thriller. Katniss Everdeen is the young, powerful, stubborn, expert hunter at the heart of The Hunger Games who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place as a tribute in the Capitol city’s annual Hunger Games. The games, which pit a boy and girl from each of the Capitol’s 12 districts, is a death match designed to yield only one victor and offer a reminder that the citizens of the Capitol are not in charge of their lives. Nice, huh?
  2. Strong Sexual Tension. Upon taking her sister’s place as the District 12  female tribute, Katniss then learns that her male counterpart will be Peeta Mellark, a boy she hardly knows. After sizing him up, Katniss remembers that Peeta once saved her starving family with the simple act of giving her a loaf of bread. That memory must be erased as they are now bitter enemies. Despite this, Peeta is stealing glances and making passes at Katniss. Are his feelings true or just part of his strategy for the games? Regardless, I had a thing for loverboy and found Peeta to be quite a sweeta(heart), liar or not.
  3. Cracker Jackers. So there are these murderous wasps in part of the story… and I LOVE that they are called cracker jackers! I think it must have to do with the fact that I am actually allergic to wasp (and bee) stings and these cracker jackers, which cause intense swelling and pus to accumulate (and death!), reminded me of my own run-ins with these flying terrors. You can be assured “cracker jacker” will now be my term of choice for the little bastards.
  4. Creative-as-all-get-out Story. The story is crazy. And y’all should know by my reading choices that l don’t like to suspend my disbelief too far. Yes, I know, It’s hard to stomach a futuristic world where children must engage in combat style warfare, but once you put that aside it was the right mix of wild and interesting that it kept me turning the pages and devouring this book in about 8 hours. It’s addictive reading.

Now it doesn’t matter that I was on a deadline to get this book knocked out asap for the upcoming May Snotty Literati column and it doesn’t matter that I am on vacation this week. The Hunger Games was a delightful break from the heavier stuff I am reading (yes, heavier than kids killing each other) and I ate it up, all hungry like the wolf… yes I did.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult

 

 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 ReasonsI actually picked up Thirteen Reasons Why after downloading the much talked about Tragedy Papers by Elizabeth Laban. In fact, the book’s description said, “… perfect for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Looking for Alaska”. And since I didn’t have either of those books, you can imagine what I did.

I am going to keep this fairly easy and give you just seven reasons to check out Thirteen Reasons Why:

  1. It’s timely.  There’s a horrifying trend these days with children getting bullied and made left to feel undervalued, unimportant and unnecessary. Hannah Baker has just recently taken her own life for these same reasons. In Thirteen Reasons Why, we hear her side of the story over the course of seven cassette tapes she recorded before her death and mailed out Clay Jensen, one of the “reasons”.
  2. It’s bold. Asher doesn’t minimize Hannah’s experiences. Her perceptions and recollections are raw and realistic and written in the voice of a teenage girl who’s hurting.
  3. It’s creatively told. Clay doesn’t understand what role Hannah thinks he played in her death and he balances a voyeuristic desire of listening to each tape with the fear that he could actually somehow be responsible. The double narrative makes this story work.
  4. It’s heartbreaking. From the beginning you know that Hannah is dead and that she attributes her suicide to the cruel and unfair treatment she received from others. Treatment that has resulted in a widespread, but not entirely true reputation of Hannah. Despite this, Hannah understands how some of her choices facilitate her unsavory rep and at other times she seems completely unaware that what she is doing will further this bad perception of her.
  5. It’s frustrating. Just as teenagers can be, Hannah’s victim role is frustrating. You want to say, “Snap out of it!” “Quit perpetuating things!” “You can create a different outcome!” But she’s 16 and hurting and shortsighted. So realistically and painfully shortsighted.
  6. It’s hopeful. Not everyone in Thirteen Reasons Why is a terrible person. There are moments of kindness and even grace. Clay grows through the experience of hearing Hannah’s story, as devastating as it is to hear.
  7. It’s important. I think teenagers should read this. And parents. And educators. It’s not the definitive story on bullying or suicide but it certainly sheds light. It’s also a bit dramatic at times, but I think high school is more dramatic today than when I was there. In truth, it’s hard to read. It’s depressing. It’s uncomfortable. But, readers will recognize the characters in the book as people from their own adolescence. And everyone can benefit from the reminder of how important how we treat each other is … that kindness must trump everything else. Always.

Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult

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