A common attribute concerning fads in our culture is one in which we automatically write them off, disregarding them before giving them a chance ourselves. In the case of skinny jeans being a fad, the viewer of the jeans may be horrified at the sight, in which his opinion is already swayed. Consequently, as the viewer decides to insert himself into the skinny jeans, no matter how comfortable they may actually be, he finds the actual wearing of them to be quite an uncomfortable practice.
And so have I found myself as I entered into the reading of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. It being a recent fad, I normally would not even bother with it, yet I discovered that I would give myself the chance as well as the book. The saying I should now adhere to goes as such: “If you’ve nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Thankfully, in this particular case, I am writing not speaking, and so I will not apply the golden rule but will speak my mind, however warped it may be. C.S. Lewis says we should clear our mind as we read, and I believe I did so until the very end.
To being with I must distinguish the book as young adult literature and realize that the intended audience is the middle school or high school student. And due to this — as all young adult novels tend to be — it was a fast-paced read. For me, this is a striking negative. I enjoy a slow paced novel in which I can get to know the characters well and visualize the scene and what not. The issue of a fast-paced novel for me is much like the case of the old lady who, upon taking up Seinfeld’s suggestion I suppose, finds herself speeding along in a very fast car at about 80 miles an hour through a school zone. The poor old lady was never meant to go so fast, and the rules were never meant to allow her to do so. Alas, I am the old lady, and the speed limit is my boundary for enjoying a good read. Both were nearly obliterated in this endeavor.
Amazingly enough, though the novel already lacks a slow pace — and thus good detailed description and imagery — the narrator (a 16 year-old girl named Katniss) insists on giving information that I find completely unnecessary. This presents itself in the form of multiple rhetorical questions. These questions are strung all throughout her thought process — asking questions that any intelligent reader already knows to ask and consequently insulting my already vulnerable intelligence.
Now the question that immediately came up for me was inevitable: is this how the female mind works? Do they honestly think in rhetorical questions all the day long? If so, I have a new understanding of just how laboring that process can be. Lest you label me a misogynist, I find this both positive and negative. For though the male thought process may be simpler, it is often to the female’s advantage that there is actually something going on in the brain to begin with.
In any case, whether it be Collins herself or just Katniss Everdeen who thinks in rhetorical questions, I find the concept absolutely extraordinary. Increasingly fascinating to think that there are people who flow right into four or five questions when analyzing something while here I sit going hours at times without a relevant thought ever making its way to my head. Nevertheless, though a breathtaking concept, reading the rhetorical questions was absolutely frustrating, slowing down the reading process every time that fiend the question mark presented its ugly figure to my eyes!
This naturally leads to the issue of the narrator and her decision making. The fact that Katniss could not make up her mind about Peeta drove me nuts. Not only is Collins seemingly going nuts herself with his character — now Peeta is a good guy, now he is evil, now good, now evil, back and forth we go — we also have the narrator messing all her feelings up with the blasted rhetorical questions. Now I knew from the outset that Peeta loved Katniss, and her denseness drove me up a wall. Because of her incredible fickleness in regard to her feelings for Peeta, I felt our main character had almost no heroic qualities. I just for once wanted her to stop analyzing the relationship and be up front with her feelings. In other words, a decision about him would be nice (both for his sake and ours).
Now this leads to the nature of the young adult novel and my final point I will make. I feel that often young adult literature is simply an author coming up with an interesting world, placing a boy and girl in it, and having no rules by which anyone can control the activities that go on besides the author (John Green, the pervert, mastered this concept in Looking for Alaska. Do NOT read it). They are essentially puppets, the author the puppet master.
I find that when we create a world, we need to either apply the rules of our own world to them or we must allow more time for our reader to become accustomed to the new rules. In the case of YA lit., I just feel as if there are no rules at all for the worlds created. Collins created a world in which essentially anything can happen, and frankly, I don’t know if that is actually a world at all. It is, at the very least, far too distant from what I know to be true. Even heaven will operate under some form of boundaries.
The idea, then, should not be to create a world in which anything can happen but a character who can do anything (figuratively). To me, Collins’ characters are lifeless — they did not move the plot, the plot moved them. It is fundamental in good fiction that the characters be dynamic, that things happen due to their quirkiness — not that their blandness is affected by the quirkiness of the world they have been placed in. It is easy to create the world or the characters, it is another thing altogether to write them (Chesterton). I believe Collins failed in this.
We come then to the conclusion of this drivel. Despite all of what I said, I could not put the novel down at times — at first to make sense of what was happening, at last to be done with it. We have to ask ourselves, is keeping someone reading considered good writing simply due to the fact? Is the soap opera good acting because certain people cannot stop watching it? I find that today’s novel is engaging because of the plot, while the classics — though much slower paced — are engaging because of how the plot is told. There is a big difference in my mind, and though I have other thoughts on this book, I am ready now to return to my first love, the classics. It is always good to come out of one’s comfort zone and to experience something new, to engage in a new perspective. And frankly, that is what the fickle farce is all about in the first place. If anything, I have spent a week in the mind of a 16 year-old girl who has harder times making up her mind than I do. And I confess, this is quite comforting.
A DISCLAIMER: I would like to address anyone who may have read this and is now offended at my analysis of a book they may hold quite dear. If I have such readers (if I have any readers at all!), I would like to let you know that this is not personal. I do not consider someone a “worse reader” based on what they read, I find comfort in the fact that people are reading something in the first place. The classics are not for everyone. In all honesty, the above thoughts are merely the ravings of an idiotic lunatic who is analyzing a popular author while he himself has written nothing of substance in his entire life. To say I actually have clout in this area of expertise, is to say that a baby can tell his father how to better take care of him (though this essentially is attempted by babies I suppose). I simply am ruminating on the strange mutability of human affairs. That is all. All things considered, read what you will and take my mere musings with a grain of salt. As Joe Gargery puts it, “I’m awful dull, but I hope I’ve beat out something nigh the rights of this at last.”