Do a book club, they said!
It’ll be fun, they said!
We’ll call it Addiction to Fiction, they said! Okay, fair enough that’s cool!
It won’t take much time, they said.
Oh. Right. Of course not.
So now, at 3:15 every Thursday a group of book hungry students descends on me. Seriously, it’s fabulous: a group of teenagers asking to read! Fantastic! It is every English teacher’s dream!
So, their choice to kick off was…
Set in a futuristic and post-apocalyptic world, the book is basically divided into three parts:
1) a depiction of extreme poverty and deprivation in District 12; until
2) Katniss is selected or volunteers to be a tribute at the Hunger Games and her training at the Capitol; until
3) the Hunger Games themselves.
In my opinion, the first section was very strong. The poverty in District 12 was very strongly described: the bare canvas mattress in the opening paragraphs; Katniss’ recollections of being at the point of literal starvation until Peeta throws her a loaf of bread; Katniss’ mother’s breakdown after her husband’s death; Prim’s delicacy, vulnerability and need for protection – her name is Primrose and we first see her cocooned in her mother’s embrace – are all beautifully depicted.
In fact the opening three paragraphs have provided a great resource for an annotation exercise at school.
On a side note… this irked: in the film, how are we meant to accept Jennifer Lawrence who is patently healthy, well fed and somewhat chubby of cheek as a character on the verge of starvation?!
The contrast between the earthy and natural privations of District 12 and the gaudy artificiality of the Capitol was also great. The ostentation of the genetic manipulation for vanity amongst the population – save for Cinna with whom we latch onto as the sole source of normalcy – and the casual horror of the Avoxes was very effective at alienating us from the Capitol.
The Games themselves I found slightly disappointing. I liked the ambiguity of it being a performance for the sponsors: at various times, Katniss suppressed expressing how she felt because she didn’t want to seem weak; the romance between her and Peeta was nicely judged and balanced between genuine emotion and cynical performance. There was an echo – for me – of the film Starship Troopers where reality and propaganda were spliced together.
But let’s deal with the violence. My Addiction to Fiction group were disappointed – seriously disappointed – that they didn’t see more violence. There were, really, only three of the 22 deaths portrayed: Glimmer, Rue, and Cato’s and there is no real gore in any of them except Glimmer’s. Stung to death by mutated wasps, her corpse is raided by Katniss to obtain the bow who – also stung and hallucinating – seems to see
Her features eradicated, her limbs three times there normal size. The stinger lumps have begun to explode, spewing putrid green liquid…. the flesh disintegrates in my hands.
Rue’s death was genuinely moving and emotional and far better handled by the book than the film.
Cato’s, however, was just tediously dull: being clad on armour and falling amidst genetically mutated dogs (“muttations” was not my favourite neologism in the book!) he took ages and pages to die.
This really is a first class YA book!
The language is nowhere near the language of Philip Reeve or China Miéville but the concept – derived from channel hopping between Survivor and child soldiers in the news – and characters and pace are cracking!