Hunger Games: Characters I Wanted to See More Of

With the movie fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Hunger Games (and, yes, the fact that I won’t be seeing the movie adaptation during the opening week).

The Hunger Games is a story of survival filled with action and the promise of excitement and intrigue. Already a wildly popular book, readers will tell you that what truly sets this series apart are the unique characters.

While Katniss is a huge part of what makes The Hunger Games so strong and so very compelling, the book is also filled with secondary characters that bring the story and the world of Panem to life. Without them, Katniss would have been very lonely (though perhaps slightly safer). But this series is still ultimately Katniss’ story more than anything else, which is why it only makes sense that some characters got less attention than readers would have liked.

Here are some of the characters I would have loved to see more of:

Gale: Much as it pains me to mention Gale and not Peeta, it was really unavoidable here. Peeta might be with Katniss during the Games, but Gale plays a much larger role in Katniss’s daily life in District 12. Despite his importance to Katniss, we learn very little about Gale as the focus of the story shifts from District 12 to the Capitol. We would have liked to see a bit of Gale’s reactions to Katniss’s Game strategies, not to mention learning a bit more about his own family.

Effie Trinket: Preferring the comforts and sparkle of the Capitol to the isolation and grime of District 12, Effie is the reluctant escort of District 12 Tributes on their journey to the arena each year. In all of her previous years, her obligations ended very soon after the Games began. No one knows what Effie did to garner such an unenviable post, or what she does between Games, but we certainly wish we did.

Cinna: In charge of Katniss’ team of stylists, Cinna and his counterpart Portia help make Katniss and Peeta the Tributes to watch before either of them set foot in the arena. Equal parts mentor, ally, and clothes designer, Cinna clearly has hidden depths beyond what the book reveals, not to mention he knows how to rock that gold eyeliner.

Caesar Flickerman: There isn’t much more to say about the Capitol’s favorite television host or his signature interviews with the Tributes each year. But, really, who doesn’t want to know more about a character being played by Stanley Tucci?

Rue: The smallest and youngest Tribute, no one expects Rue to last long in the arena. Despite her small size and youth, Rue proves to be a formidable ally for Katniss during the Games as well as a friend. While we know what happens to Rue in the arena, her life in District 11 before becoming a Tribute largely remains a mystery.

Thresh: As Rue’s counterpart from District 11, Thresh is her complete opposite—a large, formidable figure among the Tributes. Like Rue, Thresh’s past remains unknown. His own motives during his final encounter with Katniss in the arena are equally mysterious.

Foxface: Possibly the smartest Tribute in the 74th Hunger Games, Foxface is so enigmatic we do not even know her real name. Relying on stealth and cunning, Foxface survives in the arena by staying in the background. It would have been interesting to see how growing up in District 5 informed her strategy or if her mentor had something to do with that.

The Career Tributes: With names like Glimmer, Cato, Clove and Marvel it’s hard to forget the Tributes who have spent all of their lives training to take part in the Hunger Games. Coming from lives of wealth and privilege in Districts that are favored by the Capitol, their situation could not be more different from that of Katniss and Peeta. We would have loved to better understand why volunteering to participate in a fight to the death made sense to them.

 Madge: Daughter of District 12’s mayor, Madge’s life is removed from the poverty of Katniss’s daily life and the dangers of the Quell that selects Tributes each year. Still, Madge gives Katniss a Mockingjay brooch as a token to bring into the arena. We never learn why Madge gave her the pin or what happens to her later in the story (I honestly always thought she was severely under-developed/under-utilized in the later books). She also won’t be appearing in the movies at all. Some characters just don’t get a break.

Bonus Characters from Catching Fire and/or Mockingjay:

Catching Fire is my favorite book in the trilogy by a wide margin. I could happily have read many more books about the events in Catching Fire as well as the mechanics of the Games and the Districts–the world Collins created is that fascinating. That said, it makes complete sense that some characters left me wanting more later in the series.

Finnick: Simultaneously annoying and awesome, Finnick might be my favorite secondary character from the series. While we get a lot of details about Finnick’s life as the story progresses, I still would have liked more just because he’s such a fun character. (I may or may not be mildly crazed as I wait to see who will be playing Finnick in the second Hunger Games film.)

Johanna Mason: Brash and more than willing to put Katniss in her place, Johanna is another character who comes to life on the page even without her backstory being fully developed. During the casting for the first movie, I heard that Kristen Bell was lobbying heavily to play Mason. Since then, I’ve come to fully support this idea and honestly might be inconsolable should the part go to someone else.

Nuts and Volts: It’s hard to think of these two separately. While certainly not the savviest, these two are easily the most intelligent tributes Collins introduced to readers. It would have been interesting to see what brought this wacky pair together as friends.

Now you know the characters that I wish got more attention in The Hunger Games. Let me know what characters you would have liked to see more of in the comments.

A shorter version of this entry was originally posted at 20SomethingReads.

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Ten for 2010

In no particular order, my ten favorite books from 2010:

  1. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett is still living in a NYC hotel and her life is about to get way more insane when her boss Mrs. Amberson gives her the unenviable job of befriending an annoyingly perfect young Broadway star. Add to that said star’s especially annoying brother, Max, and you have a recipe for disaster.
  2. Heist Society by Ally Carter: Katarina Bishop knows a lot about stealing. So much, in fact, that she managed to steal herself a normal life. That was before she had to leave that life to clear her father of the one robbery he really didn’t commit.
  3. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Sophos never wanted to be King of Sounis. But after he is abducted and presumed dead by his kingdom, Sophos realizes that responsibilities very rarely care about wants.
  4. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: The people of Lumatere are scattered, some trapped inside the kingdom walls while others live as exiles, haunted by the ghosts of their tragic past. But there might be hope. It all begins ten years after the five days of the unspeakable, when Finnikin of Lumatere climbs another rock.
  5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Tessa Gray travels to London wanting to find her brother and start a new life. Instead she is dragged into the world of Shadowhunters and London’s Downworld–people with mysterious powers not of this world.
  7. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  8. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan: Mae struggles to protect her brother Jamie from the warlocks who want to exploit his power. The enigmatic Ryves brothers are willing to help–if they can overcome their own demons first.
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Duh, who doesn’t have this one on their list? Do I even need to blurb it?
  10. White Cat by Holly Black: Cassel Sharpe is perfectly content being the straight arrow, ordinary guy in a family of crooked curse workers. That is when he’s not being followed by a white cat that reminds him a lot of his best friend Lila–the girl he killed three years ago.

Is it still early in the year? Yes. That said, these are my favorites so far. Maybe before the year is out there will be more but I’m not expecting it simply because there isn’t that much time to read more books from 2010. Who knows? Maybe this will end up being my top eleven or twelve.

Mockingjay: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review (and a sendoff)

Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsKatniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, the spark that started a revolution, once again finds her life in chaos. Rescued from the Quarter Quell and whisked to District 13 and the seat of the rebel cause, Katniss is expected to take up her role as the figurehead of the rebellion; as the Mockingjay so ready and willing to fight the Capitol. Peeta is captured. Probably dead–it would be best if he were dead. District 12 is gone. And Katniss finds she can no longer hide from the war she never meant to start.

Many are willing, as ever, to tell Katniss what to do, who to support and what role to play. But before she can become the Mockingjay, before she can save Panem, her loved ones, or even herself, Katniss will have to decide what cost she is willing to pay for survival and, ultimately, for freedom in Mockingjay (2010) by Suzanne Collins.

Mockingjay, the follow up to Collins’ insanely popular books The Hunger Games and Catching Fire hardly needs an introduction or help getting into the hands of eager readers. This book, like the rest of the trilogy, sells itself.

In the much anticipated conclusion to the trilogy, Collins does little to disappoint. Filled with twists, action, and memorable characters, Mockingjay will keep readers guessing (and riveted) until the very end.

And what a finish.

In a lot of ways Mockingjay was even more brutal than the other books about Katniss and Panem because Collins made it so clear that these characters are damaged beyond repair. Will they keep going? Of course. Will anyone be the same after the war is decided once and for all? Of course not.

The writing is scattered and often bleak, likely because our heroine is repeatedly injured mentally and physically. Collins is brutally honest about what it has cost Katniss and many of the other characters (especially the other Victors of the Games) to make it this far while showing irrevocably that war rarely solves anything neatly and often hurts the very people it’s trying to save. Still it’s impossible to turn away from this modern, original story of a girl, a revolution, and a war that is fought as much on camera as on the front lines.

Mockingjay remains a strong, compelling story about characters that have captured the world’s imagination. Some reviews have suggested that the core characters were inconsistently written here or that the ending was lacking. On the contrary, Collins has not only been faithful to the spirit of the first two books but also created an utterly original conclusion to a powerful trilogy.

I love all of the books as physical objects with the arresting designs by Elizabeth B. Parisi and cover art by Tim O’Brien. I love the energy from this series. I love the characters and the story. I find myself completely moved (and maybe even rattled) by this powerful, surprising, and ultimately appropriate ending to a series that has quite literally changed the face of young adult literature forever.

Possible Pairings: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, Legend by Marie Lu, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Catching Fire: A Review

Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsKatniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, has survived the Hunger Games saving not only herself but also her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark.

But there can only be one victor in the Games and her desperate move has made Katniss a target not only of the Capitol’s anger but also of the fledgling rebellion. Saving herself and Peeta set off a spark that is spreading quickly through the other districts. A spark that the girl on fire is not sure she wants to put out.

Everything is spinning out of control.

Katniss’ only hope to protect her loved ones is to convince all of Panem that she was mad with love, not rebellion. But is that true? Months after the Games, Katniss still can’t unravel her true feelings for Peeta anymore than she can admit that their relationship is an elaborate act for the cameras.

It’s hard enough traveling from district to district pretending to be madly in love without knowing if any of it is real. But the reaping is approaching and with it the time for Katniss and Peeta to return to the Capitol as mentors for the 75th Hunger Games–a special year for the Games which never means anything good for the districts.

Good or bad, the spark has been lit and there’s no turning back in Catching Fire (2009) by Suzanne Collins.

Being the second book in a trilogy, this one has an understandably slower start than The Hunger Games. Collins spends a fair bit of time recapping plot points and reintroducing characters. Even with those details, readers will be hard pressed to follow Catching Fire without its predecessor (hint: read this trilogy in order).

That said, I might actually prefer this one to the first.

Readers have already been inside the Hunger Games seeing life in the arena and understanding the spectacle in all of its authoritarian gore. Catching Fire, by contrast, takes readers behind the scenes. Collins spends a lot more time building up the politics of Panem and introducing readers to the other districts. Add to that the fledgling seeds of revolution and you have some of my favorite literary tropes.

Catching Fire also adds past victors into the mix along with more of Panem’s past. Then there’s the whole massive-twist-that-changes-everything in the middle of the story (that some people very irresponsibly add to their booktalks or reviews even though it’s totally a spoiler).

On top of that, this book spends a lot more time looking at the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. Is it love? Peeta knows what he thinks while Katniss is less certain. She knows  she doesn’t want to get married or have children and she isn’t sure if that means she also doesn’t want to love anyone even though she wants to do everything in her power to keep Peeta safe (my own thoughts: it’s love–and I will be so pissed if Collins disagrees with that).

If The Hunger Games was a loud, free-spirited book, Catching Fire is its more introverted, creative counterpart. Everything readers love from the first book is here, but at the same time more space is given to character development and world building (two things I always want to see in my dystopian adventure novels).

Possible Pairings: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, Legend by Marie Lu,  Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Exclusive Bonus Content: The cover here is huge because I want to you take a minute to admire it. Take it in. Ostensibly it’s the same cover as the first book in a different color scheme. But not quite. I love the subtle twists book designer Elizabeth B. Parisi puts on these books with Tim O’Brien’s artwork. They make the series on a whole cohesive but each book is also very individualized. Plus mockingjays are totally badass.

The Hunger Games: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsIn the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Ruthless and calculating, the Capitol rules the districts with an iron hand. Especially after what happened to District 13. But people don’t talk about that.

Inside the Capitol life is a constant celebration filled with beauty and abundance, especially during the Games. Outside the Capitol, in the other districts, people live in poverty struggling to find enough to eat. To remind them, year after year, that they once rebelled and are now conquered, the Capitol has made the Hunger Games an annual spectacle of brutality masked as entertainment.

Two tributes are required from each district. One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Whisked from their homes, forced into an arena, the tributes are trained, armed, and ordered to fight to the death. There is one Victor in every Game. But no one ever truly beats the Hunger Games because no one can ever truly beat the Capitol.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen doesn’t care about the Games. She cares her mother and protecting her younger sister Prim. She cares about surviving and finding enough food for her family. For Katniss, underfed and ill-prepared, stepping into the arena promises a quick and gruesome death.

Her male counterpart, Peeta Mellark, is unlikely to fare much better.

There can only be one Victor. But working together, Katniss and Peeta might just find a way to beat the Games in The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins.

By now, this book hardly needs a review. Wildly popular, The Hunger Games already flies off the shelves. After reading the book, it’s easy to see why.

Collins presents a bleak, futuristic world filled with action and the promise of excitement and intrigue. The Hunger Games is not written as a story being told to a reader. Instead Katniss seems to be talking directly to the reader. The immediacy and pathos this adds to the story cannot be overstated. Readers are right there with Katniss as she meets the other tributes–and calculates how best to kill them and the likelihood that they will beat her to it. Katniss could be cold and calculating, indeed she often is, but the dynamic between Katniss and the other characters makes her more than that. It makes her human.

The Hunger Games is essentially filled with battles, twists, and suspense. But it is also the story of life in a police state. Even more, it is the story of a girl learning who she is in the most unlikely of settings and understanding that sometimes victory can be about a whole lot more than winning.

Possible Pairings: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, Legend by Marie Lu, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld