The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

My Favourite Things: The Hunger Games as through the lens of CJ Skuse.

Hello and welcome to the 75th Hung... I mean, the 2nd of new feature, My Favourite Things.  I am delighted to welcome CJ Skuse, author of the fabulous Pretty Bad Things and Rockoholic, who has joined us here to discuss (very timeously) her favourite YA novel of recent times. 

Everybody LOVES The Hunger Games, and for a very good reason. It’s an absolute stonker of a YA series. When I came to write this post I thought, there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said about it. Then I had another thought because actually, yeah there is, because no one’s ever said it out of my mouth so here goes...

So I finally hopped on The Hunger Games bandwagon last summer after countless people told me I had to read it. I’d resisted it for ages because the subject matter just didn’t appeal. Dyst-what-ia? I cried. What’s a Katniss? What sort of a name is Haymitch? What sort of a place is Panem, for Peeta’s sake? Pah, I cried. No, not for me. I would Rue the day that I read that complicated mish-mash. Then I shut my trap and just read it ...

“Family devotion only goes so far for most people on reaping day. What I did was the radical thing.”

Oh my Greasy Sae, what a novel. What a series. What a writer! Never in my life had I read something in which I inhabited so much of the main character’s emotions and experiences as I did with Katniss. Not only did the death of her father resonate strongly with me and immediately made me empathise with her, but every time she was running, my pulse raced like I was running too. Whenever she was thirsty, my mouth went dry. Whenever she was injured, I hurt for her. I felt the heat of the fire, the stings of the Tracker Jackers, the cold wetness of the stone walls in the cave. As Peeta lay dying, I felt sick and prayed for just one more parachute as much as Katniss did.

“No one has held me like this in such a long time…no one else’s arms have made me feel this safe.”

And my usual habit of ‘Just one more chapter and then I’ll leave it for a day’ just didn't work with HG. The endings of every chapter are such that you HAVE to know what happens next. They’re like little fish hooks which attach to you and pull you into the next one. And the next one. And the next one. It’s like a hunger than you just can’t satisfy. And after The Hunger Games, I was RAVENOUS for Catching Fire. And after Catching Fire I was positively CANNIBALISTIC for Mockingjay. More more more, I cried!

The real star of the whole series is, of course Katniss, who is just about as rounded a character as you will ever meet in YA fiction. At times she can be stubborn or judgmental, jealous, even irrational. Her naivety when it comes to matters of the human heart is sometimes frustrating, and her blindness at Peeta’s affection for her is infuriating. But she is a survivor against all odds and this is what makes her exemplary. Her coal miner father’s death, her mother’s fragile state ever since and her struggle to keep her family from starvation, have turned Katniss into a survivor who knows what is truly important and worth fighting for. She will fight for her sister, take beatings for her friends and will die to save Peeta, the boy who saved her and who loves her unconditionally. And despite everything she does, how deftly she fires those arrows from her bow, how skilfully she skins those rabbits, she is always just a 17-year-old girl who is internally, extremely afraid.


 “Well, if you put enough pressure on coal it turns to pearls.”  

Suzanne Collins is the kind of writer who makes me want to give up writing and devote my life to waiting for her next one to come out, and be totally happy about that. I can’t even be jealous of her talent because if you’d given me a thousand years I couldn’t have come up with The Hunger Games. I couldn’t have come up with a female protagonist as all-round awesome as Katniss. Or a boy character as hair-pullingly gorgeous as Peeta. Or prose as witty, as deep and as pacy. Or a setting as imaginative. Or a plot as globally pertinent. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

‘No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire.’

If I had my writer’s hat on and had to be Finnicky, I will say I wouldn’t have done THAT at the end of Mockingjay. Or THAT. And I certainly wouldn’t have made THAT character do THAT, but these are mere peccadilloes which I can forgive. Just. Anyway, I digress…

Collins’s involvement in The Hunger Games movie truly is the stamp of approval that, as book to film adaptations go, this one has the potential to be just as awesome. With Winter’s Bone’s wonderful Jennifer Lawrence, my muse of the moment Josh Hutcherson *sighs* and my childhood hero Woody Harrelson all on board (I still get goose bumps watching him in Natural Born Killers), not to mention Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and that very scary-faced chick from Orphan, I think it’s a pretty safe bet this film will live up to expectations. The odds are definitely in their favour and I, along with the rest of this wonderful fandom, cannot Effie-ing wait!

‘Ladies and gentlemen, let the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games begin.’

Thank you, Cj, for such an awesome post.  It literally made me read all the books all over again and I am salivating at the thought of seeing the film soon.  I hope you all enjoyed CJ's post - come back soon for more Favourite Things.


Jim said…
Great post! (Although you're far more forgiving of Mockingjay than I am - I wouldn't have done THAT, THAT, THAT, THAT, THAT, THAT and certainly wouldn't have made HIM do THAT!) I still love the first 2 books, though.
Amazing post CJ! I'm with you on Mockingjay, I really wish she hadn't done many THATs :(
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