Re-reading “The Hunger Games” #01: Katniss’ Tell-tale Heart

I’ve decided to re-read The Hunger Games before the movie is released. I know that I’ll probably regret this once I’m seated inside the cinema, but I couldn’t resist.

For this re-read, I finally opened one of my Scholastic UK paperback editions. Yay! I chose the Katniss version because I didn’t want the Peeta one to get mangled. πŸ˜›

Reading the first sentence brought back memories of the first time I read this. I remember I stayed up until 4 a.m. because I just couldn’t put it down. I still remember all the sections that made me laugh or cry.

I wasn’t on Goodreads back then, and I was maintaining a different blog, so I didn’t get to document my favorite quotes or my thoughts while I was reading. Now is a good time to start compensating for that. πŸ˜›

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Chapter 1

Suzanne Collins doesn’t waste time. Within the 1st 24 pages, she’s managed to tell us about Katniss’ family, the history of the Hunger Games, Katniss’ relationship with Gale, the social issues of Panem, and basically drew what District 12 looks like for our imaginations. I’m impressed by how she managed to efficiently reveal all that information without overloading my brain.

On hindsight, I think one of the reasons why it was easy for me to get into this book is Collins’ writer’s voice–it’s uncomplicated, concise, yet she evokes vivid imagery. Reading about Katniss and Gale’s impromptu picnic made me want to rush to the mall to buy some bread, cheese, and blueberries. And oh, I can almost smell fresh-baked bread! If I could bottle some of the most wonderful scents in the world, I’d capture fresh-baked bread, books (someone already did this!), and cooking bacon. πŸ˜›

I got some interesting insights into Katniss in this chapter, but perhaps the most significant to me is about her relationship with Gale. When I first read THG, I was very annoyed at Katniss for being indecisive about Gale and Peeta. But in this chapter, her regard for Gale is still almost untainted by Peeta’s shadow, so it’s a good place to look into that relationship.

When they were alone in the woods on the morning of the Reaping, Katniss admits that Gale is like a brother to her, but gets ticked-off when Gale mentions having kids.

“I never want to have kids,” I say.

“I might. If I didn’t live here,” says Gale.

“But you do,” I say, irritated.

“Forget it,” he snaps back.

The conversation feels all wrong. Leave? How could I leave Prim, who is the only person in the world I’m certain I love? And Gale is devoted to his family. We can’t leave, so why bother talking about it? And even if we did…even if we did…where did this stuff about having kids come from? There’s never been anything romantic between Gale and me.

Oh, Katniss. You and your tell-tale heart.

Although I wouldn’t put it past him, I didn’t read all of this as Gale outright saying he wanted to have kids with Katniss if he didn’t live in District 12. Yet, Katniss jumps to that conclusion and becomes irritated at the thought that their blissful friendship will be ruined by something else. Later, she mentions that she’s jealous of the girls who stare at Gale in school, but “only because a good hunting partner is hard to find.”

Somewhere in the recesses of her sub-conscious, I think Katniss is afraid of the thought of losing Gale, but she’s also afraid of what it would take to keep him when she has yet to come to terms with what her true feelings for him really are. And she also probably feels that there’s no room for romance when you have a family to support. It’s all stereotypical, but at this point, I’m fine with that. Gale scares me a little, to be honest, so I can’t really blame Katniss for keeping up that relationship barrier.

Chapter 2

THG holds the distinction of being the book that made me cry only after 2 chapters. It’s like crying only 10 minutes into Pixar’s Up.

To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps.

At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.

This part gets me EVERY TIME. Every single friggin’ time. It’s like that scene in Titanic when the string quartet refused to leave until the other passengers have because it was their duty to entertain. Yup, that makes me cry every time, too.

I saw this scene in the first teaser trailer, so I have a feeling THG is going to be a replay of my Up experience.

Chapter 2 introduces Peeta and reveals the importance of his single encounter with Katniss.

To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the bread that gave me hope, and the dandelion that reminded me that I was not doomed. And more than once, I have turned in the school hallway and caught his eyes trained on me, only to quickly flit away. I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people. Maybe if I had thanked him at some point, I would feel less conflicted now. I thought about it a couple of times, but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. And now it never will. Because we’re going to be thrown into an arena to fight to the death. Exactly how am I supposed to work in a thank-you in there? Somehow it just won’t seem sincere while I’m trying to slit his throat.

How does one compete with that? I really don’t know, Gale, but you will need to step up your game. πŸ˜›

And just like that, I now have my pet character–that someone who has caught my fancy, and who will ensure that I’m on board this roller coaster until the very end. I have to find this pet character for all the books I read and even the movies I watch because I lose interest, more often than not, if I can’t find one.

It’s time to eat some humble pie (bread?)

When they were casting the THG movie, I was one of the advocates for casting actors who are actually in the 16 to 18-year-old range. I maintained that a particular novelty of THG is that kids have to fight each other to the death, so why cast 20-something actors?

But I just realized that these characters do not act and think like they’re kids anymore. In the world of Panem, the kids’ circumstances force them to be more mature. How many 16-year-olds do you know who act and think like Katniss, and how many 16-year-old actresses can pull off that kind of gravity? Not a lot. So casting older makes sense to me now, if it didn’t really sink in before.

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To be continued…

One thought on “Re-reading “The Hunger Games” #01: Katniss’ Tell-tale Heart

  1. geewitch says:

    My favourite lines in this entire trilogy are in Mockingjay, surprisingly. I’ll let you know when I have the book in front of me. πŸ™‚

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