Monday, October 25, 2010

From the Book Blog: Twilight I'm not really afraid of vampires, but I am afraid of reading mass pop culture fiction. I didn't read any Harry Potter until the craze was over, and I really thought I'd never read Twilight. After being pressured by numerous crazed Team Jacob and Team Edward fans, I finally decided to pick it up. I am an English teacher after all.

If you don't know already, the Twilight series tells the story of a teenage girl named Bella and her new life living in Forks, WA. After her mom moved to Florida to be with a new boyfriend, Bella decided to move up north with her dad to make things easier on everyone else. While in Forks, Bella goes to a new school, makes new friends, and is especially curious about one, pale-faced, intoxicatingly attractive boy - Edward. Around page 250 you finally find out that he is, indeed, a vampire and living with his vampire family in the woods nearby Bella's home.

The story does have its moments of repute: some good actions scenes (that end abruptly) and occasional times where the narrative arcs smoothly. But here's the issue, everyone -- girls and guys. Listen up. What I'm about to criticize is not new, in fact, other critics have already said it. For those of you who haven't read other reviews, this should help inform your reading of the book.

Let's take Bella for starters. Stephanie Meyer gives her very few qualities. Bella is dark haired, pale faced, and plain. That's it. We know that school comes easily to her and that she's pretty independent from her parents, and that's it for personality. She is an empty slate...available for any female reader to quickly believe that she could be or could have been Bella in her lifetime. That's not too bad so far. It's nice to relate to characters, but that's a pretty shallow connection.

Next we have Edward. He's perfect. Tall, muscular, has really good breath (?), and is totally mesmerized by Bella. He's a bit angry and dangerous, yet protective and obsessive. So now here's what we have: Bella (insert yourself), plain and not particularly impressive physically or intellectually, devotes her whole life to this impossibly attractive vampire who is infatuated with her. My fear is that many impressionable young girls may not be thinking twice about this ludicrous idea and start to believe that giving up their lives for a guy seems like a fulfilling way to live life. At seventeen, Bella is convinced by the end of the book that all that matters in her life is Edward. Seriously?!?! Come on now! Girls!

If you're enjoying the book for the thrill (of which honestly I think there is too little) or the romance (of which there is definitely too much) then fine, but please don't let yourself be convinced that you are Bella and you need an Edward/Jacob too! It's just not REAL!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

From the Book Blog: The Hunger Games

Except for the fact that I'm still a little bit creeped out by the whole idea of human sacrifice, I absolutely loved Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. As I wrote in my Twilight post, I'm not usually a fan of "pop" books and series, but this book is certainly an exception.

Taking place in a future time in North America, Katniss Everdeen narrates a twisted, nail biting adventure. This fabulously feisty female protagonist begins the story by explaining a few things about how this setting came to be. She explains that there are now only twelve districts remaining in what we know as North America. The United States, Canada, and Mexico are no longer existent - not even distant memories. These twelve districts are run by The Capitol, an oppressive governing body located somewhere near the Rocky Mountains. Several years ago, the districts attempted to rise against The Capitol so that they may be independent from the government's control. This rebellion ultimately failed, and the result of this action was the government's creation of the Hunger Games. This system was created as a reminder of the control that the Capitol has over the districts and that even thinking about rebelling again will only end in more destruction.

Katniss is a member of District 12 and she is a rule breaker. She has taken over the role as parent in her family after her loving father died in a coal mining explosion. Kat quickly taught herself to hunt, bargain, and trade in the black market, and quickly became the sole proprietor of food for her mother and little sister. The family is managing fine, until the day called The Reaping comes.

The Reaping is the very beginning of the Hunger Games. All districts gather in their town square for a lottery. Two names are pulled, one boy and one girl, to become the tributes (really, sacrifices) for the district. The drama begins when Katniss's younger sister, only twelve years old, is randomly chosen as a tribute. Unable to bear the thought of her sister participating, Kat instinctively volunteers herself over her sister. The boy, Peeta, is chosen and it is time for the Hunger Games to begin.

So here's how it works: two tributes from each district are selected. The tributes are trained, dressed up, interviewed (kind of like an evil Olympics) and tossed into an arena where the tributes are essentially fighting to the death. Anything goes...weapons, wild animals, weather, starvation, thirst, you name it, the tributes deal with it in the arena. It's shockingly disturbing and a fascinating commentary on governments and humanity, but this book reads like a movie. Beautiful passages that don't let your eyes blink, all the while, cheering your heart out for the protagonist. This book has adventure, social commentary, combat, coming of age, and even a little romance...You have got to check out this book. I just picked up the sequel, so I'll let you know how it goes once that's done. Just give me about four hours and I'm sure I'll finish it :)

Go District 12!!