American Sports: Basically The Hunger Games

I know, I know, what a ridiculous hot take. But hear me out!

So I was scrolling through Instagram, like you do, when I saw an ad (does anyone else get SO MANY ADS these days???) for Nike. It was a super cool video of girls playing football in the dark and rain, exciting music, and so on. The final message was that Nike is spending some large sum of money to promote having women’s flag football in every school in America by 2023. Cool! I would totally have played! I opened the comments, curious if anyone else was annoyed they weren’t all pushing for the boys to play flag football too. Well. I should have known better.

“You make football better?! I dont understand why they dont just give ’em pads and put them on the field with the boys then.”

“If they’re so tough and they sacrifice just as much, make them play real football, where men sacrifice their memory and their body sometimes.”

“How does flag football makes football better?”

“Why flag and not tackle ???”

These are the tame version of the comments, after the platform has taken down some of the most offensive offerings. But the attitude is the same. It ain’t football unless they’re hitting each other.

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Favorites February: Mockingjay

Welcome to Favorites February! This month I am re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in a long time, and then taking some time to discuss and celebrate each book when I’m done. This is the final week, and I’m of course going to discuss Mockingjay.

I feel like I should start by saying I actively disliked the final book the first time I read it. I think the plot is objectively less strong than the firsts two books, and I still hate how the last third played out. It all seemed so pointless and unnecessary. However, every time I read this book I enjoy it a little bit more. This is also probably the most thought-provoking book in the series, so there should be plenty to discuss!

As always, spoilers ahead.

Summary

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.

Why I Love This Book

  • Katniss’s PTSD is extremely intense and compelling, and I think important for young people to read in this bloody series.
  • Man, Snow is EVIL.
  • When they play “crazy cat” with Buttercup ❤
  • The ethical and moral questions brought up by the war.
  • What happens to Peeta is so terrible, but for some reason so unputdownable?
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Thoughts from The Hunger Games: Not so Different from the Capitol

The Hunger Games is a pretty explicit commentary on reality TV and sensationalized news stories in America. It’s disturbing how much Americans enjoy seeing people’s suffering play out in real time, whether it’s their failing love stories (Married At First Sight, *cringe*), physical challenges (Survivor), or even death (George Floyd’s murder being broadcast repeatedly on the nightly news). Even when it’s horrible, we just can’t look away.

But what really stood out to me as I re-read The Hunger Games this past month was the subtle way in which Suzanne Collins would relate me, the reader, with the viewers at the Capitol. Especially poignant to me was this quote close to the end of the book:

Well, Foxface died almost a day ago, so there’s been plenty of time for the audience to place bets and get bored.

The audience, i.e. the reader, has had a pretty “boring” couple of chapters. Nobody has tried to kill anyone, it’s just been Peeta and Katniss snuggling in a cave trying to not die. Presumably Cato and Thresh are fighting it out off-screen, but YA readers who like a fast plot are probably starting to wonder when something is going to happen to our protagonists.

And that’s the moment that got me thinking. Why is it so appalling to us that the Capitol would enjoy the spectacle of children killing each other, but it’s totally fine for us as readers to enjoy the same thing?

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Favorites February: Catching Fire

Welcome back to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in (maybe) a decade. And here you are, just in time for the sequel that actually lived up to it all! I didn’t love Catching Fire the first time I read it, but the more I read it the more I love it.

As always, spoiler alert.

Summary

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Why I Love This Book

  • Finally getting to know Peeta and Haymitch as people.
  • Seeing the other districts.
  • The revolution themes, especially because they are obscured and uncertain.
  • Cinna’s amazing design for Katniss’s opening ceremonies outfit.
  • How Collins explores that killing a person never really leaves you and Kanitss’s PTSD.
  • Seeing Katniss fall in love with Peeta in the arena, and watching everyone else figure it out even though she doesn’t.
  • Even though it’s longer and the Games don’t even start until the last 75 pages, it’s still so compulsively readable.
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Favorites February: The Hunger Games

Welcome to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m reading The Hunger Games trilogy, and had an absolute BLAST kicking it off with the one that started it all. I can’t believe it’s been a DECADE since I discovered this series. And I was already an adult… Geez Louise, I’m old aren’t I?

I’m assuming that everyone who is ever going to read The Hunger Games probably already has, so spoilers in the discussion. You’ve been warned.

Synopsis

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.

Why I Love This Book

  • Compulsively readable
  • Katniss is such an unusual protagonist: cold, calculating, and ruthless.
  • The complexity of the love story
  • Of all the dystopias I’ve ever read, this one is the most eerily plausible.
  • Rue! My broken heart will cry forever.
  • The elimination-style competition has turned into a kind of bad trope, but it is so compelling and convincing in this book.
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Favorites February 2021

Okay so, I realize it isn’t February today, but when I was planning my book list I genuinely thought that it would be February today, and I’ve already started my reading for this. So, here we are. WHATEVER! It’s February tomorrow!

Every year here on Never Not Reading I read a favorite series (or suuuuper long novel) in the month of February. As I am reading I write a series of posts in which I write about the books in detail and host a small discussion. In the past I’ve read Percy Jackson, Emma, and His Dark Materials.

In 2021 I am SO EXCITED to announce that I will be reading The Hunger Games trilogy!

I’m really looking forward to this re-read for a number of reasons. Perhaps the biggest of those is that with the release of A Ballad of Songbird and Snakes last year, The Hunger Games was everywhere and made me feel super nostalgic. I even considered tagging ABOS&S to the end of this re-read since I haven’t read it yet, but decided against it. After giving it months of thought (seriously, I’ve known this was going to be my Favorites Februrary since like, April) I decided that I don’t really care about the prequel.

The other reason I’m super excited about this re-read is that it’s been a hot minute since I read The Hunger Games. I can’t remember for sure when I last read it, but it’s been at least five years, probably more.

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5 Most Detestable Characters that We Love to Hate

There’s something so satisfying about reading a truly evil villain. Sometimes, if they’re especially over the top, we even end up loving how much we hate them. These are the characters we are rooting for to die, get utterly humiliated, or otherwise get their come-uppance. These are the characters we never get tired of raving about how horrible they are. These characters make their books even more unforgettable.

Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter

Hands down, Umbridge is at the top of my list. I know in 2021 this is a bit of a controversial opinion, but I just hate this women so friggen much. The fact that she delights from torturing children is just HORRIBLE, but her superficial qualities like her annoying laugh and pink cardigans make hating her much more fun than, say, hating Bellatrix Lestrange.

I think my favorite thing about the introduction of Umbridge as a villain is that it introduces into the Harry Potter series the concept of a shade of grey between good and evil. Here is a woman that isn’t a death eater, and is in fact on the side of the “good guys”. However, she is just as twisted as those who are killing people in the name of blood purity. Later in the series, she hops right on that bandwagon as soon as it enters the government. To me, she represents the danger of those with backwards ideas and more ambition than compassion working in and for our government.

All these years later, and Umbridge is still the most hated character in the fandom. We will never get tired of her, and book 5 just wouldn’t be the same without her.

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Identity Crisis Tag

Hm, I haven’t had a good identity crisis yet in 2020. Will finding out I’m not really the book character I’ve always identified with do me in? Let’s find out!

I was tagged in the Identity Crisis Tag by my very favorite blogger The Orangutan Librarian LAST SEPTEMBER. EEK! I don’t know how I didn’t do this tag sooner because a) I love personality quizzes and b) I’ve probably done a bunch of tags since then. What can I say? I’m a terrible friend. 😛

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to seeing which character from some favorite series I am, though I admit I haven’t read most of them. LET’S GO!

Rules

  1. Take all the quizzes down below and record your answers.
  2. NO CHEATING. You get one shot to take each quiz.
  3. Give credit to the creator Loretta @ The Laughing Listeneror tag her on twitter @LaughnListener so she can see everyone’s answers!!
  4. Tag some friends to spread the fun!

Red Queen

I have never read this book/series, nor do I even know what it’s about! So this should go right over my head. WOO!

I am: Cal

Whoever that is. While I’m not sure whether I should be offended, I’m a little confused by the “strong and broody” description. Nor do I typically struggle to figure out what the right thing to do is… *shrug*

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5 Favorite Revolutionary Novels

Happy Yesterday-Birthday America.

Honestly I’m not feeling super celebratory this year. Over the top patriotism has bothered me for a while, but this year it feels especially off. We still ate apple pie and hotdogs, and we still went to fireworks (there is no such thing as a bad reason to set off safe, colorful explosives)*, but posting American flags made out of books on Instagram feels icky.

Still, since this year marks the 244th anniversary of signing of the document that started one of the more influential revolutions in history, I thought it might be fun to talk about some of my favorite books about revolutions. These are in no particular order. Half-assed listicles for the win!

*plus outside is apparently VERY low-risk of Covid spread, so I figured this was a good opportunity to get my kids out of the house for the first time in months

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Obviously! A good dystopia needs a good revolution, but my favorite thing about this revolution is how messy it is. Both sides are willing to do pretty terrible things in the name of victory, and in the end Katniss doles out justice on a whim. Nothing is black and white in this series, especially Katniss, which is what I think STILL separates this book from all the other YA dystopias out there. Plus the side-characters are SO COMPELLING!!!

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The Dreaded Second Book Slump

We all know the drill. We read the first book in a new trilogy. We fall in love. We gush, we hype, we yell about the best book in creation at the top of our internet-lungs. Then, oh the torture, we have to wait a year (maybe even two!) for the sequel! So we wait, and we dream, and we imagine all of the things the rest of the series is going to be. Let’s be honest, we probably over-hype the book. Then, the day finally comes! We get our beautiful pre-ordered copy in the mail, and we don’t wait to dive right it! But… it’s just… fine.

Okay, even if it doesn’t go quite to that extreme, we all know that the second book in a trilogy is usually the weakest. Why?

The conflict has no where to go.

This is, I think, the main sticking point. I notice that often book 2 seems to be chasing itself in circles. So, a lot of times, the first book leaves us having firmly established the main conflict of the series, and has left the main character with a clear idea of what they need to do. But in the second book you can’t start resolving anything yet. So, what do you do? How do you continue to build when the main climax of the series isn’t even coming during this book?

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