Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games

Bet you haven't seen those three together yet, huh? If I've lost the bet, oh well.

I just finished the first book of Hunger Games. Yep, I know, way behind. I'm hunting for the next two but they've been checked out. I actually think all three works have something to say to each other. That all three mark how our generation has grown up and speak to different issues.

Harry Potter was us hitting adolescence, Twilight marks us hitting romance and Hunger Games? Finally growing up and looking back at the world.

Harry Potter, great series and captured the imaginations of children (and children at heart) everywhere. It's not the best written Young Adult novel I've ever met to deal with the themes it tackles, but is really gripping. Why?
 It deals with growing up,and moving on, and just not fitting into the world you're born into. Harry Potter, as much as it's about a boy and his two friends having adventures and defeating He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named is about us, too. It's about friends, and it's cool to be a smart chick, and self-sacrifice and finding magic not in words or in spells, but in the people around you. It's also about taking some really complicated issues and boiling them down to a simple conflict of good vs. evil, then building them back up again so we can face them. It's about issues and questions and and learning. Most of all, it's about wonder.
Why is Snape so many people's favorite character? Why does Draco Malfoy only get really interesting in the last two books? Because they aren't simply "evil" characters, they're finally being developed.
Why do you think the new My Little Pony is such a runaway success?

Twilight? Twilight is about the scary, unforgiving and too-memorable first romance you had. I read Twilight. I have a hate/love/AARGH! relationship with those books. (Another post, if anyone cares) Why has Twilight grabbed onto adolescentistas? One reason is because it takes romance and packages it without sex.
Our generation of young women, and young men, has grown up too aware of these areas. I think this has been one way of demanding the loss of the knowledge. This is a world where the hero desperately desires the heroine but will not act on it until after they're married no matter how much the heroine wants him to do so.
What does that sound like to you?
Yay for metaphors.

Now, the Hunger Games. Why am I not really bothered about books two and three? I think book one stands on its own as a complete story and doesn't need sequels.  This book isn't, really, about Twue Love, but about the idea of love and what shows love.  I think one reason this book has gripped so many is because it deals with a lot of issues USA youths have had to tackle.
1. Being in one of the wealthiest lands and having it all handed to them - while a good chunk of the rest of the world suffers dire poverty, and yes, hunger.
2. Having their issues marketed for entertainment on reality tv or elsewhere. For instance, marketing your own issues on blogs to attract readers. (Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...)
3. Having the one resource everyone covets: youth.  Most americans and particularly american women, are hungry to stay in their twenties forever. In some ways, it's nightmarish how entertainment and advertisements (particularly cosmetics) capitalize on this fact.
4. Celebrities are as much a product of their PR team as they are actually themselves.

So, we're looking at a young adult reading public that's been captivated by good vs evil, twue love, and massive societal issues. I think we're growing up.  What do you guys think? I'm up for criticism, discussion and debate.

Now, who's up for some really adult reading? Y'know, the kind of stuff every mature adult reads? That's right people, you've guessed it: DC comics 52, "Our Bodies, Our Souls" by Rebbetzin Heller and Starfist.
Summer break, I'm reading fun stuff.

- Sparrow


  1. Interesting way to tie them all together.

    A few things:

    I LOVED Harry Potter, probably because I started reading it when I was 13 and got sucked in.

    I dislike twilight, the fist book made me gag, it's not written well. And I never read the last 3.

    I read The Hunger Games. (May I point out that the next 2 books have different names instead of 2 and 3, which no one remembers anyway). And yes I was searching for books 2 and 3 and bought them myself. You are welcome to borrow them if you want :) I stayed up all night reading the first book, I liked it. It was gripping. And then the next two books were kind of lame.

    I like your analysis on this, and I don't have much to add except, you should start a book club :) I would join.

  2. When Harry Potter started, he was eleven years old and so was I. Sadly, he never quite grew up at the same rate of speed I did.

    Twilight has a few redeeming qualities. I did read the whole series. (Yep, true story...)Ok, I may work on that analysis after all.

    Exactly! Do I really care who Katniss ends up with? NO. Do I care if the capital disbands their games? Not really. For me, the whole story was about Katniss surviving and learning how to think during that whole "game." That, and the larger issues. I'm not really interested in the sequels, because, as far as I'm concerned, the whole story has been told already and the sequels are just for wrapping up the loose ends.

    Really? I will definitely think about the book club idea for future posts. Suggestions?

    1. I think that there IS something to who Katniss ends up with. As I mentioned in my analysis, I think that Peeta and Gale both brought out different parts of her. There are disparate guys that we could end up. The question and key is who brings out the best in you?

      I recommend my two favorites, different genre though: "Persuasion" and "North & South"

    2. I need to go and read your analysis then. The point about Peeta and Gale is valid, but I don't see that as crucial to the development of the adult Katniss. I see that as more of a loose end that really depends on which aspect of Katniss the reader sees as dominant.

      I haven't read "North and South", who wrote it? I have loved all Jane Austen, though.

    3. "North & South" was written by Elizabeth Gaskell, who is a contemporary of the Brontes. You can also check out the BBC mini-series on the book. It was absolutely amazing and truly well done!

  3. I liked the concept of the hunger games and it definitely generates much discussion and analysis.

    No suggestions, but I'm sure you have read many great books.

  4. 52 the amazing weekly series, or the mostly-lame 'new 52' reboot (with captain marvel being renamed 'shazam' and green lantern (the only 'magic-based' green lantern who's weakness is ironically wood, alan scott) being gay (which means his daughter jade doesn't exist, i'm guessing))?

    1. The weekly series, and yes, it is amazing. I've been trying to pretend the reboot doesn't exist.

  5. Lol no idea what you are saying, but I like Shazam. My brother was in the sci-fi club in college. He knows klingon. I think he would know what you are talking about.

    1. If it helps, I don't know Klingon. ;)

  6. "Hunger Games? Finally growing up and looking back at the world."

    I agree! I wrote two posts on the Hunger Games, one just a reflection ( and one specifically on the topic of love in the Hunger Games ( It had a lot of beautiful messages, including technology/relative TV/physicality/materialism and so forth.

    I also found that the books got subsequently worse and I liked the first one best. Not on all of my friends agreed with me about that.

    I did read Twilight, all 4 in like 2 days, during sophomore year college finals and I did well during finals lol. My roommate and I stayed up all night, read, then went to go take our finals, napped, and so forth. They were interesting and there is obviously a "pull" but they were badly written and the message on love/relationships was/is a (little) warped.

  7. I just headed over and read both posts. Thanks for providing links! As far as tv reducing empathy goes, not too long ago a gang of teens was heading out and beating up homeless people for kicks. It's another theme that runs through the books.
    As to your other post, I don't think that love is the underlying theme of Hunger Games, but connection/empathy.
    As far as the relationships in Twilight: a LOT warped!

    1. I think that love IS one of the themes, though there are many. I mean, part of what everyone talks about is "Katniss and Peeta" and their (pretend) relationship/love is what "saves" them and yet what causes the revolution...

      I DO agree that Katniss growing up, lessons about life, reality/tv, empathy, people, etc, are also important themes that are discussed.

      Though it is not Harry Potter, I think the Hunger Games discuss a broad number of important topics that if analyzed properly, can impact children (and adults that read them) in a positive way.

    2. I thin you've got a definite point as to the analysis. you think schools should have popular lit as part of the English curricula?

    3. Haha, that's a tough question. First of all, what do you mean by "popular lit" and second of all, which "schools" are we talking about?

      English Lit is beautiful and can really be very deep and meaningful to students. However, we also need to be sensitive/respectful of a school's hashkafah. Though I'm not affected (because I see it all around me) by the scenes of Katniss and Peeta kissing, I don't know if that would be case for a young girl, living in Lakewood.

      There are plenty of other books, more classics, that still have propriety and yet, are still deep/meaningful. But I'm sure even some of those, i.e. Jane Erye, have other problems, such as Xtian references and whatnot.

  8. By popular lit, I mean pretty contemporary books that a lot of people read for fun. For instance, The DaVinci Code. For schools? Either public or private. Take your pick.

    Yes, you do need to respect the hashkafa of your school. But does respect have to mean agreeing?
    Is it possible to learn if you just ignore the information you don't like? At what age do you see this being taught? How old is the Lakewood girl example you mentioned?

    Unfortunately, if you really want a good knowledge of classic lit, you have to deal with christian references.
    I was an English major. ;)

    1. Yes, but at least you wouldn't have lakewood kids reading about the jewish sex rituals that took place in the temple according to master fact checker dan brown.

    2. Ooops! Very true, FG. My mistake. I'd just grabbed a name off the NY times bestseller list at random without reading it. May I give the example of "The Princess Bride" instead? I have read that one.

      You guys are making me wonder if a yearlong curricula in pop lit would be appropriate for the high school seniors, though.

    3. The Da Vinci Code has a lot of controversial things what would probably never be mentioned in a more to the right school. Ever. lol.

      Respecting DOES mean agreeing, if you are signing on to teach there. One thing that I realized after this year of student teaching is that teachers actually have very little freedom, including what you choose to teach in your classroom. Even in MO schools. So yeah, respecting does mean agreeing.

      You can't ignore chapters of the book or themes that are blatantly staring at you. I'm personally of the opinion that we are not meant to ignore that there is a "reality" (whatever that means lol) outside of our world, but nor should we encourage kids to delve into it. If there is an open discussion and understanding of the themes, then perhaps those books could be okay, in certain schools.

      It is also true that in Tanach there are a LOT of controversial topics and discussions. As a teacher, you (the general you, or in this case, I lol) need to know how to present and address them. For example: Dina, wiping out Amalek, David and Batsheva (to list some of the most well-known ones) and so forth.

      "You guys are making me wonder if a yearlong curricula in pop lit would be appropriate for the high school seniors, though."

      It would really depend for which school and which books. In my high school school we read: Siddhartha, Beloved, Jane Eyre, A Streetcar Named Desire, including a book by Homer, to name a few.

      The important thing is if a topic is being introduced, it needs to be presented and addressed properly. I am all about encouraging questioning and critical thinking, but answers need to be provided for.

      I also think that students can read outside of the classroom. I doubt the type of school that I'd want to send my children to would read some of these books, but there are some classics that I'd want them to read. Maybe we can have a family book club lol that'd be kinda cute...

    4. Ooooh! A family book club sounds like an awesome idea!

    5. ZP: on the whole, I see what you're saying. About the Davinci Code, my mistake for pulling the book at random. As far as the critical thinking goes, I have to wonder: how critical is the thinking if the answers are already provided for?

      FG: that does sound like fun. Or even storytime.


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