Crossing Over

Most avid Hunger Games fans started off simply as curious readers rather than reading the books in the hopes of becoming fangirls and fanboys. Surely, many of of us were skeptical at first.

Among those numbers was Kendra, AKA Hunger Games Bookclub, who talks about her conversion from everyday reader to fangirl in today’s guest post!

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I’m a reader, an avid reader. My mother used to give me a 12-book limit on how many I could check out from the library each week. I paid five years of college tuition so that I could devour good books. I. Like. To. Read.

Before reading The Hunger Games…

But something unexpected happened to me when I read The Hunger Games trilogy. Something happened that has never occurred with the other book series that I re-read periodically every few years or with the other 5,000 books that I’ve probably read in my lifetime: I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

For days, I stumbled around my normal life with one foot in reality and one foot in Panem! I tried to read another book to break the spell but it tasted like mental sawdust… meaningless compared to the words I’d just digested. I kept hearing Haymitch in my head. I saw Peeta in my husband, whose steady nature is solid as a rock. I felt the hunger of District 12 when I watched the news about impoverished countries. I knew the desperation of Katniss’ vow when I looked in my innocent children’s eyes.

Seemingly without choice, I had crossed over the Great Divide into uncharted territory. I became not just a reader, but a fan. And chances are, if you’re reading this blog post on a Hunger Games fansite, YOU’VE become a fan too.

As I’ve watched and perused countless interviews and comments of fans, one thing seems clear: we all have a different reason for crossing over. Suzanne Collins herself remarked that some fans are drawn to the action; some fall in love with the characters; others appreciate the writing style; many enjoy the romance; others become inspired by the themes of social justice, poverty, and war. There’s something here for everyone.

What made YOU cross the Great Divide between reader and fan?

…and after!

As for me, these are a few of the reasons that propelled me to jump…

OH, THE FORESHADOWING!
Perhaps because of my literature major, I found myself reading The Hunger Games and involuntarily saying things like, “Just look at that sentence!” and “Oh, the foreshadowing!” Suzanne Collins is the Queen of Consistency & Repetition. She repeats phrases, songs, imagery, and memories. For instance, scan through The Hunger Games and count how many times she describes Peeta with the word “steady” or President Snow with “snake”. Each mention of a memory brings something new to light about the past or the characters involved (such as memories of Katniss and her father singing). Suzanne Collins might be Queen of the Cliffhanger, too. Didn’t your stomach lurch when you read the ending of Catching Fire? Perhaps, like me, you ran to your nearest bookstore for Mockingjay so that you could find out what happened next.

GOT COURAGE?
Katniss is no James Bond. She is not a trained killer. She might be calculating, but she is not cold. She’s a sixteen year old girl who is scared out of her mind, but brave enough to protect the ones she loves and stubborn enough to keep trying. I could use a little bit of Katniss’ courage to face my own troubles.

GIVE US OUR DAILY BREAD…
By my anecdotal count, 50% of The Hunger Games fandom passionately declares Peeta to be their favorite character of THG. Some fans might even go so far as to describe him as their favorite fictional male character PERIOD! It would take more than one paragraph, or even one blog post, to describe, explain, or adequately portray Peeta. The fact that Peeta is willing to die for this girl – who has never even spoken to him and does not love him – is a testimony to his strength of character. His self-sacrifice is the way he resolves in his mind to stay true to himself, “to not become a piece in their games”. Peeta is steady and strong, not only in body, but mind and purpose. Despite his gift for words (and let’s face it, manipulation), he does not manipulate Katniss. He gives her the time and space to choose him. Peeta inspires us to be our very best selves.

See you on the other side…
The Hunger Games Bookclub

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14 comments

  1. Loved the post, Kendra! It totally covered an important part of the fandom…the reason we’re here today. I’m not even sure why I crossed over myself. Maybe I’m just like, one of those clingy girlfriends who doesn’t let go of her boyfriend’s hand. Or, in this case, her book. The writing drew me in the most, and the totally unique plotline. And I agree with the whole Peeta thing – although not my favourite character, he’s a very close second and one of the most level headed and selfless. Which is cute to read in this day and age, even if it’s not about this day and age. Great write up!

  2. Amazing write up! I also have no idea why I crossed over, I think it was partly the way Suzanne wrote the books, as it makes you feel right there in the action. And for me, I think its a close tie with my two favourite characters being Finnick and Peeta….

    1. Alice, I’m inspired by Peeta but I think I adore Finnick! Like Katniss, I’m always suspicious of men that are too pretty… but Finnick won me over throughout Mockingjay and I loved how Suzanne Collins revealed his character little by little. I have a friend who still gets tears in her eyes whenever Finnick comes up in conversation… she just can’t believe he’s dead.

  3. Great article :), loved it. And I still can’t find a better book, and I read the first one a long time ago. The things that drawn me into fandom were, I think, the revolution aspects, the society in which they live, how things are handled. I guess that’s why Mockingjay is my favourite book, because of the whole revolution that takes place in there.

    I also love the characters. I mean, I know the names of them all. That doesn’t happen often, I tend to forget names. I love Katniss, reading her inner thoughts. The originality of it, how the Capitol controles the Districts, how it affects the people…

    It’s not the action. I don’t really like the action aspects of stuff. But I love the drama sides of stuff, and this book has plenty. And it’s like, really well done. The writing style. The symbolism. It’s not really noticeable unless you have studied it (I haven’t), but you miss it on other books. The perfect decision not to talk about stuff like religion (which is, for me, a flaw in books like Divergent. Why is there a christianism god? It’s just because the author believes in god. Didn’t like this particular thing at all, you’re creating a fictional world… oh well). It’s just… so well done.

    Then, apart from that, the films also helped. Such beautiful stuff, such great characters. You know what, I really enjoy seeing Woody Harrelson as Haymitch when reading the books. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Donald Sutherland as Snow… you see them, in the book, and it’s so, fucking, awesome.

    And there’s the fandom as well. There are lots of kinds of fandom, but I’ve never found a fandom like this one. They accept newcomers fantastically well. There’s such a nice fansites reporting every bit of news. There’s this awesome site, where there’s a daily opinion on related stuff, and you can have interesting discussions on comments. There is even a great podcast everyweek with lots of entertainment and discussion. It’s just… incredible. I can’t find something like that in other books I also love (though not as much as the hunger games).

    So yeah, it’s the books themselves, and also the movies and the community built around those.

    1. Abel, I think you are proving my/Suzanne’s point about people connecting to this trilogy for different reasons. You enjoy the revolution and the drama and not the action, whereas I was biting my nails and staying up until the wee hours hooked on the action. But I think Suzanne excels in so many areas of writing, not just one or two, that it’s, well like you said, “It’s just… so well done.”

      And I really appreciate the community aspect as well. Victor’s Village is like the Saturday Night Live for THG fandom! I’m going to sound like I’m sucking up, but I’m not… it really is my favorite fansite to read. I always get a laugh. And HG Fireside Chat is like pulling up to the fire with a couple of friends and getting out a good book. (BTW, a side note: I’ve been in a bookclub for nine years except after all of us had a passel of children, it kind of morphed into sharing a meal and confidences. So VV, HG Fireside Chat, the other affiliated fansites and my facebook page are really the closest thing to a bookclub that I have!)

      1. [spoiler alerts for the 3 books, just in case someone reads that]

        Ha, but don’t get me wrong. I also really enjoyed the action and the suspense and everything. What I meant, is I do not look after stuff for its action. But when it’s other things, and has wonderful action/suspense parts that are done right, it’s something I actually appreciate.

        So I liked the action aspects of the hunger games a lot, but it’s more their emotional sides. The bombing of the hospital in Mockingjay, the confusion in the arena rescue in Catching Fire… I like the action stuff, I’m just saying that a simple action-only film does not attract me at all. Suzanne Collins does it so well, and as it’s in the mind of the character, we can really see what she feels, which makes it great.

        Also, yeah, the community is just so fucking awesome.

  4. Hey HGBC! I agree with your post pretty much 100%. I am a newcomer to the THG fandom, I did not know about the books until the movie came out. I am however familiar with being a fan, not just a reader, as I also consider themselves to be a Harry Potter fan, and honestly, I still find HP to be my “true love”. But THG comes in a close second.

    Like you, Peeta is certainly my favorite character in the series, and actually the first fictional guy I’ve ever had a crush on. While this is somewhat tangential, I will say that I actually disagree about Peeta not manipulating Katniss. What he tries to do with the locket during the beach scene is classic emotional manipulation, and totally premeditated at that (he had to either take those pics of Prim, Mrs. E, and Gale himself, or collect pics that already existed). His later comment that “the locket didn’t work” also indicates that much of what he said there was deliberately calculated to convince her to let him die.

    Note, for example, how he dismisses the importance of HIS family to him, which contradicts what he said in D11 when he gets mad at Katniss and Haymitch for not telling him about Snow’s threats, and obviously when he becomes enraged in MJ when he finds out his family was killed in the D12 bombing. So I think he was not being completely truthful there. Now, he does it for her own good, obviously, but he still does it.

    I’d also argue that the whole strategy in THG of Peeta “training alone” and making sure Katniss is taken by surprise when he confesses his feelings in the pre-game interview is also manipulative, though Haymitch likely had a hand in it as well. The fact that Peeta can be manipulative is one reason some people give for NOT liking Peeta, and many assume he also manipulated her into agreeing to have children with him. I can point out other ways Peeta is far from perfect, such as how hypocritical he is at times, note that while his main survival strategy is often deception, he gets angry when others deceive him. But to me that just makes him a deeper, believable character.

    I also love how these books have stirred up such discussion and debate, much like HP. I’ve also appreciated the quality of the fandom so far, though some aspects of it remind me that I am much older than the target audience. Such as, the ridiculous amount of Sam Claflin-hate out there, just because you see him as fitting their mental image of Finnick doesn’t mean you need to call him ugly, or threaten to consume nightlock berries if he does wind up getting the role.

    1. Yes I am replying to myself…just to note that I meant, “just because you DON’T see him as fitting your mental image of Finnick doesn’t mean you need to call him ugly”. Actually, I HOPE some of the immature comments about him, and other Finnick-wannabees, are coming from teenagers, not people my age, but that’s probably not completely true. Oh well.

  5. Satsuma, well, shiver me timbers! You are right – the locket was a complete and predetermined manipulation on Peeta’s part. There are probably other P/K moments I have missed as well, so I may have to revise some of the way I think about Peeta. When I said that he doesn’t manipulate Katniss, I was referring to the way in CF that Peeta acts for the cameras as though every thing is fine; he knows that it was an act for Katniss but he’s not going to “out” her or try to force her to respond romantically in private just because it was real for him. Another point, when Peeta finds Katniss holding Gale’s hand after the whipping, he doesn’t try to convince her one way or another… he’s deeply hurt but still responds kindly. He’s on her side even when she might end up with Gale. Peeta doesn’t do this male posturing with Gale (I’m better… she likes me better… I’m gonna beat you up if you touch her) and he also doesn’t try to talk negatively about Gale to Katniss, in order to manipulate the way she views Gale. Even more, Peeta may or may not know how comforting he is to Katniss when he sleeps in her bed but he doesn’t use that leverage to try to make her “like him”. I know that some people don’t believe that two teenagers can sleep together without anything happening, but I do (at least in a short-term period) and personally, I feel like Suzanne Collins is very clear about that in the last page before the epilogue of MJ. For these reasons, I pictured Peeta as taking the hands-off “she’ll figure out who she wants” approach, rather than a manipulative one with Katniss.

    All that being said, I agree that Peeta’s weaknesses make him more real or in your words, “a deeper, more believable character”.

    There is one point, and you might be repeating others’ opinions not your own, that I strongly disagree with… I do not think Peeta manipulates Katniss to have children. As someone a little “longer in the tooth” like Tess mentioned in a guest post or two ago, I’ve been in an unsuccessful marriage and now a successful one. Long term commitments weather the years because of the partners ability to compromise, not because they feel more in love than others, or whatever other reason people might come up with. Once Katniss crossed the line of making her decision about Gale and choosing Peeta as “real”, she became a team with Peeta in the areas that had previously been her own private world. When we find out about her vow to never be in love/married and never have children, it wasn’t because she didn’t WANT those things. She just DIDN’T want the pain of watching her own children die MORE than the desire of having them.

    Peeta really wanted children, no surprise there. Katniss said more than once that he’s the one person who was actually good enough to deserve them. I don’t think Peeta eventually “manipulated” her to have them… I think it took him five, ten, fifteen years to convince her that Panem had stabilized enough in government that the risk of a Hunger Games repeat would be low.

    1. Hey HGBC, great discussion we’re having, and this is one reason I have for crossing over, is that the books leave us such room for good discussion. I am fascinated by how different people read the books in different ways. One major difference, I think, is how people think SC wanted to end the story. On a mournful, sad, but ultimately hopeful note, or a dreary, depressing, hopeless one?

      It seems most people who see the post-war Katniss-Peeta relationship to be unhappy, think the entire ending is unhappy, and sends a rather cynical message that human nature is so corrupt that no real societal change is ever possible. They see Katniss and Peeta as having essentially turned into their mothers, doomed to continue a cycle of neglect and abuse in their domestic life, much as Panem itself is doomed to continue a cycle of tyranny, rebellion, and more tyranny. They can’t buy into either of them having recovered from their lowest points in MJ.

      So, they see Katniss as having turned into her mother, depressed and withdrawn, while they see Peeta as having turned into *his* mother, angry, bitter, and violent. And so they see him as having manipulated or coerced Katniss into having children pretty much against her will. They see Katniss having children, to be not a sign of her recovery, but yet another sign that the trauma she suffered has broken her beyond repair.

      And while I’d like to see the post-war Katniss-Peeta relationship as a redemptive one, where they are equal partners in a happy marriage, and that Katniss does decide of her own accord to have children, I do wonder at times if SC really meant it that way, or if I am just engaging in wishful thinking. But I do think it’s fascinating how there really seems to be plenty of evidence for both the positive and negative interpretations. And it does seem much of it is colored by our own experiences.

      I can understand, for example, how someone who has been exposed to domestic violence in real life, might find that they simply cannot accept that Peeta and Katniss could ever again have a healthy relationship after his acts of violence (and some would argue verbal abuse) in MJ, especially as SC refers to him still having venom flashbacks after the war. Many people assume Peeta also still struggles with the homicidal urges he had in MJ during these episodes.

      While I think most of us “long in the tooth” readers can put Peeta’s MJ behavior in context, I understand why some would fear that the books could influence some young people to tolerate domestic violence as acceptable in relationships. I recall people raising similar concerns about the relationships in Twilight, that they are sending a message that a man struggling with homicidal urges toward the woman he loves is romantic, when in RL it would be cause for filing a restraining order.

      I do agree with you that I don’t see Katniss as being opposed to marriage and children because she doesn’t like kids, or from some anti-marriage or anti-child philosophy. She states in the books that she can’t afford the kind of love that leads to marriage and children, not that she doesn’t want it. I think that the reason losing Prim hits her as hard as it does, is because to her, Prim was almost more of a daughter than a sister, and even in real life, many parents who lose their children never get over it. I think that’s another reason it takes her so long to agree, that she’s afraid of going through that pain again.

      I also agree with you that Peeta does not ever try to manipulate Katniss into loving him. I also think that both he *and* Gale take the hands-off “she’ll figure out who she wants” approach. Unlike some love triangles, the girl is not treated by the guys as some object to be fought over, and Gale and Peeta treat each other with respect.

      I also admit I was a little confused by how you say the page before the epilogue in MJ shows that teenagers can sleep together without anything else happening, because it seemed pretty obvious that something sexual did happen. Unless you are saying that, by SC showing us that it did happen that particular night, she’s also showing us that it hadn’t happened before. Though Peeta’s bitterness about “all those nights on the train” in MJ, though venom-enhanced, indicates that he probably saw that as more of an intimate activity than Katniss did at the time.

  6. Satsuma, wow, I never thought of all the different ways to interpret Peeta and Katniss’ relationship. Really never dawned on me that there was another way to see it. I’m still going to stick with my own interpretation, but I’m fascinated to hear other viewpoints! 🙂

    I really like your point that Prim, in some ways, was like a daughter to Katniss. Katniss was certainly a surrogate mother to Prim. I think that sense of protecting someone helpless and vulnerable is very strong in Katniss, and is a precursor to an innate instinct in (most) mothers that some people refer to as the “mama bear”… ferociously defending that little one at all cost.

    Sorry I wasn’t clear about the page before the epilogue in MJ. To me, I believe that Suzanne Collins is trying to show us without using the word “sex” that Katniss and Peeta have crossed the line into sexual territory by using the words “So after”. Some of the fansites think Peeta and Katniss were having sex all along, but I strongly disagree with that theory. For one, Katniss mentions (this is MJ, pg 388) that she feels again the hunger that overtook her on the beach. I think this hunger is mentioned 2-3 times, but I interpret it on the beach to be the first time Katniss has ever allowed herself to feel sexual desire at all. She’d been a little too busy feeding her family to notice Gale the Hottie, who apparently had spent his years kissing all the girls in school! And even though she’s now kissed Peeta hundreds of times for the cameras, there are these few moments that felt different to her. Reason #2 for my interpretation of events is a running comment from Katniss that “nothing happens” when Peeta spends the night but the rest of the team/train just assumes. Reason #3 is that when Katniss describes Peeta dropping his “bomb” about her being pregnant, she described her worst fear – “the loss of [her] children to the Games”. She goes on to say, “And it COULD be true now, couldn’t it? If I hadn’t spent my life building up layers of defenses until I recoil at even the suggestion of marriage or a family?” To me that means, it is physically impossible for it to be true, but the pregnancy could have been true if she didn’t have all these walls up with Peeta. Reason #4, I feel like Katniss has crossed into new territory with Peeta by the fact that he asks if she loves him “real or not real” and she is finally able to give her answer.

    And yes, I guess my reason #5 would be what you said, Suzanne is showing us that something happened that night, and by default, is showing that something hadn’t happened before.

  7. Hey HGBC: Just to clarify, I personally do not think that Peeta is ever abusive to Katniss, even in MJ, when he attacked her he thought she was a mutt, and was probably acting in perceived self-defense, that he interpreted her rushing to see him as her rushing to attack him. Peeta himself differentiates the “mutt” and “lover” labels for Katniss when he lists the “words I use to figure you out”. I guess it’s similar to how Katniss did drop the tracker jacker nest on Peeta and the Careers in THG, out of perceived self-defense, as she thought Peeta was trying to kill *her* at the time.

    I also do not interpret his flashback episodes to be ones where he’s actually struggling against homicidal urges. SC has him tell Katniss that Dr Aurelius didn’t let him return earlier, and I assume this means that when the doctor cleared Peeta to return to D12, that this was because was no longer a threat to others, nor to himself for that matter.

    I also don’t think Katniss would get together with him, or describe him in the positive way she does at the end of MJ, if he was abusive. But some people see the Katniss at the end of MJ as having been beaten down into a helpless victim of circumstance, and do think she would have accepted even an abusive relationship as an alternative to being completely alone.

    As for the whole “did they or didn’t they” question, I have heard various theories about it, but I agree with you that no actual sex took place until the end of MJ. Though you could argue that the “beach” make-out scene went pretty far, as even Finnick, quite far from innocent, seemed taken aback when he woke up and saw it.

  8. Had to go back and look at that kissing on beach scene to refresh my memory. I love that line “I thought I was something of an expert on hunger, but this is an entirely new kind.” (CF, pg 353.) Is it too much to hope they would have Katniss whisper this to Peeta in the Catching Fire script so that the audience understands this kissing is at a whole different level for her?! And I see that Finnick notices their expressions and way they are wrapped around each other and realizes he just interrupted something.

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