Tag Archives: Suzanne Collins

Road Trip Wednesday — Groundhog Day

This week’s RTW prompt over at YA Highway: “In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray has to relive the same day over and over. What books would you pick to read over and over for the rest of your life?”

Ooh, what a fun question. I think I’ve already made my eternal devotion to HP pretty clear, so let’s just consider those seven books givens. Other than them…

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, & Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

Also fairly obvious choices, given both my personal fan-girling and that of the entire YA universe, but I couldn’t leave them out. They’re intense, juicy, keep-you-up-all-night reads; I only finished Mockingjay a week or so ago and I’m already looking forward to revisiting the whole trio. TEAM PEETA FOREVER.

Matched (Ally Condie)

Another one I wanted to dive into again as soon as I’d reached the last page. A seamless blend of compelling plot and gorgeous language, Condie’s debut is a true treat of a book from start to finish. I cannot wait for the sequel!

The Tiger In The Well and The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman)

My favorite installments in Pullman’s Sally Lockhart and His Dark Materials series, respectively — the former primarily because of the swooniest intellectual romance ever committed to paper (Daniel Goldberg, will you marry me?) and the latter primarily because, well, it’s The Golden Compass! (I try to pretend the movie adaptation never happened.) Pullman was one of the first authors I remember being directly inspired by. Not only is he an astonishingly inventive and gripping writer, he is a champion of strong female characters, and for that especially I will always love him.

Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

I can’t even count how many times I’ve reread this book, and every time I revisit it I find something new to relate to, chuckle at, or be moved by. The reigning queen of YA “issue” books, Anderson makes powerful points without ever getting preachy.

Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings (Megan McCafferty)

I was a faithful reader of McCafferty’s whole Jessica Darling series, but the first two books will always be my favorites. Like Speak, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gone back to these books — sometimes just for a few happy-making pages, sometimes to devour them in their entirety all over again. They’re funny and poignant and endlessly re-readable.

What are your picks?

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The Week In Review — Hungry For A Good Cast

My Suzanne Collins fan-girling continues! I became so entrenched in her HG world while barreling through the trilogy that I have yet to pick up anything else from my to-read pile. I simply haven’t been able to give myself over to another reading experience; I’m still reeling somewhat from finishing Mockingjay. So I’m going to continue basking in dystopian glory (oxymoron?) for a bit longer, and offer up my dream picks for some of the men of Panem. And yes, I’m aware of how British this list is. I fully admit to being biased toward lovely men from across the pond!

Peeta — Jamie Bell

His impressively diverse acting resume proves he can do both sweet and tortured, charming and tough. In fact, one only need see him in his breakout role in Billy Elliot to know how simultaneously fierce and lovable he can be. Peeta may be a lovelorn sweetheart, but he’s not a pushover, and I think Bell could strike the right balance between tender heartache and impassioned determination. And look! Here he is all bare-chested and arena-ready (from the upcoming “2nd century adventure” The Eagle):

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Gale — Eddie Redmayne

A good ten years older than the character, yes, but he doesn’t look it, and he’s a mesmerizing actor. I saw him in a play in London and couldn’t take my eyes off him. (And not just for the obvious reasons.) He definitely has Gale’s ferocity — a certain fire behind the eyes.

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Haymitch — Robert Downey, Jr.

Many have suggested Hugh Laurie for this role, but while he has certainly demonstrated his capacity for endearing grouchiness as House, I wouldn’t be able to believe he was ever deadly. Haymitch is cantankerously past his prime, but he still once won the Games, and I just don’t think Laurie has that kind of lurking lethality. RDJ, probably in large part due to his titular roles in Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, projects the right kind of aged toughness. He’s also excellent at portraying characters whose external gruffness belie their hidden emotional wounds.

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Cinna — Benedict Cumberbatch

Cumberbatch is such a versatile actor that I fell in love with him as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes without even realizing he was the skin-crawlingly creepy rapist from Atonement. He’s hilariously antisocial as Holmes, but has displayed a kinder side in projects like Creation, and to me looks perfectly Cinna-esque — elegant and lanky, with a heartwarming smile.

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President Snow — Patrick Stewart

No one does regal quite like Stewart, and his recent turn as Claudius in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet proved he can do insidiously evil just as well as he can do courtly and avuncular.

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Finnick — Henry Cavill

One of my favorite characters from the entire series, Finnick is a flirtatious rogue with a tormented heart of gold. The utterly charming Cavill has repeatedly been thisclose to plum roles like Bond and Batman, and is one of the most consistently compelling presences on The Tudors. His character on The Tudors, in fact, is rather similar to Finnick — a devastatingly handsome playboy with a surprising capacity for love.

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What are your casting thoughts?

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The YA Way — Unusual Names

Writerly fact: I am moderately obsessed with names. If I hear one in a movie or TV show that strikes me as beautiful or unusual or otherwise worthwhile, I recite it in my head like a one-item grocery list until I can write it down. I read baby naming websites for fun. I sometimes create new characters simply to have a good excuse to use a name that’s been nagging at me. So when I read this post over at Tracey (with an e!) Neithercott’s blog, I was delightedly prompted into sharing my own thoughts on names — specifically, those of the less typical variety. Why do so many YA authors seem to gravitate towards unusual names?

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Some name choices are symbolic. Remus Lupin, a werewolf, is inarguably lupine. Sirius Black is capable of turning into a dog (a black one, naturally); Sirius, astronomically speaking, is a star prominent in the Canis Major constellation. To keep with HP, the fact that Voldemort’s name is unusual goes beyond metaphoric wordplay into even deeper character symbolism. The Artist Formerly Known As Tom Riddle chooses his new name specifically to avoid the commonplace; he is in fact quite blatantly disgusted at the thought of sharing a name with anyone else. He is intent on fashioning himself as peerless, wholly unique, and selects a moniker accordingly.

Speaking of unique, it seems quite probable that a drive to stand out in the crowd is behind some authorial naming choices. No one is going to confuse Scout with another plucky young heroine, for example, or forget which magical creature Aslan is. Ally Condie writes about this struggle for originality — her heroine Cassia was originally named Calla, but so was the MC in another of her publisher’s forthcoming books. One Calla is memorable; two are more easily muddled. One unique Cassia, coming right up! (Her love interests, Xander and Ky, are also unlikely to run into many nomenclature doppelgangers.)

This can become interesting when relatively ordinary names take on literarily iconic status. How long before someone else can write about a Bella or a Harry without everyone’s minds immediately going to their fictional predecessors?

Unlike those two, some characters simply wouldn’t sound right with “regular” names. Would eccentric, fantastical Xenophilius Lovegood make sense as Joe Turner? Could Kristin Cashore’s determined, flame-haired heroine be called anything but Fire?

Many of Suzanne Collins’s characters remind me of Cashore’s naming choices. Both authors have a knack for names that are almost exclusively unusual and very often outright made-up, yet still (for lack of a better word) functional. They make sense in the context of their fictional worlds — not necessarily because of symbolism or relevant character traits, but due to a more nebulous, difficult-to-define feel. Cashore’s Katsa, Po, Faun, Roen, and Bitterblue (my personal favorite) don’t sound anachronistically contemporary, but neither are they alienatingly genre-based like some fantastical mouthfuls I’ve come across. They’re poetic, and exactly the right amount of otherworldly. Collins’s Katniss, Peeta, Cinna, Haymitch, and Finnick are odd, to be sure, but I can’t imagine any other names working as well. They have a bit of bite, a slight discordance or strangeness, that’s perfect for the edgy, violent universe they inhabit.

Do you love bizarre names in YA, or do you find yourself put off by them? What are some of your favorite YA monikers?

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The Week In Review — Making Readers Care

This week, I blazed through CATCHING FIRE and began flying through MOCKINGJAY. (NO SPOILERS, PLEASE rule still in effect!) I also began considering the possibility that my own WIP may not be a stand-alone. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what keeps readers devoted to the same world, the same characters, book after book after book.

Writing is a strange pursuit. It’s often solitary to the point of comic stereotype — see the ever-hilarious Kiersten White’s recent thoughts on the craziness of writers — yet its ultimate goal is to entertain, edify, or otherwise please the public. Writers spend vast swaths of their time alone, crafting sentences and paragraphs and books that they hope will be read by as many people as possible.

Like Tinkerbell needs applause, writers need readers. So what do writers have to do? They have to make their readers care. It sounds almost insultingly simple, but then again so is the act of closing a book and setting it aside. A book is perhaps the easiest piece of cultural entertainment to give up on. Walking out of a theatre production or even a movie has a social stigma attached to it; it’s at the very least considered rude and is a statement generally reserved for the most offensive or problematic of works. True, a radio or iPod can always be switched off, but music is still everywhere — emanating from grocery store loudspeakers or trickling out of your neighbor’s apartment. Museum entrance fees are often expensive, so patrons are likely to feel obligated to stick around long enough to feel the price was worth it. But books? Even if bought as opposed to borrowed, they tend to be relatively affordable. They’re generally read alone, and to set one aside is to risk disturbing no one except perhaps the cat curled up on your chest.

Persuading a reader to voluntarily give up his or her time, then, is no easy task — and that’s just for one book! Holding a reader’s attention for two or three or seven books (we all bow down to you, JK Rowling) is a truly inspiring feat. And there’s no magic formula — what hooks one reader may utterly bore another.

For me, though, it all comes down to the characters. Lovely, lyrical prose, like that of Ally Condie in MATCHED or Maggie Stiefvater in SHIVER and LINGER certainly encourages me to keep reading, but I wouldn’t have torn through any of those books on the merit of their eloquent writing alone. Breathtaking suspense, like that expertly crafted by Suzanne Collins in THE HUNGER GAMES and its sequels, inarguably rivets me to the page, but would have rung hollow on its own. What truly kept me clutching these books like they were the last pieces of sustenance on earth was how the characters made me feel. I positively ached for Cassia, Grace, Katniss and those they loved; I was desperate to know how things would turn out for them. I remain desperate, in fact — and that is the power of a series filled with compelling characters.

What keeps you glued to the page?

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Quote Of The Day

“I really can’t think about kissing when I’ve got a rebellion to incite.”

— Katniss Everdeen in CATCHING FIRE

What a badass.

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The Week In Review — Hungry Hype

Book hype always makes me nervous, especially if I’m behind the times on something epically popular. How could anything possibly live up to months of build-up — months of gushing reviews, enticing excerpts, speculation-laden movie deals? How could a late-to-the-party reader be anything but disappointed?

If anything in the literary world has ever known hype, it is Suzanne Collins’s THE HUNGER GAMES series. Everything I’d read or heard about the trilogy suggested it was more addictive than peanut butter M&Ms. Reviewers used descriptors like “jarring,” “violent,” and “pulse-pounding.” YA bloggers agonized over release dates. Authors like Megan Whalen Turner, John Green, and Stephen King oohed and ahhed. Booksellers reported swarms of demographic-defying Collins fans.

So what took me so long? I adore dystopian. I’m all about kickass female characters. I’m even, trite as it’s recently become, a complete sucker for a good love triangle.

But I’m also wary of hype, which as it turns out can create a vicious little cycle. The longer I put off plunging into the series, the more spectacular things I heard about it. The more spectacular things I heard about it, the more I worried it would be a let-down. The more I worried it would be a let-down…you get the idea.

A few days ago, I finished Ally Condie’s magnificent MATCHED and found myself craving more dystopian. “Get over it,” I told myself. “Enough is enough.” So, at long last, I picked up THE HUNGER GAMES.

Within minutes, I was apologizing out loud to an inanimate object for ever having doubted it.

Within hours, I was racing through the final pages of Book 1 and then racing to my favorite local bookstore to snag 2 and 3. But egads! CATCHING FIRE’s spot on the shelf was woefully bare. Clutching MOCKINGJAY to my chest, I returned home to endure 24 hours of literary waiting, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since the countdown to HP 7. Finally, blessedly, the bookstore called with those magic words —

“We’re holding your book for you at the front desk.”

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