Monthly Archives: April 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Warning:  review contains some spoilers, albeit mostly minor/well-known in media

As with several “it” series/books, I’ve jumped in rather late in the game with this one. It may be partly due to tremendous hype, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by The Hunger Games. The overall plot was enjoyable, albeit very much a copy of Battle Royale, and the characters likable to a degree.

However, the writing is only above par for YA fiction – nothing stellar like JK Rowling‘s work, and the plot veers into unbelievably convenient territory that feels a bit Mary Sue to me.The first 100-something pages are dull and drag, don’t fully engage the reader and don’t enthrall.  The prose is too sparse, Katniss’ narration too repetitive and simplistic to really care about her.  The book picks up once the games begin, but even then, it’s a problematic novel.

Essentially, The Hunger Games is Battle Royale meets a more intelligent Twilight, with a main character that is superficially strong, but immature beneath. Granted yes, Katniss is a teenager thrust into a terrifying reality, but she is also one who has been the true parent of her home for years now, and the contradictory maturity expressed in her opening scenes and the immaturity with which she handles her ridiculous love triangle clashes horridly.

I found Katniss as a narrator to be grating and verging on a Mary Sue.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a Mary Sue in fanfiction or writing is a character that is usually a self-insert of the author.  Said character is perfect, adored, saves the day and infallibly gets the hot guy as well.  Although uncommon in published fiction, it certainly happens:  see Bella, of Twilight.  While I don’t believe Katniss is Collins, she is unbelievable as a character.  How noble of her to save her family from starvation!  How incredible of her to offer to take her sister’s place!

Had it stopped here, I would have bought into her as a strong woman. But no:  Katniss is also loved by two different guys, who she remains oblivious to in true eye-batting fashion, is uninterested in dressing up for the pre-games interviews yet is adored! and beautiful!  and memorable! in her pretty, pretty dress.  Tee hee, she almost enjoys it!  There’s also the fact that at least twice, Katniss is conveniently spared during a “kill or be killed” scenario, and why? Because she is so GOOD and KIND and PERFECT that people give her a pass or want to be her ally. I just couldn’t buy it. I also couldn’t fathom why, if Katniss is meant to be a strong female – a truly strong female – that she needed to be “spared” to survive. Why couldn’t she just kick ass, fire arrows and claim lives?

The only character I truly loved was Rue, and well… she doesn’t make it. A shame. Peeta is manipulative and grating, and I haven’t seen enough of Gale to care. Haymitch is a subtle misogynist. Oh, wait: I liked Cinna a hell of a lot. Two characters, then.

It was all rather disappointing, and the sexual exploitation by men disturbing. A kiss equals a pot of broth? Is that the going rate for child escorts in Panem? Why is it up to Katniss to put out or die? Also, did Collins have to shove it down our throats constantly?  We get it, alright?

The ending also felt ridiculous, as if Collins wrote herself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to make the final showdown happen. She played Gamemaker and went for the absurd. I rolled my eyes and frankly, pictured the wolves of Twilight. Not a positive.

Is it better than Twilight? Absolutely, but that’s not a stunning achievement. Harry Potter spins circles around The Hunger Games, though, and it too is a tale of children and teens coping with things far beyond their maturity. The difference is in the realistic characters. Harry is fallible. His friends are fallible. They suffer for their mistakes. Katniss gets by on a smile and simply because it’s convenient for Collins to write a trilogy.

Katniss is no Buffy Summers, that’s for sure, and it’s a shame, because in the right author’s hands, she could have been.

Rating:  3.5/5 stars

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YouTube Love: My Favourite Channels

Between seemingly endless papers and exams as of late, there are a few things I can count on as sanity-restoring distractions.  The usual suspects feature – Twitter, music, Murder, She Wrote on Netflix – but one of my mainstays is my small collection of YouTube subscriptions.  I seldom actually subscribe to a channel – most of my 88 subscriptions are actually convenient bookmarks reminding me that someone has, say, footage of a concert I attended – but when I do, I am devout.  I don’t have time each day to stream content, so I do a quick check and add everything new that catches my eye to my Watch Later playlist and marathon it before bed a few times each week.

Here are the channels I seldom skip any content from – the ones that make me laugh ’til it hurts, keep me informed, or simply entertain me.  I’m pretty sure all of them are fairly well-known, but that doesn’t matter:  after all, Ray William Johnson is well-known despite his constant barrage of unfunny date rape ‘jokes’.  These are the YouTubers who shine brightest for me.

In no particular order…

TheFineBros
Companion Channels:  TheFineBros2; MyMusicShow

I stumbled onto The Fine Brothers (Benny and Rafi) while searching for videos bashing Rebecca Black’s horrid song Friday.  Their series Kids React showed up in suggested videos and I clicked it… and promptly marathoned the entire series to date.  I now also follow spin-off series Teens React, their other videos (spoilers; interactive “choose your own adventure” type games based on Saved By The Bell and Mad Men) and lately, I tap my foot impatiently, awaiting their new series, MyMusic.

The React shows are a simple concept:  show kids/teens viral videos and ask them questions about them.  The videos are usually silly, as many viral videos area, but the shows do move into serious territory at times (Kony 2012).  The stars are witty, insightful or as blunt as I am, and it is glorious.

Benny and Rafi bring the snark and hilarity of Joss Whedon and Veronica Mars coupled with an intense knowledge and appreciation of pop culture and social media to the table.  They’re warm, genuinely thankful for their fans, and they work hard to produce tons of content.  I feel like they deserve their own TV channel akin to Weird Al’s UHF – co-starring some of my other choices on this list.

They are also part of the glorious trio that is the All We Know podcast, and although I love Paramore, they must conquer them in the search results on iTunes.  With Soul rounding out the group, what ensues is a hilarious and yet insightful look at the news, based on the following premise:  AWK delivers, literally, all Benny, Rafi and Soul know about a story – which sometimes isn’t very much.  The subtler message – that even in this age of readily-accessible news, we can still be woefully uninformed – is clever and painfully accurate.  I laugh on public transit as I tune in, and squee when I get a shout out (I tweet the boys often).

I am serious about a dinner with you three, by the way.  I would die laughing, but what a way to go!

MyMusic is sure to take the internet by storm, and so it should:  Toby Turner as Satan?  That alone is reason to watch, but the brothers Fine have also managed to create a world that pop culture junkies like myself want to crawl through the screen and join, Poltergeist style.  I could ramble on about my affection for them, but instead, check out their far superior content.


Tobuscus

Companion Channels:  tobyturner (vlogs); tobygames

How to describe Toby?  Lemme see…  Ah!  Toby appears to be on a 24-7 Red Bull drip, and thus, he is awesome!  Like me, he makes up songs, parodies things, and enjoys cute kitty viral videos.  He uploads daily vlogs that are… well, awesome.  My favourite content however is his series Cute/Win/Fail, wherein he pits three viral videos (one of each type) against each other and allows viewers to vote on the most epic video of the three.  Unlike Ray William Johnson, Toby makes me laugh and doesn’t need to veer into offensive and sexist jokes to do so.

I also love Toby’s literal trailers and original songs (I’ve been playing Safety Torch and I Can Swing My Sword while writing), and Tobuscus Animated Adventures (check out the Dead Island one, and the Christmas one).  I have a feeling that we were separated at birth, because his humour is just as wild as my own.

Toby is so cheery and personable.  It’s no wonder to me that he’s popped up in a Fine Brothers show, because their affability and humour are similar.

There is no way to do Toby justice with a review.  He must be seen to be adored.  Voila!


sxephil

Companion channels:  Oh so many.

Phillip DeFranco has many projects and channels on YouTube, but I’m partial to the Philly D news show myself.  It’s the quickest way for me to grab a few news stories that Canadian sites may not care to mention or not go into detail on, plus Phil snarks and makes me giggle.  Granted. at times, Phil misses the mark and his white male privilege shows (example: reducing eating disorders to an issue of girls wanting to be skinny, when the true issue is a need for control stemming from complex psychological issues and usually trauma), but he’s open to and encourages viewer response and feedback.  He’s not afraid to use his rather powerful platform to speak his mind and engage audiences, without forcing his views down anyone’s throat.

He also loves our faces, which is very nice of him.  My face enjoys love.


The Young Turks

Companion channels: several

TYT has the distinction of being the first channel I subscribed to with the intention of following new uploads on the regular.  Introduced to it by an ex in 2007, I fell in love with the dynamic of Cenk and Ana, as well as their ability to call out anyone and everyone deserving.  It’s refreshing to see a liberal news show unafraid to skewer President Obama for his failings and letdowns as readily as it will tear Santorum a new one (snicker) for his idiotic thoughts on sexual assault.

Covering the full gamut from pop culture to politics to science, TYT examines the stories that matter and pulls them apart from the diverse perspectives and varying areas of expertise of the staff.  It’s a great way to stay informed with minimal bias.


therazorsedge28

I heart Razor.  Whenever I need a reality check on my own life, I take a wander through Razor’s extensive collection of Maury show clips and remember that my life is not like that.  One of the highlights is the wild and hilarious titles given to the clips, as well as the tags.  I shouldn’t have to explain more than this:  if you’re a Maury fan, go.  If you like reality trainwrecks, go.

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