This is about books.

I love reading. I know everyone lists reading as one of their interests and it’s a common thing for people to say that they love, and so I either love it in exactly the same way as everyone else, or when I say I love reading, I really mean it, and I mean it in a way far and above just listing it as something that I do because I couldn’t think of anything else of interest to put on my facebook page.

As a kid, I did other things, too. I played soccer and the clarinet. After school, I would spend hours at my friend’s house doing god knows what: nothing singular comes to mind. I think I must have done my homework during class when we were supposed to be listening, or otherwise I didn’t have homework because as soon as soccer practice was over and my clarinet lessons were done and I was back home finishing dinner and grudgingly putting the dishes away, my mind was on reading. It was that thing—the thing I waited all day to get to, the thing that I would choose to do above all other things, the thing that made me hate any and all chores that I had to do because they took away from my books.

My mom would ask me to do things for her, put away the dishes, fold laundry, vacuum the living room, and I would oh-so-cleverly tell her that I would get to it as soon as I finished the chapter I was on. Then I would read 4 or 5 more chapters—as many as I could get to before I heard her coming back to yell at me. I assumed she thought I was a much slower reader than I was, but now I know she was probably just humoring me. She knew exactly what I was doing. And how do you tell a kid to stop reading?

I recently joined a website called Goodreads, and it was nostalgic listing and rating all the books I read in my childhood and adult life. I quickly came to the realization that I could spend 6 hours on that website trying to list and find all the books I read as a child and it would never be enough time. I honestly have no idea how many books I’ve read, but it’s a stupidly huge number. I used to read a new book every two to three days. I was that kid leaving the library with a bigass canvas bag packed with 20 books, hoping it would last me until the next time my mom would take me to the library.

We lived a few miles away from the library in my hometown, and I refused to ride my bike there as a child because there was a portion of the trip where the sidewalk curved around a small cliff. There wasn’t a guardrail and I was terrified of falling off my bike and down the cliff. I wasn’t all that great at riding my bike anyway, so this obstacle, though far fetched, was insurmountable. So in the summer, my amazing sister would walk with me the whole trip to the library. We would stop at the store on the way and I would get a chocolate Yoo-hoo and she would get one of those flavored Crystal Light drinks. Those trips are easily some of my favorite memories of all childhood.

I was non-discriminant in my books, although I did have my preferred genres, of course. Horror books were the best, for a long time. R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike especially, but if it was YA and made any attempt to be terrifying, I was into it. Epic fantasy stories caught my fancy, too. The Prydain Chronicles, A Wrinkle in Time, The Dark is Rising series, Harry Potter. [I can’t explain how angry I was when I figured out that my magical powers weren’t ever going to develop.] I also had a thing for the Newbery medal books. Holes, Ella Enchanted, The Midwife’s Apprentince, Walk Two Moons, Catherine Called Birdy, Number the Stars, The Giver, Hatchet, Jacob Have I Loved….all those good books plus a billion more.

So I think this is the reason why I hate Twilight so goddamn much. Because most YA literature is actually literature and Twilight is a piece of crap that 12 year old idiots laud as the best book of all time. They’re young so I can understand, kind of. I don’t want to think about the adults who love Twilight. I get the entertainment value inherent in trashy TV, and trashy books can be entertaining as well, but jesus christ, don’t tell me it’s your favorite book.

Because Twilight is bad. It’s really bad. Like typos and grammar errors bad. And I don’t even blame Stephanie Meyer for this because typos are the bane of all writers’ existences. I’m sure there are typos galore in my posts. So I blame her editor, or rather the fact that no one appears to have edited her books for her. Where were the editors? Where were they?

Why did no one have a conversation with her like, ‘Hey Stephanie, when you’re talking about dust, it’s ‘motes’, not ‘moats’. And why don’t you try a different word besides smoldering? It’s a little cliche. And hey, I’ve noticed you’ve talked about Edward having white skin a few times already—how about pointing out some other characteristics? Yeah…but not his smoldering eyes…maybe try something other than the fact that he has white skin and smoldering eyes; I think people got that already. And actually, why don’t you develop all of your characters a little bit more? You say Bella is clumsy—maybe you should show it instead of just talking about it. That’s good writing, right? Show; don’t tell? And hey, maybe consider rethinking her major character points. Do young women really need to read about a weak, clumsy heroine who falls apart without a man in her life? Kinda anti-feminist, don’t cha think?’

Why didn’t this conversation happen? Twilight could have been good. The story has tremendous potential which is squandered in the crap writing and character development. Lynsey posted this link in her ‘Things I Love’ Thursday post and it’s pretty hilarious and accurate. Because by any other author, Twilight sounds like a pretty kick ass book.

For a long time now, I’ve been avoiding all hyped-up YA books because I can’t read anything else like Twilight ever again until I have dementia.

Enter The Hunger Games. This book isn’t new, and I’ve been actively avoiding it for about 4 years because so many people liked it. And that’s a pretty telling personality trait, isn’t it? If other people really like something, I try to avoid it. (Until NPR and my older sister tell me to check it out, as both are excellent sources of stuff-I-will-like.) So I read the series a few weeks ago, (1150 words later, and I’m finally getting to what I meant to write this post about, yikes) and it reminded me why I like YA lit so much.

The books aren’t perfect, but the writing is good. They’re wildly entertaining and suspenseful. I read all three within a few days. The political backdrop of the story is one of the more interesting aspects. It’s a YA book, so we don’t get the full history, but the post-apocalyptic, fascist regime is the perfect setting for this kind of dark, bloody story. Collins wrote the books in the first person, which is the one tense I find impossible to write fiction in, and thus I admire any authors that can pull it off. The novel requires it, as the main character does a number of horrible things which only make sense if you’re privy to her inner thoughts, as we are. Katniss is only likeable because the audience knows how much she hates the things she has to do.

And Katniss is a badass lady. No misogynistic undertones in this book. She shoots animals through the eyeballs, kills unflinchingly when necessary, blows up shit, and carries out insane political assassinations. She also becomes incredibly psychologically damaged as a result, which is one of the better aspects of the book.

I killed two lobsters recently and it was pretty damaging to my psyche, so I can’t imagine killing people—a ridiculously large number of people—without losing all my marbles. Katniss begins the books as a relatively normal 16 year old and ends, unrecognizably, as a completely different person with an appropriate amount of PTSD symptoms. I like that Katniss is flawed. She’s manipulative and bitter, even at the beginning. She holds grudges and she can be cruel. She’s also any number of good things: brave, strong, fierce, compassionate.

What I dislike about The Hunger Games is the main male character. He’s annoyingly good. Too good and too one sided. The only time I like him is when he gets brainwashed into being a psychotic, sociopathic bastard, but even then he snaps out of it and becomes a good person again. Lame. I wish Collins had given as much dimension to Peeta as she did to Katniss. The story deserves it.

The movie is coming out soon, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it. How are they possibly going to show all of the things that happen with a PG-13 rating? I think the movie will be a big hit, even if they only remotely follow the plot. The book taps into all the things we like as human beings: arena-style death-matches, fashion, love triangles, and food—oh-so-much-food. The movie will only have to hit a few of those in order for it to be good. I’d personally be set if it were just the death matches and the fashion.

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