It seems like everyone and their weird uncle has started a new hobby lately. Some people are baking bread, making soap or candles, or learning a new language.
Well, I’ve also started a new “quarantine hobby.” It was a terrible idea, not because I hate it, but because I’ve become practically obsessed with it over the past few weeks and I can’t make myself stop.
Here’s your hot take for the week: We don’t understand The Hunger Games.
“But Maggie,” I hear you say, “How could we not understand The Hunger Games? It was the biggest teen movie franchise since Twilight! Don’t you remember reading about how well the movies performed commercially? Didn’t you give a presentation on the cultural impact of dystopian fiction on young adults?”
I did indeed give such a presentation, but that doesn’t debunk my claim right off the bat. There are plenty of readers and viewers of The Hunger Games who looked beyond the hype and saw the message of the story – we wouldn’t still be talking about it otherwise. But in general, our society has missed the point.
Let’s get one other thing out of the way: The Hunger Games is not my favorite book or film series, not by a long shot. If you asked me to name my top ten books of all time, I doubt it would make the list. That’s not to say it’s a bad book though! I think it’s an excellent read and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to better understand young adult literature. Personally though, I’m more interested in how The Hunger Games is (or maybe was) a cultural phenomenon.
For those reading this who missed out on The Hunger Games or just did not care, here’s the premise: a futuristic and dystopian nation known as Panem holds an annual “Hunger Games” in which 24 “tributes” between the ages of 12-18 are selected to participate in a televised fight to the death. The heroine, Katniss, volunteers for the Games to take the place of her younger sister Prim. Fair warning, there will be plenty of spoilers as we keep going!
It’s autumn. Leaves are falling, the nights are getting longer, and there’s a chill in the air. It’s the perfect weather for a roaring bonfire. And you know what we do with bonfires?
We roast things.
Look, we’ve all been there. A close, trusted friend (or – gasp – a family member) recommends a book to us. They claim it’s the best use of ink since the first Bibles rolled off of Gutenberg’s printing press. And you trust them, so you decide to give it a try.
And you don’t like it.
Maybe you don’t hate it – maybe you’re just apathetic about it. And then when your friend/family member asks you what you thought, you’re caught in an awkward position. Do you risk your relationship by telling them the truth, or do you lie to spare their feelings?
I’ve read more than my fair share of what I would call “overrated” books. Not all of them are bad books – in fact, in many cases, I think they’re pretty decent works of literature. But the more I think about them, the less I like them. And mostly, I just think they need to be taken down a peg or two.
So gather around the campfire, readers. I’m about to roast some books.
Around this time last year, I wrote a post about my favorite fictional couples (which you should definitely go back and read if you missed it the first time around). I thought it would make a nice parallel to do a similar post this year, but focusing on characters who aren’t in relationships.
And then I ran into a slight problem: I couldn’t think of any.
I know, I was pretty surprised too, but let me explain. The single characters I could think of usually didn’t work for one of two reasons. One, they were not main characters, so the audience isn’t expecting to hear much about their relationships unless it’s directly related to the plot. Two, the character is the “token” single person in a cast of characters who had romantic relationships, so there’s a heavy focus on how they’re different from the other characters. There were still a handful remaining after I completed that criteria, but certainly not enough to write a whole list like last year.
That got me thinking – where are all of the single people in our stories, specifically in YA fiction?
It’s interesting to see how my reading tastes have changed over the years. There have been times when it felt like I was reading the same books and genres over and over again, but as I look back on the books I added to my TBR when I was in middle school and high school, I can see the difference time has had.
Continuing with last week, I’m rounding out my TBR purge with nine more books. Who will survive, and who gets cut? Make sure you’re all caught up on Part 1, then read on for more!
Two years ago, I took a look at my “To-be-read” (TBR) list on GoodReads and decided it needed some cleaning up. I picked out a handful of books from the list (well, a little more than that, since I split it into two posts) and decided to give them another look. Of those 14 books, only 5 survived the purge, and I ended up reading 3 of those 5 shortly after.
I looked at my TBR list again this year, and realized it might be time for another purge. There’s a lot of books still on there that I added nearly 6 (!) years ago, and I’m different person now than I was when I was 14-15.
Without further ado, The Great TBR Purge of 2019 (Part 1, because I have a lot of books to cover this time)
Happy October! Depending on where you are in the world, it might finally be starting to feel like autumn for you (yes, we had 80-degree days here in the middle of September). Midterm exams are coming up at my school, but I’ll be going home for Fall Break in less than a week! I’m looking forward to it.
And in case you missed anything on Maggie’s Musings this month, I blogged about:
If you handed me a young adult novel and gave me thirty seconds to look at it, I could probably tell you a bit about the cast of characters. There’s a pretty good chance the cast consists of a dark and mysterious guy, an insecure girl, and a vaguely attractive childhood friend.
Not all YA books would be like that, of course, but a majority of them do contain these basic character archetypes. They’re like pages in a coloring book – an outline for the writer to fill in with whatever colors or patterns they see fit. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some of these archetypes have become tropes. In other words, all of the writers are coloring in the picture the exact same way.
These tropes make stories predictable, which gets boring for the audience. But are all tropes really that bad? Can any of them be salvaged? I’ve picked ten of the most common character tropes in YA fiction to try and answer which tropes are really worth saving (and how to save them), and which ones should be tossed aside.