Monday, March 31, 2014

Late to the (Hunger) Games

This post contains spoilers for the books in The Hunger Games series. Read at your own risk!

When I was in high school, I was a big fan of utopia/dystopian novels. I think I am one of the few people who liked reading 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World. I still love them, but, as a mom with kids, I have become super sensitive to violence anywhere- movies, books and real life. The idea of children hurting children, people dying would and could set me on edge for days. Thankfully, I know my limits and stick to things like Percy Jackson (if someone dies, it's a Greek monster and not real anyway), Harry Potter, Dan Brown books (I love all the twists and history and art references) and history. Oh, and fluff. Lots not forget the fluff.

I knew I would like The Hunger Games novels- dystopia at its finest! However, the whole premise of the books is children being forced to kill each other in sadistic games and... no. Just no. I've had enough of sick and dying children thankyouverymuch.

But when the movie came on Netflix for free, I hemmed and hawed about watching it. We don't really rent movies and I wouldn't buy it without seeing it first. Finally, I realized that if it got to be too much, I could stop the movie and not deal with it anymore. I fired it up on my laptop, put on the closed captioning so the children could hear it and . . . got sucked in.

I told myself I wasn't going to read the books but Cole had a sleepless night and I'm a fast reader. I finished all three in a weekend. Since then, I've read them two or three times each and the literary part of my brain, the part that gets put on hold because I need to be thinking of making dinner, the next IEP meeting, getting homework done... that part of my brain began to awaken. It began to- dare I say it?- catch fire.

I went back and re-read the parts where Katniss talks to President Snow. I muse why she killed Coin, the president of the rebels. I sent Gale through the literary wringer and decided that he's kinda a jerk. I wanted to shake Katniss and tell her that she loved Peeta from the Victory Tour in Catching Fire. And I really, really wanted to get the poor kid some PTSD help.

I googled to see what people thought of the ending of Mockingjay. I was surprised- but not- to see that people thought it was unrealistic.They thought that she didn't want children and that she and Peeta should not have brought them into the world. Many people thought she should just "Get over it."

But you know what? I got her. I got her actions in the last book. She's young, 17 or 18 or so, and had never felt safe. All her actions from the time her father died were about survival. Find the next meal, keep Prim alive, keep her mother sane, survive the Games, keep everyone alive, keep herself alive. When the war is over and she's home, who can blame her for not feeling safe? She has every right not to trust anyone and not want to bring children into her world. It doesn't mean she doesn't love them or want them- it means she knows that no one can promise her that her children, who she knows she will love, won't be taken from her.

In my world, everything goes back to the NICU. After you've had a preemie, no one can promise you that your next baby will be term and healthy. You know you will do everything in your power to keep your baby safe, but the worst has happened to you. You are not immune- and if it has happened once, it can happen again. Yes, yes just like Katniss in the Hunger Games.

As a teen, I think I would have understood the ending in some abstract way. Now, as a mother and an adult, I understand in a deeper way. I haven't seen nearly the horrors that she has but I completely understand her feelings of terror. I know the flashbacks. I know the dreams. I know the feeling of wandering aimlessly, finding places to hide, wanting to sleep and not dream.

The craziest thing about these books, though, is that they have made me happy. While the content is certainly depressing, the books are a love story- the love Katniss has for her family, the love Peeta has for her, the love Gale has for rebellion and making the world a better place in his own insane way. It reminds me of the love I have for these kinds of novels, the part of me that loves pulling apart books and discdisecting characters. It's something I can discuss with very few people and do very rarely. Reading those books reminded me of the hunger I have for literature.

What will I do with this hunger? No clue. I likely won't go back to school and I don't know if I want to return to full time teaching. But this is something I need to keep doing for myself, my quirky little self who can pick apart characters and themes and ideas.

It's something I hunger for, really.

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