The Hunger Games

I am (kind of) a Big Deal in Sweden

by sarahenni on April 2, 2012

So I’ve been talking, Tweeting, Gchatting, and yes blogging about The Hunger Games like… quite a bit? Often. Okay, an excessive amount. So much that, when looking to do a report on how huge the Hunger Games movie was being hyped in the U.S., a Swedish National Television reporter contacted me and asked for an interview.

Now, I am more Finnish than Swedish (though I’ve got a dash of that, too), but the Swedish Chef is hands-down my favorite Muppet and, basically, Scandinavia is my peeps. So obviously I agreed! The results below:

If anyone is fluent in Swedish, by the by, I’d love a breakdown of what exactly they were saying, and how they introduced me! Bestie Danielle and I have some theories: “Aspiring Swedish Pop Star,” perhaps, or maybe  “Over-frequent IKEA Shopper.”

Anyway I had to share because it’s so random and funny. In case you’re wondering, that T-shirt I hold up is from the ForeverYA store, and the one I’m wearing was a Secret Santa gift from my co-worker. Nevermind that my main quote was about avoiding rampant consumerism… *cough*


The Hunger Games: A Peeta/Gale Retrospective

by sarahenni on March 30, 2012

So, I wrote about my feelings on most of The Hunger Games movie yesterday, but of course I left out one of, if not the, most important parts of the movie: Peeta and Katniss, and Peeta and Gale, and how the movie showed us Katniss’ emotional journey through their relationships.

First, I’d like to give the floor to Bestie Danielle, the Team Gale beat reporter for this here blog, for her analysis of how the movie did, or didn’t do right by Mr. Hawthorne.


As a hardcore member of Team Gale, I thought it was hilarious when the castings were first announced:

I mean really.

But then I saw the movie. Unfortunately, Movie Gale let this gal down pretty hard. For anyone still on the fence about this love triangle, please do not let Movie Gale sway you towards Peeta. Book Gale is way, way better than Movie Gale.

Book Gale is a rugged, manly, hunter. He and Katniss lost their dads in the same accident, and both turned to illegal hunting to provide for their families. Book Gale understands Katniss because their lives and hardships have been so similar. Meanwhile, Movie Gale talks about his feelings and follows Katniss around while she acts like a badass. Movie Gale doesn’t hunt. He is Katniss’ hunting poodle who is afraid to ruin his manicure, let alone kill something.

Book Gale is angry. In a totally hot way! Both Book Gale and Movie Gale complain about the Capitol a lot. Book Gale complained in an angry, ranting way. Movie Gale mopes in a field, painting his nails, and ponders whether or not vests have become too mainstream.

Gale is sad.

It’s always interesting to see a first person narrative be transferred to film. But unfortunately, the way we got to see Gale’s heartbreak was a montage of mopey, forlorn looks.

Book Gale was super hot. Let’s face it: part of Gale’s appeal is that he is smokin’ hot. He’s literally tall, dark, and handsome. In Mockingjay, Johanna takes one look at Gale and is like, “hot DAMN!” He’s an athletic, tough-as-nails mountain man hunter who all the girls in school have a crush on. Unfortunately for Movie Gale, he has a much hotter older brother, Thor. A much hotter brother that we all got to meet first (in Thor and the Snow White and the Huntsman preview.) Movie Gale is kind of like the Eli to Thor’s Peyton Manning.

I also think I would have been far more attracted to Movie Gale if he wasn’t such a mouth breather.

Seriously. Look at that. There is nothing hot about a mouth breather.
On a positive note, the most important part about the Katniss-Gale relationship is that she trusts him, and she trusts him with the most important thing to her – Prim’s life. This translated well in the movie anytime we saw Movie Gale interact with Prim. Movie Gale grabbing a distraught Prim at the reaping was pretty perfect, and Prim sitting on Movie Gale’s shoulders at the end was a great visual representation of what Gale means to Katniss.

As another positive thing, I am down with the fact that they didn’t touch too much on the romantic possibilities between Katniss and Gale. I think it’s important (like Erin said in her guest post on love trianges) that viewers understand that this trilogy is not about a love triangle, and Katniss doesn’t really give a shit about what boys are in love with her. Since Book Gale plays a more active role the second and third books, hopefully Movie Gale mans up a bit and gets way more awesome in the next two movies!

And hopefully, he closes his mouth more.

(Thanks Danielle! And I solemnly swear I did not alter or misrepresent Danielle’s feelings in any way. She really, really doesn’t like mouth breathers.)

Okay, now it’s my turn!


Dreaminess factor: achieved

Alright, Let’s discuss Peeta. Poor handsome, wildly-talented Josh Hutcherson has been put up to an impossible fangirl standard with this role. I get that. I do. And overall, I’d say he really got it. I like him as Peeta—but I felt that movie Peeta was softened from the complex character in the books. One of my YA Highway cohorts described Josh, and the Katniss-Peeta ro(faux?)mance as “dopey”—and in some ways I agree.

It isn’t Josh’s fault, at least not entirely; the script stole some of the best, most defining Peeta moments from him. For example, instead of showing Peeta slapping a Bloody Mary out of Haymitch’s hand the first day on the train, the movie cut right to Katniss’ table-knifing. Shortly after, Peeta is shown waving giddily to the Capitol crowd gathered around their train. Not a cunning line on Josh’s slightly doughy (I COULD NOT RESIST) face, with only Haymitch to suggest, “He really gets it.” In the book, when the crowds have gone, we get to see Peeta himself reveal that there’s a cynic (and a serious Game strategist) within:

He sees me staring at him and shrugs. “Who knows?” he says. “One of them may be rich.”
(The Hunger Games, p.60)

Peeta is playing the game. Not only is he playing it, he pulls into the lead the minute he tells the Capitol audience, “she came here with me.” In the movie, Peeta does establish the star-crossed lover ruse, but they slowly flatten him out in the arena until it’s impossible to tell that he’s still a clever competitor. It starts out well (how interesting was it to learn that Peeta bypassed any Cornucopia supplies and headed right for the woods? That was a nice benefit of not being restricted to Katniss’ perspective) with Peeta clearly uneasy in the pack of careers. But after he shoos Katniss off to recover safely from her tracker jacker stings, there’s nary a hint of Peeta being self-aware of their love game, or of their Panem audience. Conversely, in the book, after Katniss finds Peeta camouflaged by the river and she begins to move him to the cave:

“Lean down a minute first,” he says. “Need to tell you something.” I lean over and put my good ear to his lips, which tickle as he whispers. “Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.”

Clever and cheeky and completely “Team”-worthy. The movie, in my opinion, fails to show that Peeta remains aware of and savvy about the gamesmanship in the arena in and after the cave scene. The audience sees Katniss get helpful Haymitch notes (“You call that a kiss?”) so we know she had tactics on the mind when she leans in for her “shut up and go to sleep so I can get your medicine” lip-lock. But we get no hint, physically or verbally, not even so much as a wink, to suggest Peeta (though no doubt harboring real feelings for Katniss) is interested in hyping up and selling their romance, too.

Art by Noelle Stevenson – click for source

The reason that bothers me so much is, I thought the movie did a decent job of condensing the lovey dovey bits  (there wasn’t exactly room in this 2.5-hour sprint to spend three days lounging in a cave) and making the extent of Katniss and Peeta’s genuine feelings for one another clear. When Katniss returns from retrieving Peeta’s medicine at the Cornucopia, they shared a very real moment. Forget the kiss—that moment of charged lingering was exactly perfect. That was so necessary, because having such a brief, honest moment put the constructed, calculated world of the games in relief.

And besides the brilliantly-done interview with Caesar (God love Stanley Tucci, he was perfection on toast), Josh rarely got the chance to show that Peeta really does have a self-deprecating sense of humor. (Okay, the “I’ll take the arrow. … Just kidding!” moment was pretty good, too.) Peeta’s brains and Seth Cohen-like sense of humor are the entire reason for Team Peeta. But it isn’t only the quips that I missed, it was how they showed that Peeta and Katniss were equals. Because in the books, Peeta’s jokes are often sarcastic comments on things that Katniss does. He has genuine feelings for her, which grow into love, but Peeta does not think Katniss is perfect. Far from it. For instance, we missed out on this little gem from training, when Peeta gets all camouflage-artistic and credits his years of frosting cakes (RESISTING JOKE SO HARD):

“It’s lovely. If only you could frost someone to death,” I say.

“Don’t be so superior. You can never tell what you’ll find in the arena. Say it’s actually a giant cake—” begins Peeta.

“Say we move on,” I break in.

(The Hunger Games, p. 96)

It disappointed me because I had hoped since the movie was a break from Katniss’ point of view, it would take advantage of it to show Peeta as a more well-rounded character overall, not simply the object of Katniss’ schizophrenic love/hate. But, by flattening Peeta’s complexity toward the end of the movie, our final impression of Peeta is that he’s a love-addled victor whose next big challenge is prying Katniss away from Gale.

It’s only a flesh wound

Finally, a HUGE part of my critique on Peeta’s loss of complexity has to do with the decision to magically heal his leg wound in the cave. For those of you who don’t remember, in the book Peeta’s leg gets better, but only enough for him to run from the muttations. By the time Cato’s slowly dying and the problem of the berries presents itself, Peeta’s losing blood and doesn’t have much time left. When K & P are lifted into the hovercraft, the book gives us one of its compelling, and telling, moments: Katniss, feral and desperate, banging her fists against the glass wall separating her from Peeta and the swarm of doctors who restart his heart, twice. Not only does Peeta’s Magical Leg-Healing Moment rob us of additional tension at the end of the movie, and a glimpse into how Katniss truly feels for him, it also takes away a pivotal mark of how the Games have a lasting affect on his character. For more on that subject I want to direct you to this excellent article on the topic from Tiger Beatdown. An excerpt:

Peeta, like other characters, is scarred by the world he lives in, and he bears a visible mark of the cruelty and brutality of Panem, but more importantly, he’s another person trying to survive and build a better world. By neatly cutting that entire plotline away, the filmmakers avoided some tangled and thorny issues.

S. E. Smith, So, How About Those Hunger Games

And if there’s anything you can count on The Hunger Games books for—especially as the series progress—is tangled and thorny issues. I’m interested to see how the films address (or don’t) that in the future.

WELL! I have been exceedingly long-winded, and I apologize for that. But I want to know what you think!! Did the movie live up to your expectations for Peeta/Gale? Disappoint? What do you hope they show in the next two movies?


The Hunger Games Review

by sarahenni on March 29, 2012

Holy crap. Two years after reading the book, one full year of following news about the movie, and weeks of watching The Hunger Games grow into a simmering worldwide phenomenon, opening weekend finally happened. Let’s just say I was A BIT excited. And of course you know I had Thoughts and Feelings after watching the movie.

I’ll be honest: my immediate reaction was… mixed.

It’s the Harry Potter problem, you know? How can one movie 1) successfully translate such a beloved book, and 2) live up to such intense, prolonged hype? There’s almost no way it can deliver on the first viewing. At the time of this review, I’ve seen the film twice, and I liked it much more the second time, but some critique remains.

SPOILERS START HERE! For The Hunger Games and all subsequent books in the series. You’ve been warned!

District 12 and the Reaping were perfection. No problems there, except my inappropriate urge to giggle at Gale’s gaping mouth. Effie was glorious, and little Prim about ripped my heart out with her screams after Katniss volunteered. Haymitch was divine—on second viewing I can really appreciate how they gradually showed his transformation from drunken escapist to gaming-the-Games mastermind.

But then, just about everything that happens at the Capitol leading up to the games was troublesome for me. The Capitol itself was incredible—so richly realized, and the costumes! My problems had to do with the camera, and the goal—or goals—director Gary Ross set out to achieve by using a shaky, hand-held effect.

I really hate the hand-held thing. And that’s just from a grouchy, “it gives me a headache!” 94-year old woman within perspective. So it made me annoyed (and really glad I wasn’t watching in IMAX) when there was so much herky-jerky motion, with a lot of the action slightly cut-off and unclear. HOWEVER. I fully understand his reasoning:

It’s a very urgent first-person narrative. I tried to put you in Katniss’s shoes the way Suzanne Collins put you in Katniss’s shoes. I wanted to take you through the world using this kind of serpentine tunnel vision that Katniss has. I want to destabilize you the way Suzanne has and I want you to experience the world through Katniss’s eyes, and that requires a very subjective cinematic style, to be kind of urgently in her point of view, so that’s why I shot it that way.

—Gary Ross, interview with Vulture

In theory, I agree that without the raw feeling evoked by the shaky, uneven shots, the audience is at risk of becoming too separated from Katniss’ point of view, relegated to mere observers. Aloof, without personal stake in the outcome of the Games or Katniss’ fate. And Ross uses that to fine effect for the short beginning segment of the movie, spent in a bleak District Twelve. It’s also pivotal to understanding Katniss’ nervousness and fear in some Capitol scenes leading up to the onset of the Games, like when she’s walking on-stage for her interview with Caesar Flickerman, or clinging to Cinna as the seconds until Gametime slip away.

But the reasoning slips a bit for me when the film shifts to the Capitol. Because while Ross is attempting to give the movie-goer as much of Katniss’ perspective as possible through frenetic hand-held shots, he is simultaneously trying for another, contradictory effect: to make the correlation between Capitol audience and Regal-Cinema-18 audience.

This begins with the opening ceremonies, where sweeping shots of the Roman-esque parade route are anything but shaky: they’re sleek, beautiful, romanticized in glitz.

We literally zoom in on the Tributes’ chariots by looking through a Capitol citizens’ futuristic opera glass. We watch the Tributes circle round through a camera perched on President Snow’s shoulder. The goal could not be more blatant: behold the spectacle! This is for you. The opening credits for Caesar Flickerman’s tribute interviews play through as though Panem National TV was piping right into my living room. We were cast as Capitol citizens, right from the moment we bought our tickets.

Ross’ work to turn the film into a self-referential pretzel, a meta reflection on the watchers of the Games, and the watchers of The Hunger Games, was important. My lingering sense of unease with the movie afterward was due, in no small part, to being put squarely in my place as a citizen of the Capitol, implicit and culpable for all the evil I was witnessing. (And—considering I was nice and cozy in a cushy movie-theater seat with buttery popcorn and a massive soda, still slightly buzzed from pre-movie drinks, wearing my Hunger Games T-shirt and nail polish—the reminder of my own hypocrisy was apt.)

But in the arena, those two desired effects (giving the audience Katniss’ perspective, and giving the audience a reminder of its true Bread-and-Circus status) tried to co-exist somewhat, to uneven success.

The hand-held camera was convenient for cutting away from the brunt of child-on-child violence during the Cornucopia. I could not have handled much more of that, so I’m not complaining about that decision at all. And in following Katniss’ running, jumping, arrow-slinging fight for survival the hand-held definitely had my heart racing along with hers.

But then Flickerman and his Games co-host Claudius Templesmith stared dead into the camera, explaining directly to me what tracker-jackers were. No cuts to Capitol audience reaction, no visual reference to any audience besides me, and everyone alongside me in the theater. So then I found myself wondering if the jerky camera was supposed to represent the imperfect angles of the Gamemakers’ hidden cameras, or if we were still in Kantniss’ head. My perspective confusion made following the “real or not real?” development of Katniss and Peeta’s ro(faux)mance even more difficult, and left me wondering how anyone who has not read the books was following any of the Tributes’ in-the-arena Gamesmanship at all.

So, all told, I’m not certain how I feel about that decision, though I understand the reasoning behind it.

Where my Cinna at?

I was disappointed by what I felt was lack of development in the relationships, most particularly between Katniss and Cinna, and Katniss and Peeta. Lenny Kravitz was an impeccable Cinna, but the chemistry and trust that develops between he and Katniss felt unconvincing because it was so rushed. And, though Cinna immediately distinguishes himself from the rest of the Capitol citizens by telling Katniss, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” I missed the line that really solidified his personality in the books:

“Yes, this is my first year in the games,” says Cinna.

“So they gave you District Twelve,” I say. Newcomers generally end up with us, the least desirable district.

“I asked for District Twelve,” he says without further explanation.

(The Hunger Games, p. 64)

However, given that the movie was 2.5 hours long and still had to leave so much out, I understand that some things required trimming. And the scene with Katniss and Cinna before she’s lifted up into the arena…

Jennifer Lawrence blew me away there, completely. Her intensity was frightening, which lifted the countdown and subsequent Cornucopia scene to exactly the emotional level they needed to be at: basically Threat Level Fuscia. That’s also when Kravitz truly shone as Cinna, Katniss’ rock-steady touchstone through the entire Capitol experience. (And it reminded me of the scene from Catching Fire where I WILL COMPLETELY LOSE IT.)

Standout performances also to:

Seneca Crane and his epic facescape. I’m so glad you’re back, Wes Bentley, and I’m so pissed that I forgot Seneca Crane bites it. The memory of your beard will live on, sir.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow. I’ve heard some people critique his performance, but I have to say I found him eerie as hell. Listen, this guy lives in a world where innocents are slaughtered for the momentary delight of millions. And in that world, he’s in the most cutthroat field: politics. And such is dude’s sociopathic capacity for manipulation that he earned the top spot—he’s the freaking PRESIDENT. So you try telling him he can’t hold whispered life-or-death discussions in his rose garden. Go on. Tell him.

Another decision I found fascinating was the subtle hints that Cato and Glimmer were an item.

It served as a stark contrast to Katniss and Peeta: warm and natural where Katniss and Peeta were stilted and uneven; flying under the radar where Katniss and Peeta were given celebrity status; egalitarian, each striving to be seen, and to win, on their own merits where Katniss was receiving one selfless advantage after another from Peeta before they even stepped off the train. No one in the Capitol seemed particularly interested in the budding romance of a couple of gunners, trained from birth to succeed. They wanted the underdogs as much as the Districts, exactly as Snow knew they would.

So, overall, I thought it was a good movie, and one that I have no doubt will grow on me as time goes on (and I watch it eight million more times). The adaptation was absolutely true to the spirit of the books, which was the absolute, most important thing.

But wait! you say, What about Peeta?! Ohhhhhhh I have not forgotten him. NO INDEED. As you might expect, I have SO MANY Thoughts and Feelings about Peeta, and Gale, and Katniss’ overall emotional state as mostly reflected through her interactions with aforementioned boys. Too many for this post, because it’s already crazy butt-long. SO. I will be posting again tomorrow, focusing on that part of the movie.

BUT! What did you think?? Did you see the movie? Did you like it? Did the hand-held camera action make you feel dizzy? Did you read this without having seen the movie because you don’t care about spoilers? If so, WHY??


Go Away I’m Reading: The Hunger Version

by sarahenni on March 21, 2012

Not too long ago, Erin Bowman, Tracey Neithercott and I took a fun Twitter conversation and turned it into a series of snarky book covers that made the message clear: Go away! I’m reading!

The positive response to those covers has us saying, “Real or not real?”* It has the three of us wondering how to move forward and create more fun goodies. Right now, we’re seriously considering offering new book covers, and possibly e-reader covers as well. Maybe even other things, who knows!

But first, we want to hear from you, and better understand what you’d be interested in from our “Go Away” series. Please help us out and take two minutes to fill out this survey (it’s SUPER short, swears)! And, if you want to get updates when/if we do open a shop with snarky book paraphernalia, please add yourself to our e-mail list!

Though we’re still in the brainstorming phase of opening a shop, we didn’t want this awesome week of The Hunger Games excitement to go by without something cool to celebrate! So we’ve made three more Hunger Games-specific book covers to get your copies all snazzy before the premiere on Friday:

Download “BRB, Drinking with Haymitch” right here! (pdf)

And check out Erin’s blog for “At the Reaping, BRB (Unless the Odds Aren’t in My Favor)”

And Tracey’s blog for “Warning: Girl on Fire”

I hope everyone has an incredible weekend seeing the movie and/or rereading all the books, and I’m so excited to share our plans once they’re more official.

* I could not resist it, NO I COULD NOT.


Are We REALLY Ready for the Hunger Games Movie?

by sarahenni on March 20, 2012

Listen, I am as excited as anyone for The Hunger Games movie. I have the entire line of nail polish. I bought my “Peeta Has Croissants” T-shirt. I’m having tripped-out dreams about it! But I want to pose a question to you, O YA faithful, about what another mega-franchise like this could do for the books we love.

A small, world-weary part of me is nervous about The Hunger Games movie because I’m not sure non-YA readers are ready. Remember when Twilight came out, and parenting groups were crawling over each other to shout from the rooftops that BELLA IS A BAD INFLUENCE and that YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE IS ALL GROSS AND DARK AND SPARKLES?

It got so bad that Barnes & Noble assumed John Green was writing paranormal.

That talk has subsided of late, at least somewhat (and no, discussions of Fifty Shades of Gray doesn’t count there). But now, what are we following that up with? The YA series where children are forced to kill each other on television.

Do you think people are ready for what this movie is going to be? Do they have any idea?

(These aren’t rhetorical questions! I’d love your opinion!)

I’m not dreading the movie, I’m dreading the first outraged adult to write an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal saying “I was led to believe this movie was about Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend baking pita breads BUT THEN there was moral purpose and I got confused and ANGRY!”

And that’s the last big YA movie that will happen until Fugulus Jace comes along in The Mortal Instruments and THEN we’re going to have Overreactors Incorporated all up in arms about incest, like V.C. Andrews never even happened.

How is The Hunger Games movie franchise going to alter peoples’ perception of YA? Will it be in a good way? I’m worried that the movie based on this book—this ruthless, beautiful book—is going to be used by many as a broad brush with which to paint YA as irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous…again. Are you?

What do you think? We seem to have avoided movie controversy up to this point. Is The Hunger Games the series that will actually give people a better perspective on YA?


The Hunger Dreams

by sarahenni on March 9, 2012

This post is subtitled: The First in What Will Inevitably Number in the Dozens of Posts About The Hunger Games. Catchy, right?

Well I had to share this post with you all, because the dream I had last night was so vivid, so absurd, and—though in the dream I was starring in The Hunger Games movie—I was so happy to wake to the real world.

Let me set the scene. My best friend Megan and I were cast to be in The Hunger Games. Not a shocking premise at all, given that Megan has a background in acting and performing, and in a couple decades I will look exactly like Suzanne Collins. But, in fantastic dream logic, the set of The Hunger Games looked like a summer retreat for very posh Scandinavians, all sleek and modern and IKEA. Also, it was actually a Sherlock Holmes movie in everything but title.

ANYWAY. There we were on our IKEA set with a crowd of other extras (who were all dressed in Steampunk outfits because, obviously), having already filmed the “crossing a bridge in heavy traffic” obligatory car chase scene (wtf brain srsly). Then we begin to film the next segment of The Hunger Games, a seminal scene surely everyone must recall, wherein two models stand in the center of a crowd and do a cross between Vogue-ing and the robot for several minutes—techno music to be added in edits. It was like a mix of a Helmut Lang runway show and Sprockets.

I told the girl sitting next to us how awful I thought the model’s costumes were (direct dream quote: “they’re ridiculous, like goth retro trash”) and she was like, well they looked good on me when I designed them. I was so embarrassed. During a filming break, Megan and I looked up who the costume designer girl was, so I could find her and apologize. Turns out her name was Wretches (and JUST Wretches, like Madonna but less Catholic) and, in addition to being the costume designer for this sham of a Hunger Games interpretation, she was THE DIRECTOR.

Megan recognized her name (Wretches being one of those that sticks in the mind), and informed me that Wretches was the daughter of some high-falutin’ Hollywood celebrity and had briefly been a model. Megan also informed me (dream Megan is so helpful! She probably got us that dream gig) that the production company behind this Hunger Games movie was owned by Sharon Osborne.  Direct dream quote from Megan: “Sharon Osborne has a talent for trying to pick out the most successful celebrity kid in a family and getting it wrong.” DREAM BURN.

So we were freaked out, embarrassed, and did I mention freaked out because what was an ex-model celebrity brat doing directing MY HUNGER GAMES?! Our outrage was quickly silenced, though, when Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law walked on set because remember, this was actually a Sherlock Holmes movie taking place on an IKEA set with occasional dance breaks.

While we filmed with RDJ we noticed that Wretches put herself in several all of the scenes, and when finally it came to a monologue that RDJ was supposed to give, a production team member was all: “Go get RDJ we have to film his monologue and btw what is the monologue anyway.” Wretches is all “I’ll tell you what it says” (or “I’ll tell you what it says!”, whichever helps you get the point of this scene more effectively) and launches into this soliloquy right there on set. It was highly emotional, about starting out as a model but being told she was too big, then deciding she wouldn’t conform to “their” standards and setting off to make it on her own which, personally, I think is a wonderful speech for just about any YA movie EXCEPT THE HUNGER GAMES, and also totally inappropriate for Sherlock Holmes while we’re on the subject.

So I started to get panicked. Wretches was ruining My. Hunger. Games! She made huge plot decisions in a blink and Megan and I were shoved out of scenes with RDJ unnecessarily and it was all quite distressing.

Then I woke up, remembered this:

… And felt so much better.

Happy Friday, everyone!!

ETA: My brilliant and hilarious friend Jessica sent me this video, which is at once amazingly relevant to my dream (Haymitch on Sprockets!) AND terrifyingly meta in reference to the actual Hunger Games message. SLOW CLAP, Jessica. SLOW WONDROUS CLAP.

(also, her comment had me rolling: “Now is the time in the arena when we dance.”)


A Valentine Post

by sarahenni on February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m posting as part of YA Highway’s Blog Circus Lovefest, and I couldn’t decide on just one object of affection to send a Valentine’s Card to. So I gathered a few of my favorite characters, and scoured Etsy for cards that would perfectly capture my love. It was a tough job but … okay, fine, it was totally fun. I had a blast finding the cards, and casting the characters—so here they are, my Valentines!


I’d send the dreamily odd Cricket Bell (from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door and cast here as Nicholas Hoult) this fun, funky card—appropriately made in San Francisco! The polar opposite of moody, broody rocker Max, Cricket Bell was smart and a bit silly. But his loyalty and genuine nature made him one of my absolute favorite YA boys… next to Etienne, of course!

Warner from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me is a lot of things: controlling, manipulative, demanding, ruthless… a touch psycho? But as the book goes on it’s clear there’s a whole lot more to Warner than meets the eye. The promise of a heart-wrenching backstory and surprising plot twist or two is enough to get me hooked for Unravel Me, and to keep me on Team Mysterious and Tortured. But you can’t just give a man like that a box of candy hearts, so Warner (played here, per the author’s suggestion, by an extraordinarily smoldering fox in a tux whose name I don’t even care to know because it’d ruin the mystique) would get this simple card with a complicated message by Fifi Du Vie.

Oh hi, Love Interest in the forthcoming Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I don’t know you. Not even your name—seriously, there’s no hint of anything on Goodreads even. But I’m prepared, nay, predetermined to fall madly, wildly, foolishly in love with you. And every minute we are apart? Every day that the elusive ARC of Bitterblue passes hands and I remain clueless about each of its 500+ pages? I miss you more. Happy freaking Valentine’s Day, mystery dude.

Oh, Gale. Pretty, helpless, moping-in-a-meadow Gale. Get back in the coal mines, buddy—Peeta got your girl by painting himself into dirt. I know,  it sucks. But take the advice of this apt, and awesome, print (also by Fifi Du Vie) and don’t get too bogged down with, you know. Thoughts.

I was also dying to give away this Valentine to a fictional studmuffin:

But I couldn’t think of just the right guy (or gal!). Who would you send it to?

For other Valentine’s awesomeness, check out the other Blog Lovefest posts, and rock out to my collection of non-romantic Valentine’s Dance Break songs!


Required Reading

by sarahenni on November 16, 2011

Welcome to another Road Trip Wednesday, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs.

This week’s topic is:

If you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

For this and so many other reasons, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood should be taught in classrooms, hopefully to inspire kids to talk about the role of government in their lives, feminism, and also to incorporate some sci-fi into the classroom, which was underrepresented in my high school experience.

And you know what? In that same vein, I’d want the kids to read The Hunger Games. Not only is it a current, fast-paced book that I think they’d gobble up, it covers those same issues and then some—government, freedom of speech, reality television.

And finally, a book that covers some similar ground that I hope they never STOP requiring in high school:

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I love this book. LOVE.

What about you?? What books should join the ranks of Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby as required high school fare?


I can’t listen to Dr Husband describe heart splints or neurosurgery for very long before I get dizzy and fight the urge to dry heave. I’m a wimp like that. But one part of his medical education fascinates me — psychiatry. Since this happens to be Dr F’s least favorite medical subject, I’ve claimed his textbooks for my own and taken to reading through and highlighting things on Sunday afternoons. You know, for fun. Totes normal.


Recently I was reading Erik Erikson, a man who bravely overcame his unfortunate double-naming (really, Erikson parents? Really?) to become a highly respected psychiatrist who spent his entire life studying the mental and emotional development of children in the 20th century.

Erikson outlines the stages of development throughout a person’s life, but of course I’m most interested in his discussion of the adolescent, defined as between 13 and 21 years old. Erikson wrote that at this stage people are completely preoccupied with the question of identity. That sounds spot-on to me, and I can honestly say that every YA book I’ve read ould be boiled down to the protagonist’s search for identity. In YA there may be dystopian oligarchies or sparkling vampires, but ultimately all of those things serve to help, or challenge, the main character (MC) through their search for identity.

Erikson outlined a few concepts of identity that made me think about how I could use them to increase tension in my MS, deepen the emotional complexity of my characters, and better show how my characters evolve throughout the book. In other words, these concepts can help make my (and your) MS better.

Identity in Relationships

Concept: Erikson stresses that young people form identities through relationships.

Falling in love [is] a process by which the adolescent may clarify a sense of identity by projecting a diffused self-image onto the partner and seeing it gradually assume a more distinctive shape.

Example: In The Hunger Games, Katniss projects innocence and good onto Peeta, idealizing him as a representation of everything she doesn’t think she deserves. Meanwhile, Gale represents who she could be if she chose to be the Mockingjay. But Katniss has to decide whether she’s comfortable with that identity. As Carrie Ryan pointed out, the love triangle is effective in The Hunger Games because it isn’t about Katniss choosing a boy — it’s about Katniss determining who she is. At the core of everything, Katniss is desperately seeking an identity.

Application to your MS/MC: That struck me as a great way to think about the main relationship(s) the YA protagonist is in, or seeks. What idea of self is the protagonist projecting on their love interest(s)? What could they become by being in a relationship with that person? What identity is the other person projecting on the protagonist? What do they hope to become through the relationship?

Identity Through Social Perception

Concept: Erikson wrote that young adults are “primarily concerned with what they appear to be in the eyes of others, as compared to what they feel they are.” Young adults are hugely motivated by how others will perceive their actions, and in pursuit of being perceived as something (popular, or smart, or brave) they’ll do fairly extreme things.

Example: In Mean Girls, Cady likes Aaron. Regina decides she wants Aaron back after she knows Cady is interested. Regina only wants Aaron back so she can assert her authority in their group, and her superiority over Cady. Regina’s primary driver is how others perceive her.

Application to your MS/MC: Is your MC aware of how others perceive him/her? How does this self-awareness factor into MC’s feelings for the love interest? Do they want to be with someone because it will make them seem more attractive, popular, or desirable in others’ eyes? How genuine are their feelings? Do they realize how much they value this social perception? Do they go out of their way to do things that will make others uncomfortable?

Separate Identities in Relationships

Concept: Erikson says that, once a young adult gains a more sharply focused sense of identity, they develop ‘fidelity’. Erikson’s definition:

Fidelity is the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions of value systems. It is the cornerstone of identity and receives inspiration from confirming ideologies and affirming companionships.

So, according to Erikson, falling in love is a way for young adults to form identities. But an identity becomes fully-formed when the young adults in that relationship can accept each other even when they disagree or begin to hold differing ideologies or beliefs. (At least that’s how I interpreted that.)

Example: Ron and Hermione. When Hermione builds herself into an ideological fury over the poor treatment of House Elves in The Goblet of Fire, Ron thinks it’s, well, rubbish. For the reader, this difference in ideologies is telling about the individual characters, and the fact that they remain friends (even after Ron refuses to wear SPEW badges) says much about the maturity of their friendship and, eventually, relationship.

Application to your MS/MC: For young adult writers, this isn’t anything new, but it does serve as a different way to approach the relationships we write, and infuse them with more tension. Within friendships and relationships, when does the MC disagree with the other person? Do they believe in the same fundamental things? Where are their personal ideologies different? How do they discover their disagreements? Is their relationship strong enough to survive this divergence?

If nothing else, I hope some of these questions spark a different way of thinking of the characters you’re writing. What about you? Can you think of other examples of these concepts? Other important forms of identity that come up in YA?


A YA Halloween: Katniss

by sarahenni on October 25, 2011

This suggestion for a YA Halloween costume would be not only fun and comfortable, with the movie getting tons of early hype, there’s a decent chance of getting recognized by not-yet-YA-literate people. (And yes, there are only two kinds of people, the other being YA-obsessed.)

But does it really even need to be recognized? You’d be running around with an archery kit! All I’m saying is, I wish this had been an option when I was in high school, because the only comparable option then was Lara Croft, and that outfit barely has enough structural integrity to cover a computer animated chick.



InWear black tee
€14 –

Original Penguin hooded jacket
65 –

Superdry army pants
25 –

Coach long boots
$298 –

Knapsack bag
$30 –