Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games.
New York: Scholastic, 2008. Amazon
Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire
. New York: Scholastic, 2009. Amazon
I am probably the last person in the world to discover just how awesome these books are, but let me say, for the record, that these are two of the best books I've read in a while. If you haven't read them, you should. End of discussion.
Who am I kidding, that's never the end of the discussion. To wit, these books follow Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl trying to provide for her family in a dictatorial, post-apocalyptic former United States, now divided into thirteen districts plus the Capital and called Panem. (And yes, that's a very pointed irony.) Seventy-four years before the story starts, the Capital's forces crushed a rebellion led by District 13, which was destroyed, and in memorial of that victory every district must send two children to the capital each year to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. Panis et circenses, indeed.( I am the mockingjay. )
Hale, Shannon. Forest Born
. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009. Amazon
I've loved Hale's Books of Bayern, and her books in general, for a while, and I was overjoyed to find that she had written a fourth. Hale reminds me of Megan Whalen Turner, actually, in her ability to pack a very sophisticated story into a fairly simple tegument, and I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Rin, the youngest sister of Razo (the protagonist of River Secrets
, the third book), accompanies her brother back to the capital of Bayern to get out of the Forest and to find out who she is, and along the way she, along with Razo, Isi, Enna and Dasha, are drawn to Bayern's border with Kel, where an old enemy lies in wait. Giving away what exactly transpires really would ruin the book, but I will say that Rin's self-discovery is central to the story, in a completely believable, and at times rather painful, way. I like that the books of Bayern give women and girls agency without doing too much violence to their fairy-tale-made-real atmosphere, and Rin's dilemma, and triumphs, were hard-won, and utterly believable.
That said, though, the copy editing was frightful at times; a few sentences simply don't make sense as printed. I also have a problem with the cover of the book, and with the reissued covers of the earlier volumes. This page
from Hale's website, to illustrate, has the old and new covers of River Secrets
: the old version is a charming, atmospheric painting, while the new version is bad photoshop with painfully white teenagers. Given the brouhaha over Bloomsbury's USA cover for Liar
, one would hope their marketing department has learned...but clearly not. I'm not claiming that the Bayern books are a multi-racial paradise, because they're not, but there's more diversity of skin tone within the books than the new covers would lead one to think, and the new covers look trashy on top of that. These books are anything but, and Hale and her readers deserve better.