Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Hunger Games: Katniss and Peeta

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE fan of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. When I found out Lionsgate was going to make this beloved novel into a movie, I was... apprehensive. Since that initial announcement, I have been like a rabid fan, devouring anything and everything I could about the film; I had to be sure they were going to do the book justice. I've seen some wonderful book adaptations (The Lord of the Rings) where I could tell those involved in making it treasured the novel like I do. I've also watched some devastatingly awful books-to-film (City of Ember) where it seems as though they just wanted to make a quick buck and thought this particular story would do. Of course, there are those adaptations in which the book and movie are quite different (The Lightning Thief), but it worked for me and I enjoyed it  nonetheless. In the case of The Hunger Games movie, I'm not so sure I would be satisfied with anything less than a wonderful, accurate, dedicated translation from book to film; I would be crushed if they ruined this story.

As news and images have leaked out about the film, I've become more and more excited. I was going to wait until the tributes had all been cast to share images & my thoughts, but then I decided I would rather wait until we had some "official" images of Katniss and Peeta... just to avoid all the "he's a brunette!" "she's a blonde!" "she's too old" "he's too old" comments. Well, the time has finally come because Entertainment Weekly has come through again with an exclusive look at Friday's cover featuring... wait for it... Peeta! And Gale, too... but PEETA! Now that we have official photographs of Katniss and Peeta, I feel as though I can move ahead with my movie gushing... so let's get started!

I'm sure those of you who are HG addicts like I am are already well aware of the May issue of Entertainment Weekly in which the image of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was debuted. Needless to say, I searched high & low (thank you Barnes & Noble!) for this particular EW edition. I don't think I have to mention how nervous I was to find out a 20-something, blonde actress was going to play one of my favorite heroines of all time: 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen. I tried to keep an open mind but, even being a visual person, I was still unsuccessful at imagining Jennifer as Katniss. Katniss has the grey eyes and dark hair of those in her neighborhood (the Seam), olive skin tone, and a small frame. Jennifer Lawrence didn't fit the bill in any of those categories; she seemed very womanly to me... and tall. She may not be exactly what I pictured Katniss to look like, but after seeing this image on EW, it became a little easier for me to deal with. Now does Jennifer have the acting chops to pull off the character personality and whatnot? I'm not sure, as I  have yet to see Jennifer act in anything. I've decided to reserve my final, pre-release judgement of her as Katniss until I've watched one of her movies... if that makes any sense. I can only hope that she's able to portray Katniss in all her strong, self-reliant, complicated yet wonderful glory. 

(oh pic-editing skills... I need to work on you! meh.)
So, as you might have guessed after my bit of gushing, I absolutely love Peeta. I have always preferred the boy-next-door, nice guy type as opposed to the rugged, bad boys most girls seem like. Always. Peeta is about as "nice guy" as you can get. The first time I read The Hunger Games, I instantly fell for him. I'm not afraid to admit it, Peeta is totally my literary crush (yes, I'm aware I'm a dork & I don't care!) and if there are any "real" guys out there like him, please send them my way! Really. *sigh* Moving on... Peeta is the kind of guy who will do anything and everything for the one he loves. His smarts, self-deprecating humor and sweet temper make him absolutely adorable; not to mention he certainly has a way with words. He really is an all around good guy. Sure, he can be fierce when called for, but as he says in the book, he refuses to let anyone turn him into someone he's not. I like that. I like it a lot. When I heard that Josh Hutcherson was cast as Peeta, I was strangely okay with it. I know there's such a thing as hair dye and contacts (Peeta is blonde and blue-eyed while Josh is, well, not) so that wasn't an issue. He was also pretty close to Peeta's age (Peeta is 16, Josh 18) and they had roughly the same, stocky build. Everything seemed quite close to being on point... except for the height. I was worried Josh was too short! I know, I know, triviality and all that. But still! I worried he was too short to play Peeta to Jennifer's Katniss. I read any and every article that talked about Peeta, hoping to get even the tiniest bit of evidence that this was not an issue. Thankfully, I believe I have found that reassurance... especially after seeing the upcoming cover of EW. I mean, look at it! That's my Peeta! I am ecstatic about getting more news and images as it gets closer to the film release. Bring on the trailer!

Wondering how I was reassured about the casting? I read what author extraordinaire, Suzanne Collins, had to say about it! I figured if she was totally behind and excited about the actors chosen to play my favorite characters, then I should be too. I absolutely trust her judgement. I mean, she did write Peeta and Katniss after all, right? Right. One of my favorite things Suzanne said during the EW exclusive interview (also with director Gary Ross) was:
"...People may get thrown, say, by the color of an actor’s hair or maybe something physical, but I tell you: If Josh had been bright purple and had had six foot wings and gave that audition, I’d have been like “Cast him! We can work around the wings.” He was that good."
Isn't that great?! Check out the interview for more gushing and to see the bonding between Gary and Suzanne over the whole movie-making process. I love seeing directors really involve the author of the book they're adapting to film. With such an amazing start, I think we're going to be in for a treat when the film finally gets released March 2012. I'm so excited!

Stay tuned for more cast images and thoughts!

UPDATE: Check out my tribute to the Tributes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: "Bumped" by Megan McCafferty

Reading Level: Young Adult
eBook ARC: 244 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 26 April 2011
Source: Netgalley

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. (quoted from Goodreads)

So what to say about Bumped? Hmm. Well, I wanted to like this more than I did. I wish that weren't true, but there you have it. I read the first thirty pages or so and simply couldn't get into it, so I set it down for a bit. It took me another week or so to pick it back up and finally plow through it. Am I glad I picked it up again? I'm not quite sure.

The biggest problem I had with this novel was that the future-speak was definitely difficult to get used to. The crude language was also too much and it made it difficult for me to fully appreciate the message behind the story. The lingo saturated every page so much that I quickly tired of it and started skipping sections. Thankfully, it seemed as though the author took pity on the reader and refrained from using too much lingo once the second part started. I was aware this novel was a satire/dystopia going into it, but I'm not so sure it really worked for me. Apparently our twin narrators were born in 2020 - which is not that far away - and I had a real hard time believing our world could turn into theirs in such a short period of time. Maybe if the author had set the story in an unidentified time in the future, it would have worked better for me. At the beginning of the book, there is a letter from the author explaining her inspiration and that this particular novel is expressed by using extreme viewpoints. As I read, I had to keep reminding myself that the philosophies and characters were supposed to be extreme; the content was that shocking.

In my opinion, the characters were not very likeable. Well, at least not at first. The adults were terrible and quite creepy and horrifying at times. All the teenagers in this world seemed shallow & ridiculously air-headed - none of them seemed to have have an individual thought or substance to them. I must admit that I found Zen to be more real than any character in the entire story. I thought he was funny and I found myself wishing he was in the book more. I did end up liking the "pro-bump" Otherside twin, Melody, much more than the super-religious Goodside twin, Harmony. I started the book liking Harmony more because she was sweet and seemed to have a good heart. However, she quickly grew annoying and none of her actions made any sense to me once she met Jondoe. I really began to gain some respect for Melody as the book went on because she started to stand up for herself and realize that she is not okay with the life of "pregging for profit." She was strong, intelligent and I quite liked her by the end.

Near the end, Bumped seemed to finally capture my attention. I had the lingo down finally and things were getting interesting... and then the book just stopped. That's really the best way I can think of describing it; it seemed as though the story ended mid-thought just when it was finally getting started. Apparently there is going to be a sequel, but that still doesn't explain why the story finished so abruptly. Will I read the sequel? If it somehow falls into my hands, why not? I'm not going to be adding this book to my own collection, but I can see how there are those who may enjoy it. It was entertaining and funny in a this-is-so-bizarre-but-I-can't-stop kind of way. It's also an easy read with a thoughtful message: think for yourself, make your own trends and don't let anyone dictate your future for you. But what would happen if only our teenagers were able to procreate? What would we do? Would it be right to ask our teen girls to become surrogates? Would we look for another option? Though it wasn't my cup of tea, Bumped did leave me thinking about it for hours afterward - the whole idea was interesting, sickening and absolutely scared me to death.

A Favorite Quote: "Faith is accepting what makes no sense, what we cannot prove, but know down deep in our souls is real."
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