May ’15 Update – Ashley

So… another late post, I know!  But school is officially out for the summer, which (in theory) leaves a lot more time for reading, so here’s to that!

* The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reread) – Full disclosure: this was not my first “reread” of The Hunger Games…  Or my second…  Actually, I’ve read the entire series at least three times.  Yeah, I’m one of those groupies.  Sorry, not sorry.  I read this book for the first time back when I was in graduate school.  One of my friends in class was always talking about the series and insisted that I just had to read the books for myself!  At that time, I had yet to realize my love for  YA novels – specifically YA dystopian novels – but, after reading The Hunger Games, I could no longer deny it!

0-439-02348-3For anyone new to the series, The Hunger Games trilogy is set in the post-apocolyptic and dystopian nation of Panem.  Panem is divided into thirteen Districts in varying states of poverty and desolation, all surrounding The Capitol, which is seemingly all-powerful and full of ostentatious luxury.  Years ago, the thirteen Districts joined forces in a failed attempt to defeat The Capitol.  In the process, District Thirteen was completely obliterated and The Capitol felt need to further establish their supreme authority in Panem.  As a result, they established “The Hunger Games” – an annual pageant where a young girl and boy from each of the twelve remaining Districts is sent into a deadly arena where only one can return – alive and victorious.  Through a series of events, our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is sent into The Hunger Games as the female tribute from District Twelve.  The first book in the trilogy tells the story of her time in the Games, fighting to stay alive without losing her sense of self along the way.

My Take: Without a doubt, this book series, belongs on ‘the list.’  In it’s simplest interpretation, the book is an easy and (it feels wrong to say this about a book that features children killing children) pleasurable read.  The entire series is extremely well-written, with characters that are as complex as they are entertaining.  However, for me, the best part is the layers of meaning within the story.  I have a particular soft spot for dystopian novels because of the “what if” factor…  What if something like this were to really happen?   What if this (in any sense) is what the world is really coming to?  I am also very drawn to the characters in this particular series – their motivations, the sides of themselves that they choose to show and those they choose to hide from other, the factions of people they represent in our current reality, and what parts of myself I see in them.  If you haven’t already, READ IT!!!

* A Separate Peace by John Knowles (new read) – At the beginning of this journey, I went online and bought a stack of “challenge books” off of Amazon to add to my collection.  (I have a vision of having an entire shelf – or two, or three – of just the 100 books from this challenge once we have completed it…)  I tried to pick a variety of books from the list to purchase with my first order – some I had already read but didn’t own a copy of, some I had been wanting to read for some time, some I had just heard about and felt instantly drawn to, and some “dark horses” that didn’t really jump out at me from the list – mostly, because I didn’t want to leave all those for the very end of this journey.  A Separate Peace was one of those “dark horse” purchases.  The premise sounded decent enough, but I can’t honestly say I was super-excited to read it.  And, let’s face it, that cover is just a little bit depressing…  However, I can honestly say that I go into every new book wanting to love it and this book was no exception – I was hoping that I was going to kick myself later for not looking forward to it.


This story takes place during the early 1940’s at the beginning of World War II and features the friendship between introvert Gene and exuberant Phineas (Finny) during their tenure at Devon, an exclusive boys’ boarding school in New England.  The two are an unlikely pair – the studious soon-to-be-valedictorian and the natural athlete with a penchant for mischief and a knack for working the room.  One summer, their unique bond is challenged in a way that neither of them saw coming – and the aftermath comes with its own struggles as both boys attempt to discover themselves in this coming-of-age tale.

My Take:  I did not kick myself later.  I found myself wanting so much more from this entire story.  It was fine enough, but I felt very much “set up” for something that never climaxed.   Every time I turned the page, I thought “This is it!  The *big thing* is going to happen now and the entire pace of this story is going to drastically change.”  That theory only led to more disappointment.  It was not a particularly challenging read, although definitely a bit wordy for my taste at times – entire sections were sometimes skimmed to avoid the endless comparisons and descriptive language.  Now, to be fair, the underlying message is powerful and profound in its own right, but I can only imagine about a thousand other ways we could have gotten to that message in a more moving manner.  According to its jacket, A Separate Peace is a “masterpiece” and has been a bestseller for over thirty years…  They’ve also made not one, but TWO, movies based on the book – one, as recently as 2012.  Maybe I am missing something, but I would never read this book again and it certainly won’t be one that I recommend to friends or insist my children try as they get older.   I’m so confused!  Who out there has read this?  Am I totally off-base?


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