Twilight versus The Hunger Games

I spent most of my March break cocooned on the couch with a book because I was sick (or snick as it sounded like when I said it).

Apparently, there’s a nasty cold floating through the human population. I’ve heard the cough alone can last up to six weeks. I’m hoping that’s for smokers only.

There was, however, one good thing about being sick: I had oodles of time to read.

And read I did. I may not have gone to Florida or Cuba, but I did travel to Forks to hang with some vampires. I competed in The Hunger Games.  I even went to visit the animals at Mayor Farm. And I happened to visit a Brave New World while I was at it.

It was a very economical spring break (most of my books are second hand, though I did buy The Hunger Games brand spankin’ new).

First off, I was delighted with The Hunger Games. There’s nothing like a good dystopia (unless you’re living in it, of course). I was hooked by the setting, the strong and feisty protagonist, and the tight plot. I read it in a day. (Not that this is a big feat, given its size. But I couldn’t put it down. The TV faded to mere white noise in the background. Conversation was carried on with a few mumbles and nods. I even trooped on when I had to hold the book above Jack, begging for a brush, a pet, some love.)

Spring Break has turned out to be Dystopian Days thanks to a re-read of Animal Farm (without the hatred of a teenager forced to endure it for English class) and Brave New World, which is probably the gold standard of dystopian fiction next to 1984. (FYI, 1984 is waiting in the wings to be read next. If I could find my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, I’d polish that off too.)

As a result, The Hunger Games fit nicely into my reading diet.

Also, inspired by my liking of The Hunger Games, I cracked open Twilight again. I tried reading it awhile ago, got a bit bored, and left it two-thirds unread. To be fair, at the time I was a bit bored with everything I read. I just wasn’t in the mood, I guess. University did a good job of killing my desire to read recreationally. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the literature I read in university. In fact, I enjoyed mostly everything I read (even Chaucer).

But years of academic reading is bound to diminish your appetite for literature; this has persisted for a couple of years despite the piles of books I keep collecting. (Yes, you’ll see me on an upcoming edition of Hoarders: The Book Lovers’ Edition.)

However, my love of reading is springing up again. Reading becomes a competition for me. How many can I read? And how fast?

This time, when I read Twilight, I let myself fall in love with the simplicity of the love story. That’s what it’s all about, really. It’s a love story. With some vampires thrown in for good measure. Twilight draws on the conventions of every love story out there while adding in the novelty of vampires.

Is Twilight great literature? Well, what is “great” literature anyway. Does it have to be boring? Include big pretentious words like pretentious?

I stayed up until 3:35AM to finish Twilight. Like The Hunger Games, I just could not put it down.

Sometimes, it’s best just to let yourself go, and enjoy books for what they are, not what you think they should be. I’ve spent years reading light fare and heavy literature, and I’ve found you can explore deep themes in whatever reading you have in your hands at the time. (For example, you could look at the role of domestic violence in this novel, even if it is presented as vampirism. However, there is no doubt that Bella is a belle bound to get hurt by her love.)

Which did I prefer?

I think The Hunger Games would have to win, but only because I’m so obsessed with dystopias these days.

However, Twilight was not too shabby either. I adored the setting of Forks, which reminded me of my Vancouver Island visit of 1999.

Comparing the two, though, is not unlike contrasting Jane Eyre with Animal Farm. I don’t think they’re meant to be talked about in the same breath unless you begin looking at the literary phenomenons both have been.

Here are my final thoughts:

The Hunger Games

Pros

  • short, with easy-to-read language
  • feisty heroine who can take care of herself
  • well-thought out dystopia
  • makes our reality TV obsession seem weird
  • love story doesn’t overpower the narrative

Cons

  • the ending is left hanging a bit for the next novel, so it’s not entirely self-contained
  • not really explained out how the Capitol can manipulate everything in the arena (like how can they see everything? there can’t be THAT many cameras)
  • violent
  • not enough development as to whether Kat likes Peeta or Gale
  • the wolves with the special eyes = really weird

Twilight

Pros

  • features a simple love story
  • beautiful setting on the West Coast
  • heroine many women can identify with (what teenage girl doesn’t have self-esteem issues?)
  • the lifestyle of the vampires is novel and intriguing
  • banter between Bella and Edward

Cons

  • seems to glorify sacrificing yourself for your partner
  • the end conflict is a bit overkill as far as violence goes
  • focuses a bit too much on Edward’s beauty
  • man always does the rescuing; woman is presented as helpless
  • characterization could be more detailed given the length of the novel
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