No Shame YA: Listening to The Hunger Games
In which Ashley experiences her beloved Hunger Games as an audiobook for the first time. You can check out the previous installment here.
I love The Hunger Games more than I love most people, which some of my friends find disconcerting given that it's a book about kids killing other kids for my amusement. It’s gotten to the point where anytime I mention it even in passing my friends will roll their eyes and insist "Not everything is like The Hunger Games, Ashley."
That's too bad, because everything should aspire to be at least half as smart as Suzanne Collins' modern dystopian classic. Ostensibly written for teens, this story tackles so many complex issues—the insidiousness of media culture, the military-industrial complex, gender politics (or lack thereof)—that you could write a book of essays about it (in fact, some people already have). Each time I (re)read the books or (re)watch the movies, I appreciate new details, new issues Katniss and her cohort have to struggle with.
Now that we have the entire Hunger Games trilogy on Scribd in audiobook form, I was excited to experience Collins’ story in a whole new way (especially since I need to reread them all anyway before seeing Mockingjay - Part 1 on Thursday, obviously). But I also had my reservations: Could Carolyn McCormick, the narrator, match my mental Katniss? Jennifer Lawrence is great in the movies—whitened, sure, and also not very starving-looking, but still amazingly stoic and compassionate. Could I handle letting yet another person’s Katniss interpretation possibly taint my own?
I literally got through the first four words of the audiobook—“When I wake up”—before I paused and went "GRAHHHH WEIRD MUSIC WEIRD VOICE GRAHHHH." I typed this sentiment to a friend on Gchat and he responded simply, "Welcome to audiobooks." But I wouldn't let his cynicism or my initial reaction deter me. If Katniss can survive two Hunger Games and lead a revolution, then I could handle listening to her do it.
Soon, new details started jumping out at me, like the fact that about 8,000 people live in District 12. It made me see just how much time Katniss takes to explain things to the audience in this seemingly lightning-paced, action-packed story. There’s no eagerly flipping pages during Katniss's fight with Clove at the Feast or any other heart-pounding moments to find out what happens next—there's just McCormick's voice, passionately but steadily telling me the tale, making me notice more things my eyes might skip over.
By Part II of the story, I was as sucked into the story and McCormick's narration of Katniss as I've ever been, and even more convinced of the story's basic intelligence and power. I’m already in the middle of the Victory Tour with Katniss and Peeta, and can’t wait to start a revolution soon.
Ashley is an Editorial Assistant at Scribd. She's started a project called "I Volunteer as Tribute" that asks those who see The Hunger Games movies to make a donation that matches their ticket price to a charity that fights hunger. Find out some suggested charities and more at ivolunteerastribute.org.