The Wisdom of the Fool Won’t Set You Free: Love Triangles in YA Lit

While I don’t see Hunger Games as “Team Peeta” vs. “Team Gale”, anyone who says  they never cast a mental vote for who Katniss should end up with is a Big Fat Liar. Since the biggest role many female characters in YA novels get to play in their own stories involves picking a fella (thankfully not so for Katniss), the love triangle is a go-to for injecting a little drama into the proceedings. Today I want to take a look at the love triangles in four YA novels: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

There will be many spoilers. If you have not read these books, and will cry if they are spoiled, please spare me the pain of making you cry.

TWILIGHT

Angle A: Edward Cullen – variation on a vampire, Volvo driver, venerable, possessor of marble-like abs.

Angle B: Bella Swan – new girl at school, reads gloomy books, thinks everyone who likes her is kind of dumb (including her parents).

Angle C: Jacob Black – motorcycle riding long-haired Native A-were-ican, destined to lead his half-people.

Anyone who has read my prior entries reviewing three of the four Twilight novels knows that I think Jacob is the obvious choice in this setup (up until the character assassination). Jacob has both the “Bad Boy” archetype and the fact that he makes Bella a better person on his side. He is honest with her, respects her autonomy (again up until the character assassination), and helps her develop a social life with people other than his own relatives. Edward lies to her, ensures her compliance with his wishes through subterfuge and abandonment, and ensures a life of isolation by poisoning her and dragging her into the woods after chewing open her womb.

But hey, you know, different strokes.

WICKED LOVELY

Angle A: Keenan – Summer King, ginger dreamboat, provider of magical honeyed wine and endless revels. 

Angle B: Aislinn – seer of faeries, skipper of school, hangs out in nightclubs and will probably acquire many tattoos and non-iron facial piercings over the course of her adulthood.

Angle C: Seth – gets around, statutory rapist, wearer of nail polish, may look like Trent Reznor, has already acquired many tattoos/piercings, lives in a boxcar.

Full disclosure: I have only read the first three books of this series, so all of this is based on Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity. This triangle is slightly different than the Twilight configuration: the idea of fated love is mixed in with the immortality vs. natural lifespan quandary. Also the fact that if Aislinn doesn’t choose Keenan it will literally kill him and the entire Summer Court. No pressure. Keenan doesn’t really love her either, he’s still hung up on the Winter Girl, but he’ll do anything to save Summer (and rightly so, it’s my favorite season). There is really no reason whatsoever for Aislinn to choose Keenan romantically. Both he and Seth have plenty of other ladies to choose from, but Aislinn goes moony for Seth’s brooding artist in a boxcar bit. The whole love triangle is actually a lot less interesting than the question of whether or not Aislinn will take up the mantle of Summer Queen. As with Bella, it’s a bit of a foregone conclusion. Aislinn is choosing Seth, even if he is a lot more likely to give her Hepatitis C.

SISTERS RED

Angle A: Scarlett – Badass one-eyed hunter babe with an axe, as scarred on the inside as she is on the outside.

Angle B: Silas – fetching young woodsman, Scarlett’s very capable hunting partner, pursuer of underage raven-tressed beauties, player of guitar.

Angle C: Rosie – sister of Scarlett, folder of origami frogs and baker of cookies, two-eyed babe with knives, possessor of raven-tresses, sixteen.

Here’s a triangle turned on its ear! Silas catches a peek of a freshly showered Rosie and suddenly he’s more interested in being the Big Bad Wolf than hunting them. Scarlett doesn’t even realize she is in a triangle until Silas and Rosie get a little too overt with the lingering glances, and is she competing for the guy or her sister? She doesn’t want to lose her sibling or her hunting partner, and part of her resents Rosie for being hale and whole (though it was Scarlett’s protection that allowed her to remain so). Silas may have two ladies for the choosin’, but it’s Scarlett who makes the final decision. She loves hunting more, everyone knows it, and Silas rides away with the booby prize: shut-in, underage, middle-school dropout Rosie.

HUNGER GAMES

Angle A: Gale Hawthorne  – Towering, glowering, hunting hottie who has taken a shine to Katniss after long years in close proximity; filled with anger, excellent military strategist, amoral.

Angle B: Katniss Everdeen – Braided huntress with a hole in her heart, volunteer, resentful, Mockingjay, amoral. Survivor.

Angle C: Peeta Mellark – Bruised baker, idealist, talented painter and camouflage artist, admirer of songbirds. Romantic.

Gale and Katniss are too much alike. They are destructive and angry…if each of them were an element they would both be fire. If they got together they would make a bigger fire and destroy everything! Neither has any real morality to speak of, only a utilitarian philosophy of survival that might permit a pairing. Katniss actually needs Peeta, he is her missing heart and soul. He is the earth to her fire, ever-present, able to let her burn or damp the flames when they burn too hot. Suzanne Collins realized this.

So she said, “Okay, Katniss. You can have Peeta.”

“Once he’s ruined!”

Whenever I think of love triangles in YA fiction, I am reminded of a scene in Rob Thomas’ novel Slave Day in which high-school lust object Tiffany Delvoe counsels her good-girl classmate Jenny during Spanish class. Jenny is torn between her football player boyfriend who keeps pressuring her for sex, and his “nice guy” best friend who has made his willingness to be an alternative known. Tiffany compares Jenny’s triangle situation to a Communist department store: you have a choice, but it’s still the blue shoes or the red shoes. Tiffany recommends a store with more selection.

Words for young ladies to live by.

Top Ten Tuesdays – Top Ten Books You’d Play Hooky With

I suppose it’s about time I gave these their own fancy little clickable category.

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Most of the people I meet tell me that their least favorite book in a trilogy is the middle one (Catching Fire, The Two Towers, The Subtle Knife). “Nothing happens!” they cry. I am just the opposite: the second novel of a trilogy is usually my favorite because all of the players are on the board, the climactic ending with everything tied up in a neat bow is a book away, and the only thing left to do is play with the characters. No exposition, no dramatic speeches illuminating the grand moral of the thing, nothing but pure plot.

This particular “middle book” is rich with interpersonal stuff : Katniss realizing she and Haymitch are more alike than she’d like to admit, both Katniss and Peeta realizing she has been jerking him around intentionally or otherwise, Gale formally throwing his hat in the ring even as he has been relegated to cousin status), a shocking shift to the established order of The Hunger Games, great new characters to show Katniss new sides to herself and a world she assumed she understood, and a pretty awesome arena (even if it is a dastardly death trap).

2. The Maze Runner 

Any book I haven’t read is a terrible temptation to play hooky, but this one in particular seems like one I’d have to read cover to cover without so much as a bathroom break.

3. The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way by Penny Billington

A day without work seems like the perfect day to spend doing spiritual exercises and re-connecting with nature, with the bonus of researching my novel.

4. The Mabinogion  by Old-Timey Welsh People

I have been a mythology nut since I discovered my first D’Aulaire’s in sixth grade (and I was really into fairy tales before that). Having exhausted Greek and Norse myth, and dabbled in those from Senegal and Vietnam, I am now reading Welsh myths, and I’d love nothing more than to loaf about all day and enjoy them.

5. A Treasury of North American Folk Tales

A big, beautiful book I’ve only had the chance to flip through since I picked it up. The contents range from southwestern tall tales to Native American myth and the fabled Paul Bunyan.

6. The History of Printing in America by Isaiah Thomas

Why do half of my choices sound like homework? I bought this massive tome from an old salt rocking rainbow suspenders at the International Printer’s Fair in Los Angeles (I bought one of his letterpress prints, too). Several printmakers saw me carrying it around and stopped to tell me it’s a great read, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. Probably because it’s so long. With a whole day, I think I could make a dent.

7.  The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton

I have been reading a page or two of this novel between appointments and I am always reluctant to put it down. It truly is the funny version of The House of Mirth. Still hoping that crazy Lily Bart will get it right one of these days.

8. Le Ventre de Paris by Emile Zola

What could be better on a layabout day than reading a book about all the delicious things to eat in France (with a wedge of brie and sleeve of crackers at one’s side)?

9. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

If the day in question were a rainy one.

10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Nothing makes me feel more devious than shirking my duties, so a long book packed with devious people avoiding their duties seems just the ticket!

 

Live Deadly Girls! A Hunger Games Movie Review

We went to the Hunger Games midnight showing last night. Sandwiched ourselves between heavy-banged teens in chunkifying “skinny” jeans and middle-aged adults escorting texting tweens in a line that wrapped all the way around the theater. It was cold. The theater had been trashed by hours worth of indifferent people crushing snack food underfoot. Our small band of three was not able to sit together, because the theater was so packed.

I’d do it all again.

Gary Ross’ take on The Hunger Games is the most faithful book-to-film adaptation I have ever seen. Every actor was perfectly selected, the score delicately augmented the moods created by the thoughtful cinematography. All those melodramatic exclamations from the trailers that made me squirm worked within the context of the whole scene. It is apparent that the film was lovingly crafted by a true fan. Clever solutions were devised to prevent the film from being Katniss’ endless internal monologue, like showing Caesar Flickerman’s Monday-Night-Football-style commentary on the games as they happened,  and the minor alterations to plot and pacing worked well.

One of my favorite things about the film is that it didn’t play down to the viewer. Many things were communicated via soundless memory sequence or a significant look, rather than an expository speech. This reserve served the film’s few moments of romantic tension well, whether between Katniss and Peeta or a simple shot of Gale reacting to what he sees onscreen during the games. Purists will be relieved to hear that the romance was not played up at all, no mercenary need to milk the Twilight crowd on display here. Lenny Kravitz was an inspired choice for Cinna, and his brief scenes with Lawrence are more emotionally raw than ten screaming Prims.

Was every tiny detail perfect? Not quite. Certain things, like Haymitch’s evolution as mentor and Katniss’ relationship with Rue, were not given quite enough time to develop. But on the whole, this film was a triumph. Ross’ direction is substance over style at every turn (though his style ain’t too bad). He is not afraid of quiet, revealing moments that build tension or illuminate deeper feelings. The contrast between the hardscrabble scenes of daily struggle in The Seam and the clownish spectacle of The Capitol is masterfully executed. Ross navigates the line between watering-down the horror of the games and wallowing in gore without veering too far in either direction. Elizabeth Banks adds much-needed levity to the pensive film with her pitch-perfect portrayal of Effie Trinket, and Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is all heart and nobility. Even Gale gets fleshed out as we see his subtle but constant role in Katniss’ life (and Hemsworth plays him with an unsuspected subtlety). Jennifer Lawrence does Katniss justice. Harrelson as Haymitch was hard to swallow when I heard the casting news, and he takes the role to a different place than I had imagined in my reading, but it works.

It’s just great. Watch it. Watch it again. I know I will (and I can’t wait for the director’s cut).

Lucky Ducky

Ladies and gentlemen, I have arrived.

Or at least been tagged in that writerly meme that’s been making the rounds: Lucky 7

What does that mean? You are about to be treated to seven un-edited (because I haven’t gotten that far yet) lines from my manuscript, Grove. I’m sorry.

“No” I scowl at him, a little afraid to touch a glass that now plays host to so many different people’s bodily fluids. One of the other guys at the table offers Silas five bucks to take a single sip from the glass, and he slams it back, polishing off the slice of bacon with gusto and slapping a hand down on the table palm-up to collect his winnings.

                “I’ve got to get home.” I excuse myself, done with this bizarre dinner. “I have a lot of reading to do.” Everyone is perfectly polite, offering the requisite nice-to-meet-yous and see-you-arounds. I pay for my soda and burger, making it all the way to my truck in the parking lot before I hear Silas’ swaggering footsteps behind me. He ducks around me to block the driver’s side door.

                “I don’t even get a kiss goodbye?” He asks, eyes sleepy and big pink tongue wagging.

Now, because sharing is caring, I’m gonna tag seven writers with their own blogs to share bits of their manuscripts. If I can come up with seven.

1. My super-busy alpha reader has been my biggest cheerleader since I started this whole crazy NaNoWriMo adventure, and she catalogs her own writing adventures over at There are three rules for writing a novel.

Um, that is the only writer I know who hasn’t done this yet. Meme fail.

On the bright side, I have a Hunger Games movie review and an entry looking at literary love triangles in the works! Watch this space.

Take a Look, I Picked Ten Books

Time for another Top Ten Tuesday, folks! That fancy-pants meme spawned by The Broke and the Bookish continues to ensure that I will post at least once a week. What do I have for you this time around?

The Top Ten Books on My Spring to-be-Read List

Scored

1. Scored by Lauren McLaughlin

More YA dystopia! Yummy.

The Grapes of Wrath

2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to finish my latest Edith Wharton. I’ve been meaning to read it since high school and finally picked up a copy at the used bookstore.

Crossed

3. Crossed by Ally Condy

Looking forward to giving this series a second chance.

The Night Circus

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This one piqued my interest during NaNoWriMo last Fall when the author wrote a great pep-talk for the participants.

Divergent

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

This book wasn’t even on my radar, but it seems to be on everyone else’s. It’s been popping up on all the book blogs I read and I’ve been convinced to give it a try.

The Wind Through the Keyhole

6. The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Very excited for the April release of this novel, though I was never able to get into The Dark Tower series.

An Abundance of Katherines

7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I read about this on another book blog recently (sadly I don’t remember which), and it rapidly shot to the top of my to-read list. Once upon a time I studied mechanical engineering, I adore calculus, and I come from a family that tries to navigate relationships using Game Theory. This book is absolutely up my alley.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

8. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Zombies have always been my monster movie matinee favorite, and I’ve heard only great things about this book.

What’s on your list?

9. H.P. Lovecraft the Complete Fiction

A gift from my father shortly before Christmas. I have never read Lovecraft before, so I don’t know what to expect beyond Cthulu.

10. Uglies: Shay’s Story by Scott Westerfeld, Devin Grayson. Illustration by Steven Cummings.

This is a graphic novel handling the story of Uglies from another perspective, that of Tally’s friend Shay. A lot of people seem to hate Shay or think she is whiny or unreasonable, but I have always had a lot of sympathy for her, she’s the casualty of a lot of Tally’s mistakes and lucky breaks.

Long Train Runnin

It’s been a long week and it’s not over yet.

Finally bought my tickets for the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games last night and I can’t wait! By this time next week I will have seen the movie, perhaps I will post a review here.

So far I haven’t gotten a lot of on-paper editing done this week, but I have been doing a lot of research reading. Since I am not looking to write non-fiction (at this point), I have also been thinking a lot about my scenes and characters. One of my main characters does not make sense as a person, and yesterday I had a brain wave in the shower that will help me fix that.

Shower thinking time is the best thinking time.

Today I am working in a public library, and I plan on going a few hours early with my manuscript to get in some quality pen-to-paper time.

But before that, I must buy a baby drum for my nephew’s first birthday.

Since it is Friday, I shall leave you with three songs. I was going to leave you with one but I am both indecisive and grandiose. These were all on my writing playlist for Grove.

Ellie Goulding – “Starry Eyed”
Incidentally, I imagine one of my characters looking a bit like Ellie Goulding, though I discovered the resemblance after my first draft was written.

The Hush Sound – “Medicine Man”

Florence + The Machine – “Drumming Song”
 

Top Ten Tuesday: Dystopian Novels

Time for another crack at the meme originated by The Broke and the Bookish, borrowing part of  my genre from The Librarian Who Deoesn’t say “Sssh” (because, hey, I love dystopian fiction too!)

1. Feed by M.T. Anderson

Yes, I know this one has popped up in more than a few of my posts, but it’s just that good! It follows American culture’s current obsession with youth, buying crap, and fusing our consciousness with our smartphones to a scary place. The narrative mixes teenage romance with the collapse of society, wrapped in a buttery future-slang crust and seasoned with cultural artifacts from our future dystopia. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, hopefully you’ll reconsider buying that iPhone.

2. The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson

A middle-grades novel from the seventies, The Girl Who Owned a City is the story of a twelve-year-old girl living in the aftermath of a plague that killed all adults (defined as anyone teenaged or older). Lisa is a bright and proactive girl who uses her brain to provide for herself and her little brother, and eventually protect herself and her friends from roving gangs of kids who would rather use force to get what they need.

3. Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Another post-societal collapse tale, origins mostly unknown (though a fuel crisis seems to figure in). Sisters Eva and Nell struggle to survive in their secluded rural Northern California home even as they continue to hope that their ambitions of being a prima ballerina and attending Harvard, respectively, might still be possible. The story is narrated by Nell, in the form of a journal, skipping back and forth between memories and current events. It is a bittersweet tale of hope and loss, that gets a bit brutal and bizarre three-quartes of the way through, but ultimately it is about the bond between two sisters.

4.   House of Stairs by William Sleator

A quick read about a group of children plucked from their beds and plopped down in a giant psychological experiment. The plot is tight and chilling, Lord of the Flies 2: Behavioral Programming Boogaloo.

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Test tube babies and human remains reclamation! Everybody buying new crap all the time! Forcing children to engage in sexplay? Another classic speculative tale about placing more value on efficiency and consumption than spirituality and fulfillment.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is one of those novels, which a lot of us read as kids in school, that holds up into adulthood. A life without pain, choice, or difference is hard to accept when you’ve seen the highs that the lows make possible.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Maybe not the most original concept, but the execution was aces! I love a strong but flawed protagonist and a lot of moral gray area. Brain food.

8. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

The novel from which Suzanne Collins has so often been accused of cribbing her plot. Except if you’ve read it, you know that’s kind of ridiculous. This novel is a lot less political, and a lot more gory. The story focuses on the individual characters (the lengthy novel feels like a fifty-character-study) and their social interactions more than the society that created a game in which children fight to the death. Well-written, but not for the faint of heart.

9. Under the Dome by Stephen King

This may be a bit of a stretch, but since the definition of dystopia includes “a society characterized by human misery” I’ll allow it. The invisible dome that claps down over Chester’s Mill, Maine is like a make-your-own dystopia kit. Great novel, kept me awake reading late into the night despite the fact that I was at an intensive printmaking workshop and really needed my sleep. Worth it.

10. Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

A future Earth ravaged by oil-drilling and climate change, in which many major cities (like New Orleans) have gone the way of Atlantis. This book has misery to spare, but the writing is so lush you’ll feel like you’re crawling through a rusted-out ship tearing feet of copper wiring from the walls just to get a crust of bread right alongside Nailer and his crew. And you’ll like it.

Plus, the cover’s gorgeous.