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Last time on the childmurder games, it was a lovely mix of boredom, squick, and terrible implications. Then finally the rain stopped and they accidentally killed another child.

Katniss explains what we already know from last chapter, and for some reason summarizes everything the red-haired girl did in general, I guess for readers who skimmed the past twenty-three chapters.

we would have both been dead, too, if she hadn’t eaten the berries first.” He checks himself. “No, of course, we wouldn’t. You recognized them, didn’t you?”

The book is kind of seesawing, I think, between Peeta's "Katniss you are awesome and know everything" and "Katniss stop doing things I am in charge" modes. I suspect the issue is that the author doesn't see any contradiction between the two.

Also, so, poisoning in the childmurder games is a matter of painless instakill berries. Why does no one commit suicide?

Or, and this is even more disturbing, what if they did? The non-trained kids die out over in large numbers in the first part of the games, but Katniss never thinks anything of it. They could easily be doing this, either immediately or as things get worse.

I find the leather pouch that belonged to the boy from District 1 and fill it with a few handfuls of berries from the plastic. “If they fooled Foxface, maybe they can fool Cato as well. If he’s chasing us or something, we can act like we accidentally drop the pouch and if he eats them —”

Okay, so I just said a lot about how people trust people. This does not fall under that category and their plan is stupid. People carry things for many reasons, and seeing unknown berries "accidentally" dropped is going to be a warning sign. A plan would be to set it out during meals and if they're surprised, run off and hope his hunger outweighs his desire to chase them. I suspect we're too late in the game for that, but it's how it works psychologically.

I mean, even if you don't think they're dropping the pouch on purpose, that doesn't make it food. If the book ever thought anything through, an obvious use of the berries is coating the tips of Katniss' arrows.

Anyway, after putting the berries in a container they decide to sit down to eat, doing the exact opposite of my suggestion.

Peeta asks if it's a good idea to make a fire, and Katniss says Cato probably knows they're in the area anyway, and that the death of the girl means Peeta's healed. Since Peeta has no real fighting ability and Katniss has a bow, I don't see why, but whatever.

And the fire means we’re not hiding, we’re inviting him here. Would you show up?” I ask.

Well, he does need to kill them to win, and also, he can approach your area and lie in wait without showing himself.

Katniss wants to climb a tree for the night and Peeta doesn't. He wants to go back to the cave, the one that they have to sleep in shifts in because there's the constant risk of Cato finding them. Oh, and it's a long walk and there's no food around it.

Several more hours of walking — or should I say crashing — through the woods to reach an area we’ll just have to leave in the morning to hunt.

 But Peeta doesn’t ask for much. He’s followed my instructions all day 


No, he hasn't. He insisted he "help", even though he can't defend himself (and even though he isn't any good at finding plants either) and refused to follow your perfectly reasonable advice in the matter. But it's okay because it's totally acceptable for a boy's ego to be hurt by a girl knowing what she's doing, so Katniss needs to be apologetic and try to make him think he's in charge.

and I’m sure if things were reversed, he wouldn’t make me spend the night in a tree.

I have no idea why she thinks this. He totally would, and he would guilt and threaten her about it, and it would be okay because it was only because he was so worried about her getting hurt.

It dawns on me that I haven’t been very nice to Peeta today. Nagging him about how loud he was, screaming at him over disappearing. 

Oh my god book why are you doing this.

She wasn't nagging him. He was loud and scaring away the game they both needed to live. She kept trying to fix the problem by getting him to take his shoes off, and repeatedly lied to say he wasn't that noisy or that they were both too noisy, then that she was sure he was only loud because of his injured leg.

She yelled at him because he did something incredibly stupid after she told him to keep in contact, which she did as a compromise when he refused to follow her original directions, and she did it because she was worried he'd died.

Note word choice too, nagging, screaming. Shrew, in sum. Bad girlfriend! Be more of a doormat.

I reach up and give him a kiss. “Sure. Let’s go back to the cave.”
He looks pleased and relieved. “Well, that was easy.”

It sure is nice when a combination of irrational guilt and rational fear make your girlfriend unable to disagree with you.

They're exhausted by the time they get back, since it's a long walk and they've had to do it twice today. And because it's the cave, they have to sleep in shifts now, keeping watch.

I pull the sleeping bag up to his chin and kiss his forehead, not for the audience, but for me. Because I’m so grateful that he’s still here, not dead by the stream as I’d thought. So glad that I don’t have to face Cato alone.

This is another rare flash of decent. If this and not Peeta's creepy fixation with her for her entire life was the foundation of the romance, it'd be far better.

Brutal, bloody Cato who can snap a neck with a twist of his arm, He hasn’t said it, but I don’t think Peeta felt good about killing her, even if it was essential.

Yeah but no.

The book seems suddenly very invested in making sure neither of the main characters kill anyone for real. But Peeta joined up with the trained kids.

They’re on her before she can escape. I know it’s a girl now, I can tell by the pleading, the agonized scream that follows. Then there’s laughter and congratulations from several voices. Someone cries out, “Twelve down and eleven to go!” which gets a round of appreciative hoots.

Peeta was there for that. And Peeta's the one who, when they get into an argument about it, says fine, he'll go back and make sure she's really dead. And then he kills her.

I can’t pretend I’ll miss her, but I have to admire her.

She never hurt you in any way at all.

The same can be said for many of the kids, but Katniss avoided them and it's only by implication that we notice they seem to not kill each other. But we did see her, and we know that at each point she avoided engaging. She didn't threaten Katniss. She didn't set any sort of trap for Katniss. She didn't suggest she wanted Katniss hurt or dead. The only thing she did that did anything to Katniss was stealing a tiny bit of cheese a minute or two before dying.

Katniss, for her part, insisted the girl didn't look trustworthy, talked about her like she was just a clever animal, and was planning on shooting her in the back just because she could.

When they leave the cave, they find the stream is dry. Seriously, book?

Look, if they can control water like that, it should have come up by now. I really get the impression either the author's bored or the idea they can mess with things strikes her as really clever but she only thought of it halfway in and doesn't want to go edit, so she's stuffing as much as she can in now. What's particularly irritating is if this had been done consistently, it'd have been interesting.

Katniss walked in a straight line for three days looking for water. That was boring as fuck and all I did was read it for a couple minutes. They should have made a pool of water pop up early on so she'd get back to the business of murdering. After she finally finds the water, she then keeps running into new ones each time she needs one, and doesn't seem to pay attention to their locations. Having the water actually appearing and disappearing would have been cool, and Katniss could have referenced the futility of keeping track of water, as well as making it clear that there was no sense in trying to plan ahead, the gamemakers tend to give resources only as needed. And it would be incredibly disorienting, as well as likely resulting in paranoia - if you see berries when you're hungry, maybe someone put them there so you wouldn't starve, but what if you're not starving, if you don't need it maybe it's a trap? And things like the wasp nest, were they even there originally or planted to give her a chance? This kind of perpetual game balancing would make it a lot clearer that the main purpose of this is to amuse onlookers, not a straight test of survival.

And this kind of thinking would go a long way toward justifying Katniss' behavior. If you're taught that they can do anything, of course you're not even going to think about opposing them until you're pushed to the point you don't care about anything.

Anyway, it's obvious that they want the kids to meet up for the finale, and they're removing the water so they'll go to the lake.

“Maybe the ponds still have some,” I say hopefully.
“We can check,” he says, but he’s just humoring me.

So the only time he does what she wants it's humoring her in something completely futile.

This is a return to the earlier situation where the book kept insisting every outcome was the worst thing ever, even if it obviously wasn't. They're just had a couple good meals in a row. They outnumber him two to one. She has a ranged weapon. Neither of them is injured while Katniss thinks Cato was in the fight against Thresh. Right now, their greatest danger is Cato managing to ambush them, dying trying to find more food, or the gamemakers getting bored and sending fireballs again. Forcing Cato out to a location they know about is great for them.

Incidentally, this isn't actually a neutral choice. The longer they wait, the longer Cato has a chance to get there first and set a trap, and the more of a risk they run with running out of water. I'm pretty sure they're also not able to get any more food now, so they'll be going into it hungry as well.

They’re driving us to the lake,” I say. Where there’s no cover. Where they’re guaranteed a bloody fight to the death with nothing to block their view.

Because ranged weapons don't work at all in situations where the other person has to cross ground where there's no cover.

It’s funny. I feel almost as if it’s the first day of the Games again. That I’m in the same position. Twenty-one tributes are dead, but I still have yet to kill Cato. And really, wasn’t he always the one to kill? Now it seems the other tributes were just minor obstacles, distractions, keeping us from the real battle of the Games. Cato and me.

I keep staring at this paragraph and no, I just can't do it. I don't know where to begin.

There is not something wrong with you if you like this book. But there may be something wrong with you if you write it.

I don’t care now that Peeta’s footfalls send rodents scurrying, make birds take wing. We have to fight Cato and I’d just as soon do it here as on the plain.  I frown at the shrinking sun. “We don’t want to fight him after dark. There’s only the one pair of glasses.”

Yeah because as long as Peeta can see he'll totally be so useful in the fight, with his mighty knife.

Anyway, because symbolism or shit, Katniss sings to the mockingjays and they all start singing Rue's song, and then suddenly they start giving warning cries instead and it's Cato.

Really, it'd be a perfectly good scene if the writing wasn't so awful and inconsistent, but the writing is awful and inconsistent and fuck you for fridging Rue, book.

Cato smashes through the trees and bears down on us. He has no spear. In fact, his hands are empty, yet he runs straight for us. 

So. While I doubt the book thought much about this, because I really don't think the book actually thinks about why characters are doing things unless their name is Katniss, this actually makes sense to me. As I said, the situation was completely in Katniss' favor. While she was emoing for no reason, Cato was likely realizing that the gamemakers had fucked him over in favor of the popular lover pair. That he wouldn't want to show up makes perfect sense, and only would if forced.

My first arrow hits his chest and inexplicably falls aside.
“He’s got some kind of body armor!” I shout to Peeta.

Hey, remember all that talk about how Katniss was an awesome and always shot prey in the eye? Because god knows the book doesn't.

(Also, why the fuck are you telling Peeta this? He's not the one shooting. It changes nothing.)

he rockets right between us with no attempt to check his speed. I can tell from his panting, the sweat pouring off his purplish face, that he’s been running hard a long time. Not toward us. From something. But what?

Okay, so I've been talking about human behavior a bit. This is the opposite. This is one of those cues people pick up on. There is exactly one of information that matters, and Katniss isn't even going to notice anything else until that's addressed: a person is running very fast away from something.

In a well-acted movie, there would be a beat when they stared in surprise at him running past them. There would be a second beat as they looked at each other. Then they'd start running. (I must admit a certain curiosity if the movie will do this, or if it'll be as bad as the book.)

See, the idiots who stood around contemplating what the other person was running from got eaten/trampled/roasted. They do not breed. Their genes are the genes of failure. If someone is running from something you can't see, it means that waiting before you start running is waiting way, way too long.

Katniss and Peeta proceed to show yet another reason they should never reproduce by instead being idiots who stand around trying to get a look at what the thing Cato's running from is. In fairness, it occurs to me that they're probably very, very inbred by now.

Anyway, a "creature" "leaps" out of the forest (what's wrong with walking?) and then there's a dozen of them, and finally it occurs to Katniss that hey, running is actually a good idea.

And on that honestly too vague to be really dramatic note, we end the chapter.

Let's consider Katniss so far.

Katniss has, by my count, done exactly two things of her own volition. She blew up the food, which was okay, and she put flowers on Rue, which as defiant acts go was pretty pathetic. Everything else has been reactive.

Let's see how much I recall:

Katniss decides to sacrifice herself in Prim's place. She wasn't explicitly prompted to do so, at least, but neither did she ever really think about this and intend to. Peeta starts a fight with Haymitch about Haymitch not doing his job, Katniss backs him up. Katniss follows the directions of Haymitch to do whatever people tell her. Katniss follows the directions of CINNA THE MOST WONDERFULEST PERSON IN THE WORLD. Katniss follows the directions of Haymitch about training. Katniss is upset by how gamemakers are treating her and shoots the apple. Katniss follows the directions of Haymitch and CINNA THE MOST WONDERFULEST PERSON IN THE WORLD about the interview. Katniss listens to Peeta having moral thoughts. Katniss wants to grab some supplies that were put out to tempt her into doing that and Peeta stops her. Katniss follows Haymitch’s directions to seek water. Katniss runs from flame. Katniss runs from other kids. Katniss follows Rue's clue about the wasp nest. Katniss catches some food to eat. Katniss allies with Rue when Rue shows up.

All that before her first actual decision, to blow up the food.

After that, Katniss waits for Rue, then looks for Rue, then kills someone for killing Rue. She decides to do the flower thing. Then is depressed, then finds out she and Peeta should work together, then looks for Peeta, then helps Peeta, then is given something to knock him out, then goes to get the medicine for Peeta, then huddles in a cave, then goes out to find food because they're starving, then is forced to go out and fight Cato by the gamemakers.

Katniss doesn't make decisions, she just gets shoved around. And worse, she doesn't even seem to notice or chafe under this. We've reached the very end of the childmurder games, and Katniss' only act without getting handheld the whole way was blowing up the food.

Now, I was wondering if maybe this is part of the author's general reluctance to have Katniss do anything wrong. It's obvious that she doesn't want Katniss to kill people, and she's gone to great effort to say most don't count as "actual" kills, and that the one she thinks counts was done in defense of someone and without any premeditation. But that doesn't explain why Katniss can't do any of the good acts on her own either. Katniss doesn't think "I should ally with Rue" and then wonder how to find the girl. Katniss cooks some food, Rue happens to show up, and then she decides to ally. In fact, that would certainly help with my perception she's a bad person. If when given the chance to plan and act of her own volition, she did good things, while her bad actions were when pushed in that direction, it would suggest that her situation is the one to blame, which I certainly thought was what the book would involve but it really hasn't.

It's possible to have a decent story that's largely reaction-based, but the only real interest in a reaction-based story is either how far they'll end up going or if they'll rise above it, and in this one there's always a single obvious action she's pushed toward that's always the right one, and she's not even reacting under heavy stress most of the time. You can't sell someone as heroic when they're being led around by the nose, and there's no real interest in a non-heroic person blundering around not doing anything wrong either.

The closest decent thing Katniss has done so far is caring for Peeta for pretty much no gain - once she gets him healed he's even more trouble. And this fails because she's doing it because circumstances have conspired to Draco and Hermione levels of forcing them together, like everyone in the entire country is suddenly a shipper. It pretty much reads as several chapters of OOC.

Anyway, on to the next chapter. As you may have forgotten during that rant, something's chasing them.

I’ve never seen these mutts, but they’re no natural-born animals. They resemble huge wolves, but what wolf lands and then balances easily on its hind legs?

A stupid wolf?

"Hey everyone, look at meee! I'm significantly slower and more unstable for the awesome advantage of exposing more of me to attack! I sure hope no one shoots me in my completely exposed belly or something!"

Anyway, Katniss is duly freaked out by the fact the gamemakers have crippled some wolves. This is admittedly in character, since she just got done being horrified at her chances of using a bow against someone who'd have to cross an open area with no cover to attack her. The idea people's brains now function on opposite logic gets steadily more evidence.

So Katniss finally runs and gets to the big cornucopia thing, then remembers that Peeta is still a millstone around her neck. He's way behind because his leg's fucked up. But she can't really do anything so she starts climbing first.

Cato lies on his side at the very top of the horn, twenty feet above the ground, gasping to catch his breath as he gags over the edge. Now’s my chance to finish him off.

Yes, Katniss sees someone displaying signs of distress and reacts like a wolf seeing a winded rabbit.

How different can it be indeed, Katniss. Not at all when you're a sociopath!

But Peeta is about to get eaten by wolves, so she shoots one and then helps him up.

[Cato] coughs out something unintelligible. The snuffling, growling sound coming from the mutts isn’t helping.
“What?” I shout at him.
“He said, ‘Can they climb it?’”answers Peeta

I actually like this bit, though I'm sure it's accidental and just there to tell Katniss to pay attention to this. But confronted with an external threat, Cato, at least, defaults to group behavior. They're supposedly his enemies, and Katniss has just tried to shoot him before being interrupted, but the first thing he does is ask them if the monsters below can get up.

So no, Katniss, I don't think Cato is "not entirely sane". I think you are.

The green eyes glowering at me are unlike any dog or wolf, any canine I’ve ever seen. They are unmistakably human. And that revelation has barely registered when I notice the collar with the number 1 inlaid with jewels and the whole horrible thing hits me. The blonde hair, the green eyes, the number . . . it’s Glimmer.

Okay, kind of creepy.

Although some fridge logic for you - it's hard to really be shocked by the OMG THE THINGS I MUST FIGHT ARE LIKE PEOPLE after, you know, fighting actual people. Is this really more horrible then watching her scream and convulse from venom?

A shriek escapes my lips and I’m having trouble holding the arrow in place. 

I guess so.

Anyway, Katniss shoots it immediately. So her first human kill is Glimmer, then she kills wolf-Glimmer. Huh.

See, a good author might have made Katniss freak out because she doesn't want to kill people again or something. (If Katniss had repeatedly tried to avoid killing as much as possible, and felt guilt over the people she killed and guilt over the people who died when she couldn't do anything, this would work great. But Katniss actually spent the whole time planning to shoot everyone.) This seems like it's just lame "man was not meant to" revulsion.

And worst of all, the smallest mutt, with dark glossy fur, huge brown eyes and a collar that reads 11 in woven straw. Teeth bared in hatred. Rue . . .

Reading this just makes me think the whole thing is a (pretty obviously seen through) attempt to fuck with them, or possibly Katniss' whole flipout wasn't even intended, it's just supposed to look cool to the viewers. Rue, and in fact a lot of the kids, came down quite solidly on the flee response over fight. And Rue in particular died knowing Katniss had come for her, avenged her death, and cared about her, and told Katniss to win.

In fact, the humawolves show no sign of any connection to the kids but appearance. They're chattering to each other in some barky language, they're not only working together but there's a clear chain of command, etc. They're obviously intelligent animals whose intelligence has nothing to do with anything the kids originally knew about.

Peeta's pretty oblivious but realizes Katniss is freaking out.

“It’s them. It’s all of them. The others. Rue and Foxface and . . . all of the other tributes,” I choke out.
I hear Peeta’s gasp of recognition. “What did they do to them? You don’t think . . . those could be their real eyes?”

Does it matter?

I'm starting to think the body-retrieval thing has nothing to do with their culture but that the author just can't imagine anyone thinking differently than her.

Okay, so you know D&D and necromancy and stuff, right? Every now and then there's a debate about why necromancy is actually evil, since dead bodies occur naturally and generally can't mind whatever you do to them, and it does potentially give you a huge workforce that could improve the quality of life for everyone.

So people will start debating whether or not necromancy affects the soul and if animating something via negative energy is inherently harmful and if the created undead behave like constructs (obeying orders exactly) or if their default setting is KILL ALL HUMANS and they need to be under constant orders not to if you want them to behave, and do different kinds of undead work differently, and it's all great, and then someone comes in and says:


And I nod and think, Okay, imagining, and then...


And I stare and realize I can't even imagine how to communicate with this person, I can understand how someone could hold the belief that doing this is disrespectful to the dead, but not how they would think that this was somehow an inherent moral law that everyone instinctively knew was true. The argument is based on the idea that either people aren't able to picture what they're discussing, or that they're incapable of empathy and only care when it's their own relatives, rather than that not everyone finds that an issue.

The author just assumes the bodies would be collected because. The author just assumes people would oppose cannibalism and similar desecration because. The author just assumes people would freak out at the idea of eye transplants because. I mean, yeah, it's a bit creepy, but it's really not that big of a deal under the circumstances. They're not even doing stuff like making human sounds of pain when they're hurt.

Really, if doing this is considered horrible, then why did they just do it, won't they get backlash? If it's not a big deal, then why is collecting bodies or preventing cannibalism a big deal? The only way it makes sense is if you assume that the capital doesn't care but the districts do, but in that case they should gleefully leave the bodies to rot or whatever to further rub in that they don't give a fuck about the districts, not respect their wishes and collect the bodies, except when they don't.

(Also how hard is it to just grow human eyes if you're already growing freakish crippled humawolves?)

What about their brains? Have they been given any of the real tributes memo­ries? Have they been programmed to hate our faces particu­larly because we have survived and they were so callously murdered? And the ones we actually killed . . . do they believe they’re avenging their own deaths?

I guess I can see Katniss panicking irrationally about this, but given the book has never made a big point of distinguishing between insider her head and outside, it falls flat. Objectively, there's no reason to try to fuse memories in when you can just set all the wolves to "hate" and let them go. You're going through a ton more effort and the only way it'd change anything is if you fuck up and the memories make them less likely to fight.

And as I said, the wolves are displaying complex but completely nonhuman behavior. They have a different language and everything. How do you look at that and assume they've got human memories?

Anyway Katniss has been standing around thinking stupid shit like this instead of climbing, so they're still pretty low down and the humawolves start jumping. Millstone gets hit yet again and she nearly gets pulled off too before he stabs it and it lets go. (Millstone's leg is yet again torn open.) They start climbing toward where Cato is, at the top. Another one jumps and she shoots it, and then Cato grabs Millstone.

I aim one of my last two arrows at Cato’s head, knowing it’ll have no effect on his trunk or limbs, which I can now see are clothed in a skintight, flesh-colored mesh. 

Wow, he sure got fucked over. Katniss of the squirrel-eye shots, and they only give him body armor. No wonder he didn't want to show up, it's obvious who the gamemakers want to win.

Was that what was in his pack at the feast? Body armor to defend against my arrows? Well, they neglected to send a face guard.

Yeah, they did. If you were smarter, maybe that'd mean something to you. But no, be smug. Good childmurderer, best contestant.

Anyway, Millstone is being strangled and she can't shoot Cato because he'll take Millstone down with him.

Peeta’s lips are turning blue. If I don’t do something quickly, he’ll die of asphyxiation

This is a common misconception about strangling. When someone is strangling you in a headlock, they're not cutting off your air, they're cutting off your blood to your brain. Three or four seconds is all it takes if you have any idea what you're doing, and Cato is a trained kid, remember.

Peeta raises his fingers, drip­ping with blood from his leg, up to Cato’s arm. Instead of trying to wrestle his way free, his forefinger veers off and makes a deliberate X on the back of Cato’s hand.

Finally, something useful from him. He sure does think well while being asphyxiated. Shame he can only be competent at the cost of Katniss being too stupid to think for herself.

She shoots, Cato falls and Peeta doesn't.

But he doesn't just die. The body armor protects him too well.

I don’t watch, but I can hear the snarls, the growls, the howls of pain from both human and beast as Cato takes on the mutt pack.

She still has arrows, I'm pretty sure. She could end things for Cato now. But she's too busy "not watching" apparently.

Eventually he goes down.

Night falls and the anthem plays and there’s no picture of Cato in the sky, only the faint moans coming through the metal beneath us.

Katniss realizes Peeta's bleeding pretty badly. She tries tying a tourniquet around his leg.

 I don’t have a stick, so I take my remaining arrow and insert it in the knot, twisting it as tightly as I dare. 

So yes, she could have shot Cato in the head, which would also have meant Peeta got medical attention sooner. He may still be in range right now if she bothered to look.

The next hours are the worst in my life, which if you think about it, is saying something. The cold would be torture enough, but the real nightmare is listening to Cato, moaning, begging, and finally just whimpering as the mutts work away at him. After a very short time, I don’t care who he is or what he’s done, all I want is for his suffering to end.

So that's two male opponents who get honorary person status despite killing people, compared to zero girls. (Also, note "after a very short time", so apparently she's okay with him suffering for daring to participate in the same childmurder games as her, just not quite this much.)

Next morning, it finally occurs to Peeta that hey, they could shoot Cato.

Just for the record, she still has her goggles, so she could see fine during the night. (Have the goggles mattered at all? I can't remember her actually using them to accomplish anything, just trying them out a few times.)

If he’s near the mouth, I may be able to take him out. It would be an act of mercy at this point.

It would have been an act of mercy at any point.

It takes a few moments to find Cato in the dim light, in the blood. Then the raw hunk of meat that used to be my enemy makes a sound, and I know where his mouth is. And I think the word he’s trying to say is please.
Pity, not vengeance, sends my arrow flying into his skull.

Indeed. Vengeance is what let you leave him to fight it out with the wolves. Vengeance is what let you sit there listening to him begging the wolves to kill him without it ever occurring to you to try to kill him yourself.

And god knows something let you spend half your whining on how cold it was up there while you were listening to another child being tortured.

But if she didn't let it go this far, I guess it wouldn't be as obvious that the actual killing is for solely pity reasons and therefore morally okay, and clearly that's what's really important, not what happens to him.

Anyway, something's wrong. The cannon goes off, but there's no victory trumpets and no one's collecting the body. They figure it's because they're too close to the body, so they climb down. The body is retrieved, but nothing else happens.

She grabs an arrow off the ground to retie the tourniquet when sky-voice comes back.

“Greetings to the final contestants of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games. The earlier revision has been revoked. Closer examination of the rule book has disclosed that only one winner may be allowed,”

Wow do I ever not give a fuck.

No really book, you try too hard to jerk people around and the response is I stop caring.

This is just so, so dumb.

Okay, first, you don't revoke a rule after they've won. That's stupid. It's also lame-ass bait and switch, so it's making them look bad to the audience. This is not a clever twist. Next, the reason they did the rule was because the romance was popular, yes? So doing this is a fuck-you to the viewers. Finally - who the fuck is in charge of these things? No seriously, WHO THE FUCK?

This is not just happening by magic! Someone made the rules, someone's running the games, someone's making the decisions. For a while it's seemed like "someone" was the capital population at large, but apparently not. But the actual sky-voice and related people running the games are implying there's still another someone they're answerable to, so it's not them either. (And it can't be that they totally are, because again, the viewers. They'd know who was running things, so if the gamemakers are in charge this excuse wouldn't fly with them.)

That the book doesn't care is perhaps the least of its issues, but I'd argue it's a symptom of the general morality issue throughout.

So, quickie rewrite version: The original announcement is that they're "considering" allowing two people to win, perhaps if they do a good enough job/win fast enough/viewer vote/whatever. Katniss still goes for it because when you're in a horrible circumstance you'll clutch at straws (and this again makes her look a bit better than if she thinks it's a sure thing, because she's taking more of a risk), and convinces herself that it's because of the romance and they must be popular and everything's fine, and then they're told sorry, didn't do a good enough job.

Then he’s moving toward me, as if in slow motion, his hand is pulling the knife from his belt —
Before I am even aware of my actions, my bow is loaded with the arrow pointed straight at his heart. Peeta raises his eyebrows and I see the knife has already left his hand on its way to the lake where it splashes in the water. I drop my weapons and take a step back, my face burning in what can only be shame.

So I'd like to defend Katniss for a minute. That wasn't necessarily her figuring she wanted him dead, just thinking he'd pulled a knife on her and she didn't want to die. It's very different than if her reaction to the announcement was to aim at him.

Of course, since this is Katniss I think we know that she'd shoot him without any real remorse, because without any real remorse sums up the entire games for her.

Then they get into a sickening argument about who should kill who. You know what could have been sweet instead of cloying? Realizing this is, as far as they know, their last moments together. That's yet another thing that was never brought up, no one tried to keep things going to prolong the final moment. Yes, only one can leave alive, but it's your choice to start a bloodbath immediately or try to live as long as possible in the arena.

Peeta yanks the bandage off and starts bleeding out. I will say this about him, he at least gets shit done. On the other hand, again, there's no discernible rush. If the humawolves were sitting a few feet off or something, that's one thing, but they have time to chat here.

“You’re not leaving me here alone,” I say. Because if he dies, I’ll never go home, not really. I’ll spend the rest of my life in this arena trying to think my way out.

But if he lives, it's totally fine. Oh, she'll mourn a respectful bit for Victim-chan, but hey, murdering other kids? Not something that really sticks with you. You can leave that behind fine. All that really matters is the one person she's in love with.

In fact, that's pretty much all relationships in this book, isn't it? I was complaining about the way the community is nonexistent, and that's why. No one is Katniss' friend, they're all in love with her. Gale and Peeta are both competing with her, and Peeta's father is either being nice because he's interested or being nice because she's the daughter of someone he's still interested in.

And this, I think, gives us somewhat of a clue why women are portrayed so badly in this. The author's reasons for people to do nice things are based around who you want to fuck are in love with, and as we said, there are no gay people around. So the positive relationships a woman has are with men. It's interesting in this light that while Katniss' helpful designer is male, Peeta's helpful designer female, and he repeatedly says Haymitch likes her better, so there's a partial mirror in how he's handled.

Katniss realizes that the games need a victor, so if they're both dead...

That's a bit dumb, because I'm sure there's been years where kids were so badly injured in the process the winner ended up dying right after, but I'll accept it's not the desired outcome.

So it's double suicide time with those berries. Katniss proceeds to fail at acting.

Here's how you'd think the scene would go:

Katniss says that if they can't both live together she'd rather they're dead together, gets out the berries and says "Remember these? We'll be dead in seconds.", they hug and cry, and pop them in their mouth.

Here's how it actually goes.

I loosen the top of the pouch and pour a few spoonfuls of berries into his palm. Then I fill my own. “On the count of three?”
Peeta leans down and kisses me once, very gently. “The count of three,” he says.
We stand, our backs pressed together, our empty hands locked tight.
“Hold them out. I want everyone to see,” he says.
I spread out my fingers, and the dark berries glisten in the sun. I give Peeta’s hand one last squeeze as a signal, as a good-bye, and we begin counting. “One.” Maybe I’m wrong. “Two.” Maybe they don’t care if we both die. “Three!”

It's like she's doing her best to make it a challenge to them, which seems completely counterproductive.

But still, it works. Right as they take the berries, the announcer comes back to say that fine, they get to live.

It's a bit interesting that we end there, because most of these have ended on cliffhangers, but I guess it's because it's wrapping up the childmurder games.



This is an awful book. It doesn't have any trouble showing bad things happening to people, but it doesn't actually give a fuck about them. Injures are not painful for the person to have, they are painful for the main character to see. There is no sense of responsibility or humanity in this. And Peeta's romance with Katniss is fucked up and exploitative.

Katniss' final official kill count is two, one in defense of Rue and one carefully positioned to make her look like it wasn't actually a "real" kill. That she murdered two other people is unimportant, as is that she repeatedly said she was willing to murder everyone else in her way. That Peeta, presumably as part of some plan to help Katniss, took part in the torture of that girl the first night (and is the one who actually killed her), and god knows what other people as well, is similarly unimportant. You know, I will accept characters who are willing to sacrifice everyone to save one person, but I really prefer some acknowledgment that it's what they're doing.

We have gone through an entire twenty-four person deathmatch and the book has at every single turn ignored what's actually happening.

And we're still not done.

Still. Not. Done.
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April 2011

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