Welcome to the Hunger Games read-along! Beginning July 1st, 2010, we will be reading and chatting about one chapter a day of both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins in anticipation of the release of Mockingjay on August 24th.

In the unlikely event that this is your first read of these amazing books, welcome! And more importantly, beware of spoilers! There will be spoilers.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hunger Games Chapter 26

Just in time, K&P spit out those Poison Berries. In a chilling reminder of how viewers and some competitors thrive on the sport of the games, the roaring Capitol crowd is broadcast over the loudspeakers. The hovercraft appears and picks K&P up using those bizarre freeze ladders. Peeta falls unconscious from blood loss as soon as he's inside.

Katniss watches the doctors work on Peeta, seeing them first as one more threat to his life and then as mirrors of the bystanders who made her so uneasy during operations at home. Katniss sees her own reflection for this first time since the games and realizes she looks wild, hollow, feral. She goes berserk when the doctors take Peeta away, and so she is jabbed from behind with a sedative.

She awakes in your standard convalescence ward - tubes, beeps, etc. She has been scrubbed clean and her hearing has been restored, though her scars are still present. She struggles against her restraints until the red-headed Avox enters and calms her, nodding in response to Katniss's one question: "Did Peeta make it?"

Katniss is sour that her first meal is a clear broth and not something more extravagent (!), but it turns out she's been out for a while and her stomach has shrunk. She finally lets herself think about going home to Prim, her mother, and Gale -- she just has to survive sponsor banquets and interviews first (I wish we got to see more of the sponsor banquet -- I would have liked to meet the rich people who bought into the love story).

For a while, Katniss slips in and out of consciousness - we infer that Haymitch is there watching over her. Finally, she awakens to find all signs of imperfection gone and the restraints removed. She searches for Peeta but instead finds Effie, Haymitch, and Cinna -- she jumps into Haymitch's arms first. She learns that her reunion with Peeta will be live at the ceremony, and says that she guesses she'd want to see that herself (this line gives me shivers -- even Katniss can't resist the tug of well-planned "reality" television).

Katniss and Cinna go off to reconvene with Venia, Flavius, and Octavia, who babble congratulations and marvel at her polished skin. They recount their favorite moments as Cinna fits his latest creation on her; the breasts in the dress have been augmented, but Cinna tells her it was either that or surgery (Yaymitch to the rescue). It's a dress with sheer, glowing fabric, making her previous outfits seem garish and contrived. She looks like candlelight.

She also looks girlish and innocent, and she can't figure out Cinna's reasons for this although she knows he must have them. He says he thought Peeta would like this better, and we learn later that it's to sell the innocent lovers angle, but with all the other Capitol shenanigans going on I can't help projecting at least a little sexual fetishism at work here.

Katniss moves to the newly completed area under the arena, where Haymitch catches her off guard and scares the bejeezus out of her. She'll be jumpy for a while, perhaps the rest of her life, it seems.

Haymitch gives her a hug and a quick warning. Apparently the Capitol is now "the joke of Panem," and that's bad news. They've been outsmarted, and now Katniss will have to keep selling the love angle or it will draw attention to the fact that the Capitol's been played. Peeta doesn't need coaching -- "he's already there." (Peeta = love)

Realizing she felt safer in the games where the danger was more clearly defined, Katniss determines that she will sort out her complicated feelings back home, away from the cameras. For now, the most dangerous part of the Hunger Games is about to begin.

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