For most of us twenty-somethings, our teenage years were defined by book series like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games.” Luckily for us, the long-awaited “Midnight Sun” will be released in August, and “The Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” was just released.
Midnight Sun is the re-telling of the first Twilight novel from Edward Cullen’s perspective instead of Bella Swan’s. Author Stephanie Meyer originally wanted to release it in 2008 before the manuscript was leaked online, but we’re finally getting to read one of our favorite stories from another perspective, reminding us why we fell in love with the story as teenagers.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the origin story of Coriolanus Snow, who we know as the tyrannical President Snow in the original series. I personally love origin stories of villains because I love getting inside their heads and learning what motivates them. We will learn what transformed the kind, 18-year-old Coriolanus into the oppressive dictator of Panem that we know and loathe in the original series.
These releases remind us why we love these original series, like why we loved Edward Cullen as teenagers and why we loved Katniss Everdeen for defying the “strong female” character stereotype.
Twilight: Why We Loved Edward Cullen As Teenagers
I’ll admit, it’s hard to watch the Twilight movies as an adult and not cringe a little, but the books will always have a special place in my heart. I still think it’s important to acknowledge why so many of us loved him as a teenager: his old-fashioned values of love and marriage.
Even as someone who was #TeamJacob all the way, I couldn’t resist Edward Cullen’s charm. He is the epitome of a teenage girl’s fantasy. He is handsome and has just the right amount of “bad boy” in him that we all craved. As teenagers, many of us wanted romantic relationships while the boys surrounding us were just interested in sex. It doesn’t change that much as an adult, but Edward’s approach of an old-fashioned relationship that was rooted in love instead of sex was refreshing for our teenaged brains, and it’s something we should also embrace as adults.
So many teen love stories are full of casual sex and emotional exploitation. Instead of encouraging teenagers to give in to every physical whim, Twilight has two main characters who actually wait to have sex until marriage. Sure, one of them is a vampire, but the appeal of a man with values and unwavering devotion is pretty intoxicating. Now that Midnight Sun is going to be released, we’ll finally get to see what was going on inside Edward’s head.
The Hunger Games: Katniss Defies Character Stereotypes and Tyranny
We all know the stereotype of the “strong female” character: She defies feminine gender stereotypes, holds back her emotions, and doesn’t care about anyone but herself. She's pretty unlikeable in general. But Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist in the original Hunger Games trilogy, completely defies the strong female character stereotype.
Katniss is tough; she tries to come across that she’s not emotional and is only focused on winning the Hunger Games, but her motivations defy the strong female stereotype. She didn’t volunteer for the Hunger Games because she wanted to fight; she did it to protect Prim, her younger sister who is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. Their mother has been emotionally checked out since the passing of their father, so Katniss is all Prim has. She’s motivated to survive and win the games to protect her sister, showing that Katniss has a strong maternal instinct.
Her maternal instinct comes in again when she’s motivated to protect Rue, a young girl in the Hunger Games who reminds her of Prim. When Rue is killed, Katniss doesn’t swallow back her tears and continue on. Rather, she buries Rue and surrounds her body with flowers while she cries over her fallen friend. Her tears aren’t a sign of weakness. They’re a sign of strength and love.
Her love for Rue helps her become a fan-favorite among the people of Panem and ultimately helps her win the Hunger Games. In the later novels of the series, Katniss isn’t afraid to express her emotions. She’s gone through hell and back, and she won’t stop fighting until she defeats the oppressive government that threw her into the Hunger Games. In the end, her emotions and motivations are what truly make her strong.
Katniss also isn’t perfect. She has moments where she’s selfish, cruel, and stubborn, but she also has moments where her kindness comes through. She has more layers to her character than most. This makes Katniss more relatable, one of the many reasons why she’s so easy to root for and why she’s the favorite of millions of young women.
The Hunger Games is also a brilliant work of social commentary discussing the nature of freedom and tyranny. Panem is an authoritarian and dystopian nation that actively oppresses it’s own people and forces them to watch children fight to the death to maintain the status quo. Some say that it’s the perfect critique of capitalism, but it’s clearly a story of defeating communism.
The release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and the upcoming release of Midnight Sun reminds us why we love the Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight series. There's a reason we're still looking forward to returning to these worlds nearly a decade later. So why not pick up one of these for a bit of nostalgia?