T-4 Days Till the Hunger Games!

I was never much into Harry Potter. I read the first book when it came out and I liked it, but in the same way that I like Peter Pan or The Jungle Book. While I can appreciate J.K. Rowlings immense talent, I couldn’t understand how adults were so emotionally invested in her series, how they lined up outside bookstores through the night in striped scarves waiting for the next release. I certainly read my fair share of light, frothy books, but they are usually light, frothy books written for my age group. Harry Potter is a children’s book and, well, I’m an adult.

Harbouring a similar skepticism for the Twilight series I decided to skip it entirely. Except, surrounded by a cultural fervor for vampires and a generation of newborns named Bella, I felt really left out. I didn’t know whose team I was on! I couldn’t throw my weight behind Edward or Jacob as a life partner. I couldn’t really speak to the vampire experience versus the human one. I felt so isolated! Like I missed out on an entire social movement. Unable to identify a single tween’s costume at Halloween, worst of all, I felt out of touch.   

Refusing to allow another zeitgeist shift to pass me by, I forced myself to read the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy.  When Amazon suggested that I save money by ordering the complete set together, I scoffed at its upsell.

Nice try Amazon, but one young adult fantasy novel is more than enough. 

After this quick, obligatory foray into young pop culture, I would be sinking my teeth back into grownup books.     

I read all three books in two days. I read through meals, through the night and in the shower, with one arm extended outside the curtain.  An  eerie mix of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Stephen King’s The Running Man, I didn’t just love the Hunger Games: I was obsessed with them. All I wanted to do was talk about them, discuss the pros and cons of Peeta versus Gale as a life partner, debate the District experience versus the Capitol one. But now that I know what team I’m on (Team Peeta), there doesn’t seem to be anyone to talk to about it.

“Would you protect me in the arena if we were both chosen as Tributes?” I ask my husband.

“What are you talking about?”

“Like, would you team up with me or would you play to win?”

“Well, I always play to win,” he says.

“This isn’t like jeopardy you know.  People die!”

“Who dies?”

“I could die!”

“In an arena?”

Oh Peeta!

Where were all the sign weilding, tee-shirted tweens declaring their fictional boy loyalty? Where were all the babies named Katniss?

I remembered I had a soccer team of nieces and nephews. I excitedly dialed my brother to see if his nine-year-old son, a voracious reader, was into the Hunger Games yet so the two of us could talk about it. 

“The title sounds a little racy, doesn’t it?” my brother asked, “I didn’t know what it was at first. I wondered for a second if they were previewing a porno before The Lorax.’”     

I’ll have to mail my nephew my copies, but it doesn’t really help because I want to talk about how awesome they are now. Which is why I am counting down the days until the movie. I might have also taped the commercial so I can watch it again and again. I don’t think I have ever been to the opening night of a show but I have already recruited my husband to line up for me at the crack of dawn. It’s the least he can do after not vowing to protect me as a fellow Tribute. I love the hype and all the buzzing anticipation. I want to be around people who loved the books as much as I did. I don’t know if people are dressing up like ‘the girl on fire’ or the mockingjay or anything for this event, but if they are, I want to be a part of it. I want to dress up in flames, with a sheaf of arrows straped on my back and cheer when the projector rolls. I want to clap for Katniss.

I think I am into the Hunger Games because I like the depiction of such a strong girl. Not just strong in soul and spirit like a Jane Eyre, an Emma or an Anne of Green Gables, but a girl with physical prowess who can take care of herself. Not a woman yet like Lara Croft, but a girl. A young girl who can kick some ass, whose appearance is secondary to her ability to wield a bow. You don’t get that in a lot of heroines.

I can’t help but think back to myself as a little girl and I wonder what happened to my Katnissness? There was a time when I was fearless, when I would look adversity in the eye and think it was no match for me. I don’t feel that way anymore. I used to feel alight with ambition and hope but those tingles have subsided. I don’t feel like a victor anymore.

I understand now why adults can become invested in books about wizards and vampires: it feels so good to connect to our younger selves, to a time when we may have felt braver and like anything is possible.   

Anyone else out there over the age of fifteen who loves the Hunger Games?  What Team are you on?