So, I thought the first book I’d post about this year would be The Story of Beautiful Girl, but I’m not quite done with that one. Today was a double-book-club-meeting day, so I had to pause in my reading of it to finish up two books that were both re-reads for me. One of them, for the teen book club I co-lead at our neighborhood library, I decided to skim and read about online, since I’d just re-read it this spring with Skye. (A Wrinkle in Time: What a fun book to share with her! She really identified with Meg, and enjoyed the tesseract concept.) The other one was for our mother-daughter book club, which was supposed to meet this evening, but was postponed due to illness of the hosts, much to Skye’s chagrin.
The Hunger Games. I read it when it first came out, requesting a library copy and plowing through it when I got it, sending it on to the next person in line after just a few days. (I love it when I can do that!) I’d read about its premise and was skeptical; I expected to be horribly offended and repelled. How could anyone enjoy such brutal speculative fiction? But, on a friend’s reassuring recommendation (“Trust me. It’s really amazing.”), I gave it a try. As I watched the whole spectacle unfold with bated breath, I marveled at how Suzanne Collins had me gaping at the whole thing just like the citizens of the Capitol. I *was* offended and repelled, but I was also hooked and dazzled. Very impressive storytelling.
My second reading came when, preparing for the release of Mockingjay, I decided to refresh my memory by re-reading books 1 & 2. As I reviewed, I noticed more details about the characters, as well as the foreshadowing techniques Collins uses.
This third reading came sooner than I thought it would. Skye is a sensitive soul. Being twelve years old, she’d heard plenty about The Hunger Games trilogy, but had no real interest in it. She told me her friends were raving about how great it was, but that she thought she’d wait awhile before giving it a try. When one of the moms in our mother-daughter book group asked if it would be okay to read this one for our next book, I checked with Skye, and she decided she was open to reading it.
We made it through, and she didn’t hate it! That was my goal. After the first scene in the arena, she did have some bad dreams, so the next day we decided to try a different strategy. I’d describe to her the sensitive, intense scenes, and she’d read all of the other stuff. And I was surprised at how much she could read without a problem. Collins does such a nice job telling the story of the monstrous Hunger Games. Katniss is a wonderful main character, and Skye could relate to her anger, confusion, and sadness. She cheered her on and shook her fist at the Capitol.
Today at Teen Book Club, Skye shared her thoughts about the book, and it was interesting to hear what others thought, too. One teen said she’d read the trilogy because she’d enjoyed Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series so much. She liked Hunger Games, but thought Gregor was better. Another teen gave it a try when her friends were all telling her she’d love it. She quit after 50 pages; the writing wasn’t as strong as she’d expected, it reminded her of a friend’s writing, and she found herself wanting to read her friend’s stories instead. The other co-leader read it but wasn’t as impressed as she expected to be after hearing all the hype. The librarian and I were the two who liked it best, and we both read it when it first came out, before it became THE HUNGER GAMES. We really loved it. Interesting how our expectations can color our experience with a book.
Skye hasn’t asked about the next book in the trilogy, and I’m fine with that. I hope that someday, when the hype has calmed down and she’s older, she will pick these books up again and experience them the way I did the first time. If she wants, I’ll read them along with her, and we can both cheer for Katniss and rage with her.