Why the world should be watching

I read a lot of YA. Perhaps too much YA. But, for me, The Hunger Games was a book ‘I’ll get around to eventually’.

Until I saw this:

That trailer had me hooked from the first scene to the creepy ending music. But, I had a hard time getting into The Hunger Games. Something about Katniss just put me off. I wanted to like the book. I wanted to read more. I had friends desperate to find out what I thought about the book. But all I thought was: the book is kind of a non-starter for me.

Then Christmas 2011 came and I had an eight-hour-flight home to New York. I packed one book in my carry on, The Hunger Games, with the determination to read it on the flight and finally see what the fuss was all about.

Wow. I read the first book and then devoured the second and third books—breathless to find out what would happen next. I still have problems with Katniss, and the whole love triangle, but overall, I couldn’t get over how important the book was.

Important? Yes. It was the first time in a long time that I read a book where there was a strong female narrator who really couldn’t care less about boys. In a genre cluttered with love triangles and the importance of romance, The Hunger Games offered something different: the importance of love for others, in this case your family, and the small acts of rebellion that can incite a nation to change. And that’s why I loved The Hunger Games. Here was a female character who had a chance to be obsessed with a sexy love triangle and instead she’s all about protecting those who can’t protect themselves. As much Katniss wants to believe, at times, that she could run away from her life, or that she could walk away from others’ suffering, she doesn’t. She spends most of the books helping those who can’t help themselves. Sometimes there’s a bit of tricksy game playing involved, but ultimately the most poignant moments in the story (which I will not spoil—see yesterday’s post about spoilers!) are the moments where Katniss is a fragile, vulnerable young girl who’s forced to take place in a heartless competition. A competition that she knows she cannot win. A competition in which winning means the death of twenty-three other people. A competition that is a reminder of a rebellion that no one is old enough to have taken part in.

It’s cruel. It’s barbaric. And even those tributes who win never walk away from the arena unchanged, as Katniss learns from her mostly drunk mentor. It’s a system only someone like Katniss, who has everything to lose, can possibly change.

There’s a limit to what I can say, as I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but two weeks ago when I was handing out fliers at The Hunger Games premiere, as part of a devious marketing plot for The Gathering Dark, I was shocked to see the divide between the people waiting in line. When I fliered the premières of the Twilight films (honestly, it’s as unglamorous as it sounds) the audience was primarily screaming teenaged girls desperate for a glimpse of R-Patz or Taylor Lautner. This time the audience was roundly divided, there were girls, boys and adults, all excited, all cheering, for a book that was important to them all. For a message, about love, that should be important to us all.

So I hope the world is watching. I really do.