I recently read The Hunger Games. The whole trilogy. In five days. I’m still feeling the emotional fallout from the books themselves, and I still have residual soreness in my neck and shoulders from the intensity of the reading experience.
Numerous friends of mine had, without saying anything about the plot, sung the series’ praises. When I learned a film was being made, decided I wanted to read the books before it came out.
I started reading The Hunger Games on a Sunday night on my Kindle, and was immediately drawn into the action-and-anxiety-packed world Suzanne Collins had put together. Desperate to find out what happened next, I hardly put it down . I synced the book and read from my phone when that was more convenient. I read after work and at lunchtimes
I finished the first book and almost instantly moved onto the second, Catching Fire. An apt title. The book had certainly set me aflame. The personal story of Katniss and Peeta and the Games was one thing, but the larger story of the brutal rule of the Capitol, the vile concept of the bread-and-circuses games, was a bigger fire. It pressed all my buttons about love, cruelty, justice, sacrifice and the need to stand against tyranny.
Every few chapters I was choked up; sometimes actual crying occurred. Sometimes at work, where I read voraciously during lunchbreaks or while cueing for coffee.
For the first time in a decade, I read while I walked to work, from my phone screen. I stopped reading at interesections, of course: I couldn’t afford to get myself run over and killed before I knew how it ended.
And if I thought the first two books had been emotional ordeals, the third left me literally unable to sleep. All my buttons fully engaged, Collins then hammered on my personal horror of the loss of self. I read Mockinjay in 24 hours. I cried a lot, right up to the bittersweet ending which nevertheless gave me a resolution that was both realistic and gave me solace.
I’m still absorbing the books: their themes, the reason for my intense emotional respose to them, and my reaction to the fanfiction that seems so focused on wrting traumatic adventures during previous (and sometimes future) Hunger Games tournaments.
Mostly I remain excited that here are books I have engaged with in an obsessive, consuming, compulsive way that I haven’t really had since I was a teenager myself. I love a lot of books I’ve read and love getting back to them when the necessities of life have made me put them down. But it’s been a long time since I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious about the fate of two characters and their world.
The two writers who have come closest are Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and just about anything Mary Borsellino writes (her prose and ideas both excite me! Go and read The Wolf House series if you haven’t already). My husband tends to become a book widow for those two writers, too.
I’m excited that books that swallow me whole still exist. When I’ve had a chance to recover from this first encounter, I’ll be going back to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Perhaps knowing everyone’s fates will make the reading of them a slow burn rather than a wildfire.