What did I do in ONE day, you ask?
I read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. AND in that same day, I got everywhere I needed to be on time, and my husband and children were fed, and the house was cleaned and the laundry was done. I think this is quite the feat. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that quickly, but The Hunger Games was unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I was all in from the first page.
My first inkling that I needed to read it was that several of my friends had remarked that it was the best story they’d ever read. Some claimed to enjoy it more than both the Twilight and the Harry Potter series– neither of which I have personally read–, and given the phenomenon that is those two series among women my age, I figured that was quite a statement. Plus, when I found out it was being made into a movie, it made me want to get my hands on it sooner rather than later, since I prefer to read the book before I see the Hollywood version.
The final step in getting my hands on the book was when our friend got Christopher hyped up on the story, enough so that I even allowed him to read it as part of his lessons for the week. He doesn’t often get too enthusiastic about books, and I wanted to take advantage of his positive energy. It is my dream for my children to love the written word as much as I do, and while His Majesty seems to be well on his way, Christopher often takes some coaxing. Since it was part of his lessons, I gave him five days to read it.
He completed it in three.
But what’s more than even that, he was EXCITED about it as he read it. At the end of the week, he had to do a 2 page summary of the selection, as is his usual assignment. Typically he fights me over ever character, and writing assignments often leave us both frustrated. However, this essay, THIS essay, was 3 and a half pages long, and in perfect cursive. And then he asked to go to the library to pick up the sequel. I was so stoked.
Except that right about the time that he was handing me his summary to review, I realized that I couldn’t review it. I didn’t know what to compare it to, what the book was actually about, or if he was on the right track, or way off in left field. Additionally, he’d borrowed the book from our friend, and it needed to be returned within a reasonable period of time.
So, I decided to seize the day and read it for myself. I began reading it while sitting on a bench on the campus of a local university, while Christopher and a friend attended an art class, and His Majesty hung out at play school. It was a beautiful spring day, perfect for being outside, and it was early, so the campus was still quite. I made myself comfortable, and turned that first page.
From that point on, I think the campus could have caught on fire, and I wouldn’t have noticed until my hair started to singe. I was hooked. I read for my full hour of alone time, ignoring the world around me, and then in between driving home, making lunch, checking off my to do list, taking His Majesty for a wagon ride, nap time, checking lessons, and making dinner, I managed to brush off more than 250 pages. COULD. NOT. STOP.
After His Majesty went down for bed, I polished off the rest of it.
The gist of it, without spoiling it for you? It’s fantasy, but the characters have real emotions that made me feel like their reality could be my reality, even with the weird sci-fi technology references. There’s heart ache and bloodshed and plot twists. Kind of like real life, but set to a post apocalyptic theme, which pertains to the dark and twisty thread that occasionally creeps me out when my mind gets to wandering
The main character, Katniss is young in years, but definitely not in the bubbly, carefree kind of way. She’s somewhat of an “old soul”, the provider for her family, too focused on tangible needs like basic survival to worry much about puppy love, but with a rebellious streak that makes it impossible for her to lie down and take the abuse that The evil Capital sends her way, at least, not without a fight. She’s a scrapper, and a survivor, but despite having lived a tough and labored life, full of plenty of reasons to be bitter and heartless, she still has a soft spot for children, and a fierce need to make good on any and all debts. She’s honest, and she has a strong moral character. She is willing to put her life on the line for her little sister. She’s a good female heroine.
There is a bit of a love story to the plot, but it was a very PG love, thank goodness, considering Christopher had already finished reading it. And there’s a fierce battle theme, which I suspect specifically appealed to my Christopher. He liked the war/survival strategy, and to be honest, so did I. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d enjoy that part of the book as much as I did.
My favorite part of the story was when Katniss gives the ultimate middle finger to the government and defies the rules of The Hunger Games, which of course, is the precursor to the follow up novel (which Christopher tells me is very good). I was a rebellious teenager myself, and some of my anti-authority nature has managed to stick around, despite the whole business of being a law abiding citizen/grown up/whatever, so a rebellious, not to mention clever, plot twist was right up my alley. Katniss outsmarts her enemies. She’s a thinker. What she lacks in brute force, she makes up for in calculated thought and planning. Kind of a cool “Girl Power” message, I’d say. She’s not weak, or a victim. She’s a strong female lead.
It has political undertones, which I loved, because anyone who knows me knows that I love to harp about the ails of government control and coercion, and the twisted nature of politics, but at first glance, I thought I was going to have to suck it up and muddle through some very different political viewpoints. Initially, I thought that the residents of The Capital were representative of the 1%; You know, the “Evil Superrich” that the talking heads claiming to speak for the 99% like to say are so evil, greedy, and out of touch with the rest of our Free Market society. But then I paused and thought about it, and I have come to the conclusion that nope, I was wrong to assume that. The reality as I see it is that the nation of Panem is a Communist nation, a socialist society. Everyone gets their very basic needs met, and their duties and roles are assigned by the ruling class. Yep. Not a Free Market economy at all. Given that realization, I would like to think that it sends a message to anyone with a clue that a socialized society might not be free of the evils people like to point out after all. In fact, for me, it seemed to point out that the real danger to be feared is the danger of our government holding too much power, which, in my book, is always a great danger to keep in the back of our minds, especially in an era where you can be prosecuted for not wearing a seat belt, or having a lemonade sale on your front lawn. (Of course, that’s the message I got from the book. It will be interesting to see if the very left wing Hollywood spin on the tale will give it more of an Anti Capitalism theme. I’ll report back.)
In any regard, this book was a page turner, and a heart pounder. It kept me on the edge of my seat wondering just how it was going to play out. I imagine it would have been more suspenseful if I had the heart to shut down Christopher’s spoilers, but I just couldn’t do it, and I can tell you now, having read the book, that his summary was spot on. But above all else, The Hunger Games provided me with a great bonding opportunity with my oldest son.
And, in a household where I am often the odd one out, the only one not entirely enthusiastic about some athletic venture or a camping trip or a video game, and the only one paying attention to things like flowers and decorating and making things pretty, I’ll take pretty much any opportunity that I can get.
The movie comes out Friday, by the way. Which will give me the perfect opportunity to take Christopher out for a Mother-Son date, while also providing me with the luxury of taking down an extra large bucket of movie theater popcorn… extra butter.