When only the first book was out, I first became aware of it because Stephenie Meyer posted a rare blog post praising it. I slapped it on my TBR list... and read the description. Twenty-four children pitched in a closed-compound battle to the death? Sounded... brutal. Terrifying. Agonizing.
Good reviews poured in and still I balked. It's not that I didn't think it would be a great read or even that it wouldn't be an important read. It's just that I get plenty of exposure to the ugly side of life at my day-job and I don't need my entertainment to provide that sort of catharsis. I never felt like I was in the right mood for that sort of experience.
Then book two came out and I had the perfect excuse not to read them: Catching Fire ended on a cliffhanger. Obviously, I shouldn't start the series until all three were out, right? Right. So I waited.
Then, as Mockingjay came out, my book group started a Hunger Games marathon so we could discuss the whole series together. It was as brutal as I thought it would be. But also better. Filled with terror, but also humanity. Packed with awful people doing awful things to each other, but also with people who were just trying to be good in a horrible world.
I didn't have a blog back then, but this is what I said on my friend Susan's blog about Mockingjay:
I finished it a few hours ago and I'm reeling. Though I understand the criticisms about the anticlimax and the inevitable antipathy about her love life, this is a book about children reacting to war. How is that supposed to end well? In these sorts of books I have a love-hate relationship with realism, but I think it would have cheapened what Collins was trying to do if Katniss had emerged truly triumphant.
Like Plutarch says, humanity will always wage war with each other, interspersed with short, blissful periods where we swear never to do it again. There is no ending Collins could have written that could have erased that truth. Until humanity itself is different, war will continue.
The "unexpected death" was the least surprising thing about the book to me. As in the French Revolution, where the people rose up to meet brutality with savagery, and then had to purge the purgers before they could have real peace, there was (at least) one rebel savage who had to die for hope to have a chance. It frankly makes me a bit nervous that Gale has such an important job in District 2.Yeah, I pontificate on other people's blogs, too.
These books are powerful, and I'm still not sure what to take from them, but I can't separate them out into favorites. They're all about the horrors of war and the enduring (though imperfect) resilience of one girl who had to wade through the blood.
I'll be happier when I can get it out of my head.
So now the movie is coming out and for the past year I've been fighting with myself on whether I want to see it at all. I'm not eager to revisit those emotions. I'm not happy that my brain, which helpfully protected me from Hunger Games images I didn't want to examine too closely, will now be filled with them.
Since one of my biggest tear-triggers is People Dealing With Death, I'm not sure I can fit enough tissues in my purse. I can't make it through a trailer without tearing up.
But I'm obsessed with the trailers. With the pictures. With this song, in particular, which haunts me. I wonder if this is what Katniss sings to Rue.
So I'm going. Tonight, with a group of adult couples.
My husband watched one trailer and declared himself so disinclined to see it, he'd rather watch any one of the Twilight films instead. He is not swayed by the list of his male friends who will be in the group. He is unimpressed by my assurances that this is not just a movie about children killing children. That there is a loftier message, and that, like We Were Soldiers (which he loves), it is an allegory denouncing the very actions it presents. Showing us what we must never allow to happen.
Because he loves me, he's going. He's planning on napping through it, but he'll be there to hold my hand as I weep.
So are you going? Will you need tissues?