Because I am going to see the movie this Sunday and because I am trying my best to ignore all of the reviews (both professional and personal) from folks who have already seen the movie, I thought I would write a brief history of my relationship to Suzanne Collin’s now world-famous trilogy.
I first heard of The Hunger Games back in the summer of 2009. I was at a summer training led by an incredibly gifted and experienced 5th grade teacher who is a master of Reading Workshop. I cannot even begin to tell you how impressive her students’ reading and writing skills are — high school students could learn a thing or two from them, seriously. Anyway, she was showcasing some of her latest and greatest favorites in YA (Young Adult) fiction so we could be more in the know for our middle school students. She picked up The Hunger Games from one of her piles, sighed, and couldn’t even find words to describe it. All she could say was that it was “such a beautiful book” as she showed us the cover. I knew then that it was a must-read when I saw that kind of reaction from another teacher.
I bought it at some point that fall, in time to bring it with me on our honeymoon in November 2009. It was one of three books I brought with me, actually, and I remember patiently explaining to Husband that I hoped he had some kind of solo activity to do, be it crossword puzzles or playing cards or something; I would otherwise be preoccupied with reading out in the sun. We agreed that instead we would try me reading the book aloud to him, and if he didn’t like it he would just let me know. I actually fell asleep reading chapters — much to his chagrin — while he was still wide awake and caught up in the story. He even requested that we read chapters first thing in the morning before breakfast buffet because we both were clamoring to know what was going to happen next. Needless to say, over time we finished the entire trilogy. Yes, we read all three aloud together.
That following spring 2010, there was still a critical mass of my 6th graders who hadn’t yet experienced the awesome-ness of The Hunger Games, so we made it our read-aloud book. There were a few afternoons when I literally read to them for an hour. They didn’t want to go to lunch; they didn’t want to read their own individual books. They just wanted us to keep going with Katniss and Peeta and Rue. Much like Husband, they were hooked from Chapter 1, page 1. We didn’t have enough time at the end of the year to start the second book, Catching Fire, and they were sorely disappointed.
Now it’s 2012, and everyone and his/her respective mother has read The Hunger Games trilogy, and good for them. I still think that the first book is by far the best book of the entire series (because let’s face it – J.K. Rowling’s ability to wrap up Harry Potter in the 7th book in a satisfying way is unrivaled, in my opinion). But the selfish part of me is quite pleased that I had a chance to read it a little bit before the entire universe thought it was amazing and before Hollywood decided it could be built into a movie franchise.
I get that art influences and inspires other art. But maybe a book can just be an incredible book, and I (and other readers) can imagine it any way I want to. Maybe I don’t actually want someone else to interpret and popularize a singular vision of it in movie form. Or reprint the book cover with a scene from the film instead of the original cover art. So that one day, my own kids won’t say, “Isn’t The Hunger Games a movie?” because they’ll know that Suzanne Collins is an author and wrote an outstanding book first.
All that being said, I’m still going to see the movie. In my heart, I already know that the book will be superior, but I plan on enjoying myself anyway.