The Hunger Games: A review by a mother who was reluctant to read it

Do not beware: this review does NOT contain spoilers!

Do you NEVER have time to read anymore? Yeah, me neither. If I did, I don’t even know what I would read. I am so out of touch with books, I’m not even sure they still call them books. Reading a book is a big commitment for me. I not only invest my time, but I also invest a little bit of myself in the characters.

I first encountered The Hunger Games on Twitter. Next, my coworkers were talking about it and sharing copies of the books in the office. Soon Facebook was dominated by status updates that referenced events in The Hunger Games and included many exclamation points.

I thought if it was getting attention like this, it might be a good book and perhaps I should take a look. I went to Google and discovered The Hunger Games was this massive thing I was too old to understand. Like Harry Potter maybe, or Twilight? My first surprise came when I discovered it was a young adult novel. That was hardly what I was expecting considering family, friends, and coworkers (both male and female and mostly older) were recommending the book. Recommending is a weak word; BEGGING better describes their encouragement.

Intrigued that so many adults (who are only young in spirit) were interested in a young adult novel, I read the synopsis (From Amazon):

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

(Do you see the typo in Amazon’s synopsis? It is SCREAMING at me and driving me crazy!)

Alarms were going off in my head. No, no, no! When there are unusual names for people and/or places, that typically suggests it is a genre or topic I won’t enjoy reading about. When I read, I like the creative freedom of imagining it all, but I don’t like to have to think too much. Reading is for enjoyment and I intend for it to relax me, not give me homework to do on the side to understand what is happening to who. Besides, I was expecting something else like another angsty teen drama. I visited the Wikipedia page and did something shameful; I read the entire plot synopsis. Well why not? I’m never gonna read a book like that. I skimmed the entire Wikipedia page in a minute or two, and moved on with my life.

One afternoon I was chatting with my sister about our usual topics these days: my son, zombies, dinosaurs, and bike riding. She mentioned she had just started reading The Hunger Games and I knew it was inevitable now that I would be reading it too. I purchased the book that evening and read to Chapter 3 the following day on the train before I totally stopped for an extended period of time. Several days, a week or two. I didn’t have the time (work-life imbalance) or the patience (who does with a 14 month old running around the house?) to continue reading. I resolved instead to just see the movie… one of these days… maybe.

I met with a former co-worker for coffee the following Thursday. Just before we shared goodbyes, I asked her if she had read The Hunger Games too. She enthusiastically said yes but was kind enough to sympathize with me when I told her I had read the entire Wikipedia page already. I was at work the following day and had some time to read a little more while I took a small break. I’m not sure what it was, perhaps Peeta Mellark, that got my attention. It was very suddenly Hunger Games love at first sight.

I was pissed during our evening commute when my husband was too busy making phone calls to drive. I grumbled behind the wheel and cursed each time traffic slowed me down. Didn’t these people know I had a totally legit reason my time was more valuable than theirs? I was also very snippy-shall-we-say towards my husband. I resented him from taking away a perfectly good opportunity I could be reading undisturbed.

We all know what happens when mom comes home, not that I would have it any other way, but I was feeling selfish with my time. I was patient enough with my son that I only opened my book when he was happily entertained (cross my heart I did not ignore him). Basically, I carried my son in one arm, and my book under the other. Room to room. Everywhere. We. Went.

After he was in bed, I crammed 4 hours of reading time in. Although my husband is a night owl and only requires 5 hours of sleep max., I am usually asleep at the earliest opportunity. I took his breath away when he discovered I was awake at 1:30 am.

On Saturday I considered setting my alarm for an hour earlier than my son’s anticipated wake-up time. But mostly, I did not lose my sanity. I was happy when my husband invited my son and I to tag along to an event he had Saturday afternoon. Long car ride + sleeping baby (no obligations or responsibilities in the car) = TIME TO READ (See how I did multiplication AND addition there?)

I finished the first book before the return trip home and didn’t take the time to assess whether or not I liked it before we made a pit stop so I could get the second book in the trilogy. I think that was the intended effect of the first book.

By Sunday evening, the second book was finished. I am currently DESPERATELY assessing my calendar and looking for time to finish the trilogy.

Have you read The Hunger Games?

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My Love Affair with Mr. Darcy

I remember that afternoon at the office water cooler. Two of my co-workers were discussing their summer reading lists. I jumped in to the conversation by admitting I couldn’t remember the last time I had read a book and I was curious if they had any recommendations.

When I was growing up, if I didn’t have a Barbie in my hand, I had a book. Yes, I was that kid. It started with an encyclopedia of dinosaurs followed by the Babysitters’ Club, Sweet Valley High, and Michael Crichton. As an adult, I never saw much appeal in self help, non-fiction, and the other trendy titles I usually saw my demographic reading. In fact, I question whether or not they were only pretending to read; intending for some other adult to notice and start a conversation that would make them feel like a better person for reading whatever it was that they were pretending to read.

My co-workers suggested a book I had heard of many times before, but had never actually read: Pride and Prejudice.

“How have you NEVER read that?” they questioned. They were giggling and talking about their favorite parts without giving away the story. I didn’t like being judged unfavorably by them and grabbed a copy before my rail commute home. I was a work-zombie and all zombies conform. I wanted to be able to participate in the water cooler conversations, not be the grumpy old woman shouting for quiet in the office.

I read the first paragraph three or four times. The language was a tough pill to swallow. It was obviously written at a time before we started using words like LOL to express what Jane Austen might have described with the word follies. After the second paragraph and then the third, I made progress and adjusted to the language.

Just as my rail commute was coming to an end, I met a man who changed my life. As though I was in that room when Mr. Bingley and his party arrived, my heart fluttered at the mention of Mr. Darcy. There wasn’t a lengthy description or an illustration, but he had an attitude I was inevitably attracted to. After all, we always want what we can’t have.

I was thinking about Mr. Darcy all evening, and wondered when I might have the opportunity to meet him again. I tucked myself into bed early and continued reading. It was getting late and time for a bookmark (like the kind of bookmark you put between pages) when I read one of the most incredible things ever written.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

“I love you too!” I wanted to declare my own love for Mr. Darcy in return, or at least scream like I had for New Kids on the Block all those years ago (I think today girls are screaming for Beiber, but I’m not really sure what that is).

Within a day I had finished Pride and Prejudice. My love for Mr. Darcy motivated me to find and make time. I always hated that lonely feeling of closing the back cover of a book and returning to reality. I hated leaving my Darcy.

I did what everyone does these days with good books, and looked for film versions. But even Colin FIrth couldn’t replace my Mr. Darcy.  My Mr. Darcy is super human and for me alone. No mortal actor could portray him.

I can’t remember the last time a book had such a lasting impact on me. It might be silly of me, but I absolutely am in love with Mr. Darcy or at least the idea of him.

I thought I was loosing my mind when I started to notice similarities between my husband and Mr. Darcy as I attempted to make him real. I was always proud to announce to my husband when he reminded me of Mr. Darcy.

But then I realized I was wrong. I understood how and why I could fall in love with a character who wasn’t real.

My husband wasn’t like Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy was like my husband.

I hadn’t fallen in love with a name and a character in a book, I had fallen in love with a real man long before I ever met Fitzwilliam Darcy.