I have a tendency to procrastinate. Sometimes this serves me well, and other times I miss my chance. I am the person who waits to buy more gas until I see that LOW FUEL signal on my dashboard controls. I have even been known to wait until the last day to buy more diapers! But, sometimes my procrastination really gets in the way of great things. Sometimes, my procrastination even keeps me from reading. I don’t start a book because I tend to not put it down, sacrificing sleep, family, and housework. Or maybe I don’t want to start that new series, because the thought of reading book one and not having the second book ready for me to read, that’s just crazytalk, right?
So, it is true, although I knew the premise of the book, and in fact had even recommended it for students, I had not yet read even one page of the Hunger Game series. The books were waiting for me like a gift. I could choose to slowly unwrap the books, savoring each syllable in turn as the books filled me, or I could rip open this gift like a famished child, taking every drop of at once, reading well past when I get my fill. I began to hunger for Hunger Games as I continued to see (but do my best to ignore) all the hype. I didn’t click on the links promising me details about the books or movies. I waited … and waited … until the last moment. Finally the time had come. 5 days ago, I started Hunger Games.
There has been so much media about Hunger Games, I feel like my short description of the premise will be inadequate. Nevertheless, I should tell you that Hunger Games is most certainly of the dystopian genre, these books feature a world in which culture, government, and/or society are controlling, omnipresent, and overbearing in the lives of the characters. Dystopian books are very popular with YA because it gives readers food for thought, the ability to compare a world where today with situations in the book. Like all YA fans, middle grade teachers, and Masters of Reading graduates, I have read my fair share of dystopian books. I will admit, they aren’t my favorite, but I do understand the role they play in exposing students to literature, and I certainly understand the appeal from teens who feel many overbearing, omnipresent, and controlling forces in their own lives.
Hunger Games offers this dystopian setting but also features some other popular YA themes, like romance, adventure, and even reality television. These three themes happen to be three of my favorite in books, movies, and television. In Hunger Games, like many dystopian societies, government is controlling, punitive, selfish, and unforgiving. Citizens are forced, as teens, to place themselves into a lottery to participate in a battle to the death. The most desperate of citizens are forced into entering the lottery multiple times to receive the most basic of rations. It’s this system that sets the stage for lead character Katniss to enter the arena of the Hunger Games.
Hunger Games has already won praise from countless reviewers, bloggers, teens, and YA readers, but I don’t mind adding my praise. Just like I knew I would I absolutely devoured it. I stayed up late reading, woke up early to finish it, and read the book in just a few short sittings. I laughed, cried, and got frustrated enough to close the book in anger. I was also surprised how the themes of romance and adventure were so easily weaved into this story. I quickly went from curious to obsessed, finishing all three books in 5 days, reading up on the books from other sites, and making arrangements to see the movie. I can see why Hunger Games is so wildly popular with YA and adults.
The big question here is: Do I regret waiting to read the series until now? Honestly, the only part that I really regret is that I wasn’t able to fully discuss these books and share them with students. It’s so important for reading teachers (at all grades) to stay up-to-date on current reading trends and I seriously dropped the ball with this one. I can think of classrooms of students who deserved to read this book and maybe didn’t get the chance since I didn’t promote it to its fullest. While it’s impossible to read every single book that may someday be a good recommendation for one of my students, this book was important. I didn’t read it for selfish reasons. I can still redeem myself, picking up where the hype of the movie lets off and start putting this book into the hands of students, friends, and colleagues. (If you are wondering: Yes, I am probably talking about you!)