Hunger Games: Why in the world did I love this book?

I’m confused.

Not that this isn’t a normal state for me, but this time I have a reason. I loved a book that I wasn’t supposed to.

I read fiction purely for enjoyment. That is, I never read a fiction book because someone said “you’ll really learn something from this” or “this was hard to get through, but worth it to say that I’ve read it”. That doesn’t mean that I never read books that are hard to get through, or that I never learn anything from fiction, of course. I just don’t ever pick up a book for any other main reason than enjoyment. I don’t have leisure time to waste reading a book I really don’t like.

So the question is, what sort of books do I enjoy? I like books that are idealistic. Books that don’t have too much sadness in them but also aren’t so fluffy as to be not reflecting any kind of reality. Books that can have violence and horrible things, sure, but aren’t graphic and don’t dwell on the horrible, and talk about the purpose the horrible has served to shape people and events. In short, I love books that, when I’m done reading them, make me feel full, like after a wonderful meal. When I’m done with a book, I like to draw it to my chest, breathe a huge sigh and think “Yes, that is how life is/should be.”

I also have a small prejudice against popular books. This is mostly because popular books often turn out to be things like Twilight (don’t get me started).

Hunger Games was not on my “to read” list. Not only was it popular, it was billed as a children’s book (which often is code for “not written well enough for an adult to enjoy”) and the summary said something along the lines of “post-apocalyptic world, unlikable main character, children forced to fight to the death”. Oh goody.

It sounded depressing. It sounded grisly. It sounded like something that would make me cry. (Something I’m especially trying to avoid right now, as I cry too much these days with the whole “recently had a baby” thing. Also? Kids dying in books hits you that much harder when you actually have a kid yourself.)

But I ended up reading it anyway.

This was not entirely my fault. Everywhere I turned, there the book was. Friends told me to read it. LibraryThing constantly told me I’d like it. And then the breaking point – Barnes and Noble had a sale. On the nook edition, no less.

So I picked it up. What else could I do? And I read it.

It was, in it’s own way, kinda depressing. It was sorta grisly. And yes, it did indeed make me cry.

I read it in a few hours. Then I picked up the next one, Catching Fire. I read that in a few hours. Then I bought Mockingjay. And read that in a few hours. (One of the horrible/wonderful things about having a nook – instant having of books!)

I loved them. I loved them. The books grabbed me and pulled me in like all good books do, enough that I put on hold the twenty other books I was reading so I could get through this series, right now.

What was it about them? Ignore all the hype. Yes, the main character, Katniss, is a high school age girl, but it’s not a book about high school concerns. It’s well written. Katniss isn’t unlikable so much as flawed in an interesting way. And sure it’s post-apocalyptic but all that kinda melts away when you’re drawn in by the actual plot of the thing. The people are real people, the problems are oddly relatable, and the pace is a quick clip that doesn’t leave you panting. The first book is the best, but they’re all worth reading.

There’s a lot of death, a crazy amount of death really. And things don’t always turn out well. But at the end, I was able to smile and sigh. It’s not so much a happy book as that it has a measure of truth to it, and it’s enjoyable finding it.

Try the first one, even if it doesn’t sound like your thing. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I do think more people will like it than think they will. 5 stars.

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