My first ever Hunger Games encounter was in 2010. Mockingjay had just released and everyone kept blowing gaskets over it. I was waiting at the Barnes & Noble in the 51st street Atrium for my Student Visa to be processed, and as I passed black and gold paperbacks with a curious bird symbol, I thought I would step out of my usual genre and give it a try. As I read the opening pages of The Hunger Games, I was drawn to Suzanne Collins' earthy and polished story of a people petrified under the weight of the tyrannical Snow, and the one girl who decided she wasn't having it anymore! But I hadn't even known then, about a week before I would make my own journey to a small village in Wales for Grad School, how much the now infamous, Katniss Everdeen, would impact my journey. I didn't finish The Hunger Games, fortunately, until I returned to New York for Christmas break, tiring of being homesick, and more than a little uneasy about returning to the UK alone. In between family visits, and Donkey Kong stints with my Dad, I faded into the world of Panem, moved by Katniss' love for her sister, heartbreaking friendship with Rue, and Peeta, the guy who would risk everything just to keep her safe from the brutality of the games.
What truly resonated with me, though, is Katniss' courage to enter an arena that would've meant her life. To do the thing that her fellow citizens had been too afraid to even attempt. And that year, I likened Katniss' arena to tackling my fears of being an only child away from everything she knows. Of course, my fears are nothing like the brutality that Katniss faces, but her courage to step outside of herself really inspired me that year to likewise, step outside of myself, meet new people, and embrace this wonderful opportunity in a land of snowcapped mountains and sheep, and one the most beautiful accents in the world. To embrace the opportunity I was blessed with to focus on writing, on growing closer to God, on challenging myself to be better.
But in other respects, you know when you've met your 'soul mate' novel when the characters transcend time and medium and become tangible. I honestly 'met' some of my favorite characters of all time through Suzanne Collins' beautiful story: Katniss: for obvious reasons, Peeta: for selfless bravery and kindness, Prim: for fierce spirit as she matures, Haymitch: Because he's the freaking bees knees, Effie: because of her overall fabulousity and gold tokens showing she is not blind to the pains of her victors, (Hayffie: because if you read beneath the surface you know it's canon), Finnick and Annie: for their love and heartbreak...
This series inspired me to live with courage, to learn to knit, to cook a simmering pot of Lamb Stew with Dried Plums, introduced me to The Civil Wars, became a beautiful example of how subtlety and detail makes for strong writing, allowed me to see a stellar story brought to life in an amazing way for the screen. And of course, I own one too many Mockingjay pins.
Thank you, Suzanne, for opening your heart to us.