The other day, I got some strange looks at the library when I asked the librarian to place all three books of the Hunger Games trilogy on hold for me.
It started this way. I was downloading an audiobook to keep me company during the five-hour drive from Chicago back to Ohio. I absolutely hate driving alone. The first hour, getting out of the city, is stressful. The second hour is calm and enjoyable. The next three mainly consist of me singing at the top of my lungs to shake off the approaching drowsiness and boredom.
While looking up the most popular audiobooks for download, I kept coming across the same series: The Hunger Games. Vaguely, I remembered my little sister mentioning something about these books, and how excited she was for the movie to come out. I have to confess that even though I like to think of myself as an avid reader, I’m not always on top of what books are selling best. I hadn’t given it much thought before, but I decided to take a chance on it.
For the five hours it took to drive home, I was utterly absorbed in a story that reminded me why I had fallen in love with reading in the first place. Sure, the woman reading the audiobook had an absurd voice that often broke the mood and made serious moments unintentionally comical. The words sometimes lacked polish and a definite style. But there was something about this book which made me go to the library the next day to track down the rest of the series.
Despite the fact that Stephenie Meyers endorses and likes it, The Hunger Games is a compelling read. It might be a far cry from what I’ve spent the last ten weeks of the quarter poring over in the Regenstein Library, but it’s also a powerful reminder of how important young adult fiction is.
I’m sure everyone who claims a love of books can pinpoint a few books they read as an adolescent (probably under the covers, or, in my case, on the bus) that really lit a fire under their love of the written word. For me, those early books included The Phantom Tollbooth, Lord of the Rings, and Ender’s Game, among others. I don’t count The Hunger Games on a level with The Phantom Tollbooth, but it definitely evokes my childhood favorites in terms of scope and, more simply, a plot that keeps you turning pages until the very end.
This simple, compelling quality—a plot or concept so gripping that the reader can’t put the text down—is something that can make or break a book at any level, but it is especially essential is books for young adults. The pages of youth are the starting point of what will hopefully be a lifelong love of reading, and The Hunger Games is both a reminder and an example.