“This is the book I was telling you about,” he said, with the same expression of distaste he wore when I suggested any remotely exotic cuisine for lunch. “Bunch of kids killing each other. It’s awful. You have to read it for yourself.”
Other than this glowing review, I knew little about the Hunger Games trilogy. But, struggling through a particularly dark and stressful period of my young adult life, I desperately needed that immersive escape only fiction can provide. So, one fateful winter night, I curled up by the miniature fireplace in my first apartment and lost myself in Panem.
I finished the book in about two days, waited an agonizing 48 hours for Amazon to ship the companion novels overnight, and devoured the entire trilogy in a single sleepless week. The stories had a profound impact on me. Identifying with Katniss helped me re-discover the strength I needed to get past a bad situation, but something more important happened: Suzanne Collins re-introduced me to young adult fiction and all its potential. This is the kind of story I want to write, I thought. Soon after, I started writing again and eventually began work on Blue Karma.
So I have tremendous affection for the Hunger Games stories. Picking my favorite moments wasn’t easy—I’m sure I overlooked a few—but here are five of which I’m especially fond. In chronological order….
- Katniss shoots at the Gamemakers (The Hunger Games, Chapter 7)
I see this as the moment rebellion truly begins. After volunteering to save Prim at the Reaping, Katniss is swept along by events until she steps into the Gamemakers’ hall for evaluation. She gets mad and gets their attention with such vicious elegance that we know she’s going to be a heroine worth rooting for. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the first movie as well. J-Law delivers that line with such magnificent snark: “thank you for your consideration.” I’ve closed several publisher queries with that phrase, appropriating her dry confidence for my own literary “hunger games”.
2. Drawing in the family herbal (Catching Fire, Chapter 11)
Confession: when I first read this trilogy in my early 20s, I had a wicked book crush on Peeta. Those steady, contemplative introverts win me every time (my husband is proof of that). So I can see why Katniss enjoys the hours they spend adding new pages to the Everdeen family’s botanical guide. As she herself observes, it’s the first time in the series she and Peeta do anything “normal” together. The sweet, quiet moment stands out in a story rife with violence and heartbreak.
3. Rooftop picnic (Catching Fire, Chapter 17)
Like the drawing scene, this is one of the only times where Katniss and Peeta are not pretending or performing or fighting to survive. For one afternoon, they’re like typical teenagers. An impromptu picnic, a game of catch, dozing in each other’s laps…all in what could be their last hours alive. That fragility makes this moment incredibly poignant.
4. Katniss and Peeta on the beach (Catching Fire, Chapter 24)
In the middle of their second arena, constantly watched by thousands of eyes, the “star-crossed lovers from District 12” steal an unscripted moment. Beside the dark sea, Katniss suddenly realizes something she’d overlooked beneath all the romantic pretense: she doesn’t want to be without Peeta. About time! If non-fictional people needed that many near-death experiences to accept that they love someone, we’d all be dreadfully lonely. But it’s still one of my favorite moments, accompanied by the couple’s first authentic kiss in the whole series thus far.
5. The Mockingjay sings (Mockingjay, Chapter 27)
Katniss all but gives up on living, then remembers the songs her father taught her. She (literally) rediscovers her voice, lifting herself up from tragedy on the refrains of old folk airs. Singing helps her heal. As a singer myself, I know how music can express things too painful to articulate without a melody, or transport us on soaring hopeful notes. This gave the scene personal resonance for me. I also liked added thematic significance of bringing the Mockingjay’s journey full circle, from singing her sister lullabies to singing herself free of despair.
Recapping highlights from the books makes me want to read them all again…I’ve still got 36 hours before Mockingly Part 2 hits theaters, right?