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A Serious Case of 'The Hunger Games'

How the popular young adult series took over a North Shore household.

Dear Editor,

Please excuse the absence of my column this week. I swear it’s not my fault. It’s spring break, and there are like a million things going around.

. They’ve got fever and headaches and they can’t stay awake. They’re suffering and feeling miserable and dreaming only of chicken soup and Motrin. It’d be heartbreaking, if I cared.

Over here at Chez Higgy, however, we’ve caught a different bug, a sort of “muttation” if you will. We’ve been staying up all night, sitting silently during the day, and barely communicating with one another beyond the occasional inquiry of “where are you now?”

In other words, we’ve come down with a serious case of The Hunger Games. It’s highly contagious and as far as we’re concerned, there’s no vaccine. 

Every family has its own story of how each member succumbed, but for us it began with our youngest, though blame could easily rest upon her roommate.  Faced with the looming pressures of spring midterms, the roommate escaped into Panem, eschewing the boredom of chemistry for the thrill of, quite literally, the hunt. It didn’t take much to pass the germ of obsession on. Have you seen a college dorm room? The beds are arms width apart. My daughter didn’t stand a chance of resisting. 

Three volumes, three nights. Apparently, not every kid in a library carrel is studying for a test. Buddhism and Primatology had to wait, apparently, until the Rebellion took place and the Capitol was left toppled. Or standing. I’m not giving it away…

… okay, I’m not giving it away because I don’t yet know how it ends. In my house, I was the most resistant to the infectious allure of Suzanne Collins’ books. In a show of solidarity, Tim picked up the series and promptly fell fully within its power. At one point, as he was in the midst of reading about a final fight atop the Cornucopia, I foolishly tried talking to him. I believe he said something along the lines of, “Not now.” So much for small talk.

Tim passed the books to the older daughter, who promptly retired to a chair with a cup of tea and a little sympathy. For Gale, that is. It turns out my two daughters are firmly on Team Peeta.

What little resistance I had fell away as I listened to my family talk about the story. The politics! The future! The moral dilemmas! The alliances! The faux-mance! The lack of vampires! 

Thus I lay down my defenses and picked up the books. Hello Katniss Everdean, goodbye laundry. Goodbye groceries. Goodbye Jon Stewart. And goodbye Patch deadline.

Here’s a true confession: I’ve become so caught up in what I’m reading, that I’ve begun to experience subtle signs of transference. For example, the more Katniss hunts for rodents, the more I find myself looking out my window at the squirrels, wondering how they’d taste all skinned and roasted on a stick over a fire. Hello. I’m from Highland Park. What’s up with that?

In between reading, when I come up for air, I do what all obsessive people do: I read reviews. Two grab my attention above all others. First there’s Manohla Dargis in the NY Times, who claims the heroine is “a brilliant, possibly historic creation — stripped of sentimentality and psychosexual ornamentation, armed with Diana’s bow and a ferocious will.”   In other words, nowhere in the canon is there another heroine like Katniss, a girl on the cusp of womanhood who is defined by her lack of emotional vulnerability, her strength of determination, and her willingness to navigate murky morality in order to survive. 

Nowhere? Can’t think of even one super steely gal who captured our hearts despite not going weak in the knees when faced with life-threatening hardships? Can’t come up with one single literary icon who lifts her chin and walks deftly into unethical terrain in order to get done what needs getting done, all in the midst of social unheaval?

I’ll give you a hint: Fiddle-dee-dee.

Thank you, James Hall, of The Daily Beast, for pointing this out. Frankly my dear, I do give a damn that Scarlett came before Katniss, if only to allay my fevered concern that it may have taken 75 years for a repeat heroine. 

Will the Rebellion trump the Capitol? What has become of Cinna? Does Katniss end up with Peeta or Gayle? I’m not at the end, but if Scarlett’s a role model, Katniss will get to marry both, and might have a little left over for a third nod to matrimony. 

Or maybe she’ll turn out to be a lonely heroine, a woman of few words, methodical action, default conviction, and few friends. Wasn’t that Scarlett’s predicament in the end? 

Few are those who would claim that Katniss is sentimental, or even appealing, but if Miss O’Hara’s sister were called up during the reaping, do you think for even one minute Scarlett would offer herself up in tribute? 

I’m not saying I’m sick with worry over how this thing turns out. But really, how can I possibly meet my deadline before I finish the last book? 

One thing’s certain: As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again. Not with all these squirrels, anyway.

Shelly Reuben's Blog March 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM
What a charmer! A delightful report on how (and why) not to write your blog. Keep us posted on squirrel recipes!
Campsie March 31, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Loved your report. Very clever and enjoyable!
Sally Higginson March 31, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Let the record show: Patch readers are sending me secret little emails admitting to where they are in the process of reading the trilogy. I'm 150 pages away from finishing and have to take a break to pick up my new prescription reading glasses. Even through the blur of tired, aging eyes I'm having trouble putting these books down. And what about the movie? Surely there's a group willing to sit around drinking lattes and discussing the merits of the casting, the filming, the depiction of that weird Cornucopia...

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