'Mockingjay' flying off library shelves
It's gritty. It's violent, but it's mesmerizing, from the visual imagery of a town oppressed to the rough violence of the arena.
Just ask fans of the Suzanne Collins "Hunger Games Trilogy." Think Survivor+Lost+"Lord of the Flies," and it's not just junior readers flocking to the shelves. The novels have caused a buzz among adult readers and have gained more critical acclaim than "Twilight."
Just what is it that makes the trilogy tick?
The books, what some critics anticipate to be the buzz replacement for "Harry Potter" and "Twilight," surround the life and circumstances of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen.
Everdeen's world consists of 12 districts, ruled by the Capitol, a place where aesthetics and reality television rule supreme. In the 12 districts, however, poverty, hunger and day-to-day survival are just some of what people have to deal with. Each year, a girl and boy from each district is chosen to battle to the death before a television audience. When Katniss' sister is selected, Katniss takes her place, accepting what she thinks will be a death sentence. Instead, she embarks on a whole new journey of survival.
The final "Hunger Games" novel, "Mockingjay," hit stores nationwide Tuesday, but it was hard to find in the High Country, with both Black Bear Books and Walmart shelves missing the book. We did find two copies somewhere you might not expect to look first: The Watauga County Public Library.
"But it is checked out," youth services specialist Owen Gray said.
In fact, 13 people are already on the waiting list.
While Gray's a fan of the novels, their popularity surprised him.
"'Twilight' I understood. It just appealed to the romantic ... but 'Hunger Games,' they're ultra-violent for a young adult novel," he said.
The more he thought about it, though, the more he saw the mass appeal.
"The draw is, it's an underdog story," he said. "The girl, Katniss, is getting thrust into this thing by this oppressive government, and people are hoping to see the people who are oppressed come out on top in the end, and that's a huge draw."
While young kids might be upset by the amount of violence, don't count the books out for older children.
"A lot of parents have been saying they're sitting down reading them with their kids," Gray said.
While death and destruction are commonplace occurrences in the "Games," the discussions about war they promote may open up real dialogue between older kids and parents.
"You should have an open discussion with them about war and violence and its effect on people and the decisions that they have to make in those times," Gray said.
The strong female character is another reason to put down the fang novels and sink your teeth into the "Games" instead.
Unlike Bella in "Twilight," Katniss isn't just torn between two lovers and lifestyles (though there is some of that thrown in). She's not going with the flow; she's the decision maker, and her main conflict is survival itself.
"Bella, she had no personality and was kind of a flat character, so readers could thrust themselves into that role," Gray said. "Katniss, on the other hand, has a lot more personality and is somebody people want to relate to ... and it's a more relevant issue than just is Bella going to end up with Edward or Jacob."
It sucked Gray in, and the novels aren't letting go any time soon.
"An oppressive regime getting overthrown, that's the big thing for me," he said. "I like seeing them all come together and fight against this regime, the Capitol ... I like the commentary, if you want to turn it that way."
And there's obvious commentary to make, despite Collins' claim that commentary was not the drive behind the novels. The best part of the books? The discussions you'll have with your kids. Trilogy novels include "The Hunger Games," "Girl on Fire" and "Mockingjay."
The books are popular, so call your bookstore first before making the drive.