It all started with Sam. He read the Hunger Games and called me right away. "You've got to read this book," he said. "You're going to love it."
But when he told me what it was about I recoiled. Seriously? No way was I reading a book about a reality TV show where teens fight to the death. I like romance. I like cosmic battles. Give me a little bit of magic.
I've never gotten the whole dystopian thing. The world's in ashes and the last few survivors are in hell. It's just not uplifting enough for me.
Or so I thought.
Pretty soon you couldn't throw a tweet without running into a Hunger Games fan. People at work were raving about the books. Every teen in my life was either reading the books, talking about reading the books or waiting for the movie.
Then last week I saw the movie trailer. I realized I couldn't wait any longer. I downloaded the whole darn trilogy on my Kindle and took it along on an airplane trip from Ohio to Palm Springs.
That's when the obsession began. (SPOILER ALERT) This was so not a series about a reality TV show. This was a series about survival, humanity, growing up, love, family and maybe above all else the corrupting power of government.
Katniss is motivated by love for her sister, confused by love for two very different men and powerless to stop herself from being used as a game piece by both sides of a revolution. She is in every sense a rebel. She wants to bring the Capital down. But Katniss is first and foremost a survivor. What she wants most is her family's survival. She's caught between a Capital that will stop at nothing to destroy her and a rebel force that would sacrifice anything, family included, to bring the Capital down.
This story simmers with a quiet truth. Power corrupts. The end won't always justify the means. Yet sometimes the struggle is worth it. Katniss in her meadow at the end isn't the same person she was at the beginning, she isn't fully whole, maybe never was. But she's in the meadow and she's not alone.
Maybe that's the most any of us can hope for in the struggle to find what's right.