I used to think that I could very accurately pinpoint the day I became a “reader”—the day that reading became my favorite hobby and my favorite thing to do. I have, in the past, always thought this day was the day I read The Hunger Games for the first time. I think I read this book in 7thor 8thgrade so really that wasn’t all that long ago. I never considered myself a sort of childhood reader. Honestly, before this point in time, I thought that I hated reading, at least to some extent. However, that one day in 7thor 8thgrade I decided to read The Hunger Games because my sister said it was the best book she had ever read. Up until this point I would not have called my sister much of a reader either so I thought this book must be amazing and it totally was.
My sister actually read The Hunger Games twice in a row the first time she read it. I think I only read it once, but I still absolutely loved it. I thought it was the most interesting thing I had ever read. It had everything I didn’t know I wanted in a book. I think up until this point, my only interaction with reading material was children’s books. I loved picture books and things like that when I was a kid, but I think I had a hard time wanting to read any of that sort of middle grade literature. Books for children of this age would appeal to me, but then I could never really finish all that many of them because I found them to be too whimsical or they had too much action and there wasn’t enough about the characters. I never really enjoyed reading all that much until I read The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games had everything in it I think you could ever want in a book. It had a great interesting plot line that, though it was fantasy and not real, wasn’t outrageously whimsical the way middle grade books can often be. It had action, but not too much of it because there was also a lot of strategy involved for the characters. There was a lot of thinking, which I loved. There were great relationships between the characters and it was the first time I ever read anything resembling a romance in a book. I found the whole thing very exciting and very gripping! I really wondered what I had come across because I had never read anything like it before. It wasn’t until reading The Hunger Games that I realized there was a whole genre out there like this—young adult literature.
The thing about my reading life pre The Hunger Games is that I mostly did it for school. I don’t think I ever really finished a book of my own accord before this point in time that wasn’t for school. I loved having my mom read to me when I was young. I had many picture books that I adored, but then, as I have said, I entered that weird middle grade reading age where, even though the books sounded appealing, I never really truly enjoyed them. I would read what was assigned to me for school like Number the Stars or Holes. I read most of The Series of Unfortunate Events for school, but I got bored at book 10. I read many books from the Gilda Joyce series and also read The City of Ember series. I read a lot of books, I finished them, but I didn’t love them the way I loved The Hunger Games. None of the books I read pre The Hunger Games left me wanting more. None of them were YA.
YA literature is an odd little subset of a genre. I find it interesting to think about because I truly did not know it existed before I read The Hunger Games. I suppose this makes sense that I didn’t really know it existed because I probably wasn’t yet old enough to read the genre. In actuality I think I probably was because I was always a good reader and I was definitely a mature kid so I think I could have handled the material, but nonetheless I didn’t know about it. Basically, all I probably knew about the genre before The Hunger Games was Twilight. Many people had read those books, but truthfully I don’t think I ever really knew what they were about until 7thor 8thgrade anyway and, once I had read The Hunger Games, I wasn’t all that much interested in reading Twilight either. I was in a reading coma after The Hunger Games.
I had no idea what to read after I read The Hunger Games. As I said, I had never heard of the YA genre before so I didn’t really know what else was out there that was maybe like The Hunger Games that I would enjoy. My sister and my mom and I went to the bookstore to try and find something that we would like just as much as The Hunger Games. We went to Borders and headed over to the YA section. This was my first time perusing the aisles of the YA section in a bookstore and not the children’s section because we had bought The Hunger Games at our school’s book fair.
At this point in time I think people were very heavily obsessed with vampires or paranormal romance in YA so it was hard for me to find something like The Hunger Games. I would later figure out that this sub genre of YA is dystopian. Eventually, my mom found a book she thought would be appealing to me—The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I read the back and thought it sounded perfect! It was in the same dystopian vain as The Hunger Games a future world that has been torn apart by something, in this case zombie type people. There was action, adventure, romance, friendship everything you could possibly want in a book! It sounded perfect and it was my next step into the YA world—the next step of many.
After these two books I don’t know what books came next and what stories lead to other stories. I became obsessed with reading. It was like I had finally found my genre. I finally found what I enjoyed reading. Reading became my main hobby. I was always reading whatever I could. I always wanted to go to the bookstore to get a new book. Reading, because of The Hunger Games and discovering the YA genre, became how I identified myself—I was a reader. So, it would make sense that I began to pinpoint my reading The Hunger Games as the day I became a reader. However, it wasn’t until far more recently that I realized that wasn’t the case.
I did read books before The Hunger Games. I finished stories. I went to the bookstore to try and find books to read. I had read with my mom when I was a child and loved the stories she used to read to us. I have loved books my whole life and even when finding a story I truly enjoyed became hard I was always searching for the right book. I was always reading something to try and find that elusive book that would make me into a “reader”. Little did I know, it was this very process that made me a reader. I wanted to be someone who read voraciously. I wanted to be someone who could never tell you their favorite book because there were so many. I wanted to be able to recommend things to my friends. I wanted to love reading so bad that I didn’t realize that, even if you don’t love the books you are reading, you are still reading. You are still opening yourself up to new worlds and new adventures. You are finding what it is you don’t like about storytelling and thus, narrowing down what it is that you do like. I was always a reader. I just didn’t know it yet.
The Hunger Games is definitely a book that changed my life. It opened up the whole world of YA literature to me, which I still love and still read more than any other genre even though I am a grown adult. I couldn’t be more grateful to The Hunger Games and Suzanne Collins for doing that for me. I also couldn’t be more grateful to the teacher that recommended my sister buy the book at the school’s book fair. If it weren’t for her, we probably never would have gotten our hands on that book. We would not have known where to look for it. We would not have even known to try. However, even though The Hunger Games changed my life I realize now that it is not the book that made me a reader—no single book did. I made myself a reader.
I made myself a reader by picking up books and giving them a go even if I knew I wasn’t going to like them. I made myself a reader by each chapter I read even if I didn’t finish the book. I made myself a reader by listening to my mom read to me my favorite picture books. I made myself a reader by wanting to be a reader. You are the only person who can define what you are. You are the only person who can decide what it is that you like and dislike—what your hobbies are. I was always a reader I just felt I couldn’t give myself that title. It wasn’t until I read The Hunger Games that I finally felt I could, even thought I was always a reader in my heart.
If there is one thing I have learned from my life as a reader it is that there are slumps. There are times when getting yourself to read feels like the hardest thing in the world—you can’t find the right book, there are chores to be done and errands to run—but you just have to keep going. You just have to keep reading and slogging through the bad so you can get to the good. You have to keep going until you find your new Hunger Games.