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Long-time readers already know that Ilsa, my daughter, is what’s known as an avid reader. She devours books, gulps them down whole, like a puppy being fed chunks of steak. I can’t remember when she first read “The Hunger Games” trilogy but I think it was when we first came back to the US from Morocco, when she was 13.

Ilsa’s version of packing for a two-day trip

I didn’t read them. I realized early on that the only way to keep up with her was to read a lot of kids’ books, and just between you and me, I don’t want to read a lot of kids’ books. Some kids’ books, sure. But I have neither time nor inclination to read “Twilight,” for example, although I read the first one, so that I could warn her off modeling herself on a young woman with an unhealthy boy-crazy obsession, and also so that I, too, could count my favorite vampire as purple and sparkling.

Although I already did…

When Ilsa knew that they were making a movie of the Hunger Games, she obsessed, along with most other people who share her age, gender and nationality. She showed me the trailer umpteen times. She showed me pictures of the actors. She realized that the movie would release a mere 3 weeks after her birthday and early on began begging to go on opening night, as a birthday present.

A couple of weeks ago, she said if we were going we had to buy tickets right then. Shows were selling out. I was skeptical, but I agreed. We’d already had the dread “you’re not coming with me are you mom?” discussion. I had pointed out that if I didn’t go, she couldn’t go, unless she could find another adult that I knew and trusted to drive her home at 3 a.m. I offered to not sit with her, instead to sit behind her and enjoy the movie in the manner in which I chose, which may or may not include making kissy noises, and saying “I love you Ilsa” in the quiet moments.

But I couldn’t go to the movie without having read the book, my kids told me. They sat me down and handed me the book. Like I said, I’d avoided reading it. I knew the basic premise, and I found that really depressing. I really do not get the current fascination for dystopian fiction. How is bathing their minds in it going to affect the future of these kids? Will they be more open to totalitarianism, viewing it as inevitable or more alert and guarded against it?

So I finally read it. It’s good. I can see why it’s garnered all the fuss. I found the violence as disturbing as I’d expected to, true, but I kind of fell for the character of Katniss, the protagonist. She’s this scrappy, tough girl, who’s been solely responsible for feeding and caring for her mother and younger sister since her father died. This is a poor family in a poor district. She’s been so wounded that she’s closed herself up tight, and she’s so busy just surviving that she never stops to notice what other people think of her. When Peeta, her fellow “tribute,” expresses his feelings for her, she doesn’t believe him, but assumes he’s only doing it to gain the crowd’s favor. Her life has had so little genuine kindness that she has a hard time recognizing it.

We had tickets for the 12:30 a.m. showing last night. We left at 11, picked up Ilsa’s friend Sarah and arrived at the theatre at 11:30, an entire hour before the film was supposed to start. I felt this was far too early but as it turned out, the kids were right. The lines were already down the block. Even though we had our tickets, we had to wait to get in. Portland is having the wackiest March ever–we’ve had more snow this month than the previous two winters put together. The kids had their first and only snow day (well, two-hour delay) on March 22nd, that morning. So temperatures were in the 30s as we joined the end of a very long line, where we stood for an hour.

I have never done this before. I miss cultural phenomena; I don’t line up for iPads or text American Idol. I don’t even twitter. So this was kind of fun for me. It was mostly a drag though. I was actually sick yesterday, spent the day in bed, was rocking a really good headache as we stood there in the cold, slowly losing the feeling in our extremities. They kept us out there until 12:20, when they finally let us in. The show was supposed to be sold out, but there were only a few people sitting in the front section, and although the back 2/3rds was crowded, we had no problem finding seats.

So I’ve never gone to a movie with a crowd of teens before. It was pretty fun. Everyone came to this movie with an opinion. There were cheers for Peeta’s first appearance and for Gale’s. Everyone clapped and cheered at the first kiss. People yelled and applauded and it was alternately fun and annoying. The movie was intense and well done, although I felt they lost some of the nuances that made me like Katniss so much in the book. I didn’t hate it though; in fact, there was a part I thought was better than the book. I’m not saying in case you don’t want it spoiled, although frankly I doubt I have any readers that care all that much.  Seriously, it’s a good movie. Intense.

Elliot and I left the theatre immediately afterwards then waited just outside for seemingly hours for everyone else to come out–they waited till the end of the credits. I saw a lot of home made Hunger Games t-shirts, including some boys who were on Team Katniss. I’m glad she has her own team! By the time we took Sarah home and got ourselves home, made coffee for the morning, and got to bed, it was 4 a.m. I made the teens go to school the following day. Elliot claims to feel good about his IB Chemistry exam but we’ll see.

While I was sitting in the theatre at 12:30 waiting for the movie to start, my friend texted me: “You’re such a cool mom!” I wrote back: “There’s a slim line between cool and stupid.” “Slim is good,” she replied.

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