I was among the crowd of grown-up, professional but unabashed fans of the young-adult novel "The Hunger Games" gathered for cocktails at Scholastic headquarters on Wednesday night. And as excited as I was to meet author Suzanne Collins and congratulate her on being named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People, I'd sort of gotten my hopes up that an advance copy of the third book, "Mockingjay," would be slipped into my gift bag too. Ha. Scholastic publishes "Harry Potter" — they're like the Capital with their secrets. I may just have to wait until August 24 like the rest of you.
But, I got the next best thing. After being mobbed by enthusiastic fans, booksellers and bloggers, Collins made her way to a stool in the center of the room. She pulled out a copy of the second book in the trilogy, "Catching Fire," and read the last few, heartbreaking pages that conclude Katniss' second thrilling escape from the Hunger Games arena. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet (why not, already???), but it was a very moving moment: In a pleasing Southern twang, Collins added just the perfect amount of despair and defiance to convey the thoughts of a 17-year-old girl who's had the fate of her whole country resting on her shoulders and truly believes that she's let them all down.
It seemed at first that we'd be left with that same tease, right where we've been hanging since the book came out last year. But wait! Collins smiled slyly as she pulled out a handful of galley pages and, yes, read the opening passage of "Mockingjay." Even though the scene was even sadder than the conclusion of "Catching Fire," and I fought back tears as she read, I was also fighting back the urge to jump up and down with excitement at getting that tiny sneak peek. (SPOILER: It begins with Katniss looking at the ashes of her home in District 12.)
I got another special treat that I can actually share with the rest of you: I spoke to two producers from Lionsgate who are making the "Hunger Games" movie. They said Suzanne had given them her draft of the script, which is now being revised by another screenwriter. They hope to be able to announce a director this summer, and go into production in January to release the film later in 2011. Can't. Freaking. Wait.