And yes, while the movie was exhilarating and didn’t disappoint readers and fans alike, that’s not what I was thinking about when I left the theater. As my daughter talked 100 mph without, it seemed, inhaling once, about the actors’ portrayal of the characters, the interpretation of the setting, scenes, and sanitization of the violence, and of course, Katniss and Peeta’s self-sacrifice and determination—I wanted to shout out to her: “YOU GO, GIRL! YOU GO! Get excited about books! Get excited about seeing your books on the big screen! Get amped up when talking about character development and setting. You are every author’s dream, hon! An engaged, enthusiastic, passionate FAN.” As both a writer and her mother, I wanted to hug her. (But she’s a teen girl. So I knew better to wait until we were out of eyeshot of the hundreds of other girls, who wouldn’t be caught dead hugging their own moms.)
Through the entire drive home, I couldn’t help but think that my daughter, her friends, and all girls like her are the future of the reading world. They will be reading our adult fiction books five and ten years from now! It’s not very long at all. (They may even be reading our books now for all we know. I’ve seen my daughter with books I’ve only just heard about—and she and her friends were some of my first readers of my own novel Proof of Heaven.) Needless to say, they are an eager and hungry group, and there are soooo many of them. Best of all, they are a loyal, tweeting, networking lot at that. I don’t remember having the collective reading experience that my daughter has had. When I was a kid, we didn’t read long trilogies or series together and wait endlessly to see our favorite heroine to hit the big screen. In fact outside of Disney princesses, I don’t remember many female heroines at all in my favorite books or movies (leave out the obvious exceptions—Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls, and Elizabeth Bennett). And we certainly didn’t tweet or blog or even find out about books the way girls do now. Long story, short: If these girls are the future of the reading world, our future as women writers is a bright one.
What our girls read, how often they do, and how they extrapolate meaning and context and apply it to their own lives is nothing less than, well, extraordinary. My daughter’s generation was the generation born into a Harry Potter World. The first books she first read were by strong, determined, and innovative women. J.K. Rowling’s genius dominated my daughter’s young reading life, as did a quick succession of female writers whose books my daughter devoured daily. Brigid’s world has been filled with women authors writing about strong female characters—who are capable of doing so much even against so much adversity—like Suzanne Collins’ Katniss in The Hunger Games. And thanks to these formidable women writers and their memorable characters, our girls have been trained, in a way, to seek female writers with strong female leads out. If you don’t believe me, believe the ratings. The Hunger Games debuted as the third highest grossing film of all time on day one of its release. Thank you, girls. And thank you, Suzanne Collins, for creating such a memorable female lead. You, and all female writers like you, have blazed a wonderful trail for the rest of us. (Ahh, if only Mary Ann Evans could see us now! I doubt she’d ever want to change her name to George Eliot to sell a book!)