Rob Brunner
June 22, 2011 AT 08:04 PM EDT

For several years now I’ve politely ignored friends and coworkers who try to talk me into reading Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games. A YA book about a televised contest where kids kill each other? It sounded both unpleasant and unoriginal (I’m enough of an old fart to have read Stephen King’s The Long Walk and The Running Man when they were collected in The Bachman Books in 1985). Who wants to read about a dystopian world where some evil police state makes kids fight to the death for everyone’s amusement? Even as mutterings of the book’s greatness started to rumble through the halls of EW, I just couldn’t get excited about it. I filed The Hunger Games away in the “not for me” part of my brain with stuff like Artemis Fowl and iCarly.

That was dumb. The Hunger Games has, of course, now blown up into a major cultural phenomenon, with countless copies sold and a big-deal movie in the works. Everyone in the pop-culture universe (or at least in our office) has read the thing, loves it, talks about it constantly. I felt left out. More than that, I started to wonder if my stubborn refusal to read it was standing in the way of something I might actually like, something that was every bit as exciting and entertaining as people kept insisting. Maybe, I finally thought, I should just get over it and read the damn thing.

So I dug it out of the pile in my office and forced myself to at least try the first chapter.  At this point, you can probably guess where this is heading, especially if you’ve read the book: I absolutely loved it. Sure, the rags-to-riches, David vs. Goliath plot is formulaic, and there’s never any question that Katniss will end up [SPOILER ALERT] winning. But the book is still a total joy to read, an addictive rush that keeps you guessing even though you know exactly where it’s ultimately going. Collins knows how to spin a story, an old-fashioned yarn where twists fly fast and each chapter builds to a killer last-line zinger. End sentences like “It’s Primrose Everdeen” and “Because…because…she came here with me” gave me a genuine shiver. The book has its quirks — some of the future-world details seem a little too Jetsons, and what’s with her weird bread fetish? — but it turned out to be every bit as thrilling as people claimed. A couple of chapters in and I knew bedtime was canceled.

So yeah, I should have listened. I officially apologize to everyone who, when they pushed the book on me, was met with a vacant stare and a quick change of the subject. Now I’m off to pick up the second and third books, which I’m assuming will keep me up for the next two nights (I’m starting to get pretty tired). I’m combing the Internet for news of the movie, which I’m now of course desperate to see. And I’m suddenly finding myself accosting other people in the hall, asking if they’re read The Hunger Games and imploring them to do so posthaste if somehow they have not.

All of which is to say: if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, you really should. Seriously. Just do it. Then tomorrow, when you’re hollow-eyed and exhausted after staying up all night to finish, come back and let us know what you thought.

Did anyone else resist reading The Hunger Games? Have you finally given in, or are you still holding out? Let us know below.

Follow me on twitter: @RobBrunnerEW

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