by Miami Beach resident Elizabeth R. Miller

For those dedicated readers, you’ll remember that the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins was featured heavily as a favorite on many people’s lists for the best books read in 2011.

If you read the books and haven’t seen the movie, what are you waiting for?

The Hunger Games made $155 million over its opening day weekend (third only to last year’s Harry Potter finale movie and 2008’s The Dark Knight) and, in my opinion, was worth every penny.

For those who haven’t read them, the books take place in a ‘fictional’ future, under a dictatorship, where once a year, 24 “tributes” (one boy and one girl from each of the country’s 12 districts) are selected to take place in the annual “hunger games.” The 24 tributes are placed in an arena with unforeseen challenges ranging from forest fires to tracker jacker bees to wild dogs, and to fights to their deaths. The last standing tribute is the victor. The games are broadcast on television for everyone to see.

Jennifer Lawrence, who won a 2011 Oscar for her portrayal of a girl hunting down her drug-dealing father in the critically-acclaimed Winter’s Bone, stars as Katniss Everdeen. She’s supported by a myriad of great actors including Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Elizabeth Banks, to name a few.

Although I read the book over a year and a half ago (and devoured all three in quick succession) and my memory may be a bit lacking, there were only a couple of small changes from the book to the movie version. I’m a strong believer that movies are never as good as the books, but this one comes pretty close.

Watching the movie, I felt the same emotional attachment to the characters and the plot as I did in first reading the books. I literally found myself on the edge of my seat, which is saying something considering I already knew how the movie ends. The movie did a fantastic job of bringing to life the creativity found in the books, from costumes to scenery to imagining a future society.

If you haven’t read the trilogy, you should. Whether you’re old, young, male or female, there’s something in these books for you. The books are page-turners, no matter what your age! Although they’re classified as “young-adult,” they have a broad appeal because there are elements of family, loyalty, technology, war, and the impact of violence on society. And, of course, there’s even a love triangle — for those wondering, I’m very torn between Team Peeta and Team Gale.

So read the books, and then go see the movie.

Collins said the trilogy was based partly from her experience channel-surfing a reality TV show one night where she saw people competing and then saw footage of the Iraq war. It’s also loosely based on a classic Greek myth. If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will.

The first book can definitely stand alone. However, if you plan on reading the second, Catching Fire, you will absolutely read the third, Mockingjay, as the second book ends on a huge cliffhanger (no spoilers here!)

For those wondering, the next movie in the trilogy, Catching Fire, is schedule to be released November 2013. It’s a long time to wait, but something tells me, it’ll be worth it.

If you want to read more about the books, here’s a great Q&A with Collins, where she provides insight on why she thinks the books are so popular, what contributed to her writing, and what the most memorable feedback is that she’s received.

And if you want to see what you will see, check out the trailer.