A steady stream of preteens and teens lined up at Magic Tree Bookstore Monday afternoon for a book-signing by Suzanne Collins, author of the wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy.
Collins stamped books, chatted amiably with fans and posed for pictures.
Magic Tree hosted a midnight party in August for the release of Mockingjay, the final book in the series.
Collins' appearance, part of a nationwide tour, is "sort of a reward; it was a fabulous party and no one else did it," said owner Rose Joseph.
The books take place in a bleak and violent future. In the country of Panem, teens are chosen each year by lottery to compete in a televised fight-to-the-death match.
Heroine Katniss Everdeen, 16, survives the contest in The Hunger Games, the first installment, and grapples with a second contest, revolution and war in Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Published by Scholastic, the books have all spent time on The New York Times Best Seller list.
With sales booming, the author is presently working on a screenplay.
In an interview on her publisher's website, Collins said she was influenced by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, in which Crete forced Athens to send 14 young men and women into the labyrinth to be sacrificed.
"Some see the books as very violent," said Joseph. "I think we relate to them as gladiator games meet video games."
Oak Parker Andrew Yaus, 14, won an illustration contest at the release party. He admits to being "addicted" to the series.
"It's exactly what I'm looking for: post-apocalyptic, lots of action and adventure," he said.
Yaus posed for pictures with Collins and the winners of the essay and costume contests.
"I was really excited to meet [Collins]," he said. "She's really nice. I could tell the books mean a lot to her."
Joseph said Magic Tree has always stocked books for young adults, but teens are sometimes reluctant to venture into what they perceive to be a kid's store.
In response, the store has initiated The Tree Young Adult Lit Café, with plans to offer periodic teen-driven book chats, possible at a local coffee house. On Monday, snacks, coffee and discussion were available in the hall behind the store.
Madeleine Woodworth and Athena Parke rushed over from classes at Oak Park- River Forest High School to see Collins.
"The books are thrilling to read," said Woodworth, who said she shares singing, archery skills and black hair with Katniss. "I love how [the author] describes the scenes in the arena. It made me feel that I am the character," she said.
"I love the blood and guts," said Parke, who credits Collins with "not being afraid to totally destroy a character."
"The books are an eye-opener," she said. "They are scary and plausible."
Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School student Sophia Powers, 12, "fell in love with the characters and the story. Katniss is a bit selfish, like most heroines, but you want to know if she will win. She expresses what she believes in."
"Collins," she said, "is as you would expect. She's nice, and she appreciates that all these people came."