NEW YORK — Author Suzanne Collins, her gentle smile and soft features framed by waves of blond hair, looked out upon hundreds of fans crowded into the Books of Wonder store in Manhattan and unveiled the most anticipated young adult novel of the summer, “Mockingjay.”

“I didn’t know there were so many of you until I came out,” she said, seated behind a rectangular table at the back of the store, confiding that she usually didn’t stay up until midnight, the Potter-esque launch time for the final work of her “Hunger Games” dystopian trilogy. “Now, let’s get on with it.”

Affecting a light Appalachian accent, the voice of fictional narrator and teen fighter Katniss Everdeen, the 48-year-old Collins read a couple of pages from the second book of the series, “Catching Fire.” Then she switched to the opening section of “Mockingjay,” a No. 1 best-seller on even before Tuesday’s publication and an object of such secrecy that when the occasional fan announced online that an early copy had been obtained, peers demanded no plot points be revealed.

“Mockingjay” readers nationwide attended midnight parties for the book, which has a first printing of 1.2 million copies.

At Books of Wonder, fans stood for hours outside under mist and drizzle, each greeted personally by store owner Peter Glassman, a longtime supporter of Collins whose loyalty was rewarded with her appearance early Tuesday, a special outing for an author who cares little for publicity. “When others’ interest waned, Peter was there,” Collins said as she hugged Glassman in a small office at the store where she waited before coming out to read.

Collins’ first reading ever was at Books of Wonder, around eight years ago, when she appeared on a panel of fantasy writers that included such future stars as Christopher Paolini of “Eragon” fame and Jonathan Stroud, author of the “Bartimaeus” trilogy. “That was a great group,” says Glassman, a heavyset man with a big and ready laugh. “I think there were about 100 people, which seemed like a lot at the time. It was a great night.”

Collins, who lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children, all of whom were at the reading, also is the author of the five-volume “Underland Chronicles” and the picture book “When Charlie McButton Lost Power.” She has written for several children’s television shows.

The million-selling “Hunger Games” novels are as dark as can be, stories of a murderous society where one has to kill or be killed. But the Books of Wonder event, well under way by early Monday evening, was more like a carnival, with jugglers, a trivia wheel, raffles, a face painter and a fortune teller.

The fans were mostly girls and women who ranged from grade schoolers and teenagers to adults self-conscious enough to ask that their names and ages not be revealed, to prize-winning children’s author and Collins admirer Rebecca Stead.

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