I don’t usually read YA — I didn’t read the Twilight series, and I only read the first Harry Potter book. (Which I loved, but didn’t feel “hooked” enough to keep going.) But I’d heard great things about Hunger Games from one of my besties, and I do have a weakness for dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction (I know, weird, right?) so I gave it a shot, and hoo boy. I devoured that first book like a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. I’m on the third one now, and I think I’m going to be seriously grief-stricken when it’s over. Until the movie comes out in March, anyway.
The basic premise, if you don’t already know, is that in a totalitarian North America in the far distant future, every year two dozen kids between the ages of 12 and 18 have to compete in a televised contest to the death. It’s The Lord of the Flies meets reality TV. And it is dark, dark stuff.
I feel a little guilty reading it — for being darkly entertained by watching the slaughter in exactly the same way the ruling class in the book is. (Which I think is part of the point.) Of course, I know it’s fiction. Still, unlike in other fiction I’ve read where there is death and violence, there is something weirdly hollow and sanitized about the violence in Hunger Games.
I don’t feel the same emotional impact as when I read about death in other books. And the Hunger Games books are primarily about the death of children, for God’s sake. I mean, ever since I became a mother, I can’t get within ten feet of a movie wherein a child or teenager dies. There have been times when I’ve been in tears after hearing about a bombing or natural disaster or anything that has killed kids. Losing one of my children, at whatever age, is my worst fear, hands down.
And yet, I’ve devoured the Hunger Games books. And I can’t wait to see the movie. Same goes for many of my mom friends and social networking buddies, and same goes, probably, for many of your reading this. So….WTF?
Maybe it’s because it feels so fantastical and implausible that it’s not on the same plane with “real” death, or even deaths of children in more realistic fiction, movies, etc.. Maybe it’s because the books never really describe or show, except in one instance, the families who have lost children. Or maybe it’s because the book puts me so powerfully in the point of view of Katniss, the 16-year-old heroine, that I experience the book from the point of view of a teenager, instead of one of the parents watching their kids being killed.
Whatever it is, it’s surprising. And I’m not quite sure what to make of it. (Not that it has stopped me from tearing through the series, or will stop me from seeing the movie.)
Have you read the books? Do you find them disturbing or upsetting as a parent — or have you avoided them because you think you will? Do you plan to see the movie, and do you think it will make the violence seem more real and horrific?
DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of parenting twins and battling depression (among other things) is now available for pre-order!