I found her cuddled up on the couch, eReader in hand. I felt her head. No sign of fever. The Adventurer (age 11) hadn’t moved in hours.
“This book is so good,” she told me, then continued to ignore me in favor of her book.
She was reading The Hunger Games. I was mildly concerned when she briefly described the plot. I was alarmed when I read a review on Slate.com last week, just as she worked her way through the final book in the trilogy.
“The three books in the series — The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay — are set in a future version of North America, which has degenerated into a totalitarian state split into 12 districts. Every year, each district must send two of its children to compete in a lavish ritual known as the Hunger Games, where they are expected to fight one another to the death in a live, televised spectacular.”
It sounds dark, twisted and an awful choice for an 11-year-old. Why does she love it?
I started reading it. I read . I was hooked by the third page. I finished the series late one night a few days later. Yes, it’s violent. Yes, it’s sad. It explores injustice, starvation and violence in great detail. It illustrates the devastating long term effects of violence, war and tragedy on a young mind. Nothing is sugar coated, but there is hope. The story is propelled by the main character who seeks to protect those she cares about — particularly her younger sister.
As a reader, I loved it. As a mother, I was sure this was too violent for my daughter to handle at her age. I was too late to stop her from reading it, so we talked about it. We’re still talking about it.
The books opened up the door to conversations I typically shy away from, like war and crimes against children. We discussed survival issues from the story like dehydration, foraging for food and archery. Most recently — and most relevant to events of this week — we talked about freedom, types of government and why a soldier would be willing to give their life for their country.
Why did my daughter love it? In her words, “Katniss [the main character] would do anything for her family,” and the story "shows you can stand up for what you believe in.”
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is recommended for ages 12 and older. You can read an excerpt here. The much anticipated film is scheduled to be released in March 2012.