I just finished reading The Hunger Games and I could not put it down. It is well written, creative, insightful and definitely a book that should spark needed discussion on our current society. Our kids are growing up in a world where they will not only need to decide what they broadcast to the world, but how they want this information to be perceived…if they even have control of this. Which side of their personality will they be known for? And since there are many traits, depending on circumstance, how does one control which trumps which? And of course, does everything we do need to be documented, YouTubed or blogged about?
I do, however, feel strongly that this not a book for kids. I get the real life parallel that Suzanne Collins is drawing here, but what does it mean when a book about killing children for sport is so popular with kids? I get it for adults. I get it for older teens. I worry about how kids are processing such information before they are developmentally ready to. Will the book desensitize them when the goal is presumably otherwise? Is it worse than a video game where you are the killer? I think so. Because Katnis, the heroine, is so likable, empathetic and strong – a role model for girls. But with that said, the killing and the craziness of this situation is so real that, to a young mind, you can’t help but imagine yourself in Katnis’ shoes.
10-13 yr olds are figuring out who they are, navigating middle school, understanding the difference between real friends and those that are far from it, right vs wrong, how to almost cross the line but then come right back, etc. With the popularity of The Hunger Games, we are handing them a book that negates what they have worked so hard to understand. This book is not written as fantasy. It’s not in a galaxy far far away. It’s not a true good vs evil, nor a robin hood story. It’s not a family who is doing anything to survive. All this death happens as a game where kids need to kill each other to win. A game set up by the government. A game where adults bet and smoke out the kid contestants so they have to fight each other to the death.
I know exactly when my childhood ended. It was when I came to the realization that adults can be wrong and cause physical harm to kids. As there are enough real life traumas that catapult our kids into adulthood, why would we choose to have them deal with a gruesome adult world as they read for pleasure?