No, not Harry Potter, although one of the most entertaining book discussions I ever led was for the Harry Potter books. I didn’t really need to do anything more than advertise it. Parents brought children, teens brought friends, staff shirked the desk, and all I did was ask, “What do you think?”
This time the book that brought together teens, tweens, and the adults that support their reading habits was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. And this discussion was livelier than the HP one.
As expected, all the teens in the room were a little shy about starting conversation. Diane, an adult reader, jolted all of them into speaking up by stating, “This is not my kind of book. I didn’t understand who or what ‘The Capitol’ was all about and felt there was disaster every step of the way. This book reminded me of the movie, Running Man. I didn’t get enough details and back story to fully appreciate the story.”
Well, that’s all it took for the teen readers to go off to the races. Luke and Xan gave Diane and the rest of the participants a quick run down of the setting and how it came to be. Luke said “as a reader, I didn’t need many background details to enjoy the story. Xan pointed out the story was set in the “ruins of North America and that all the districts are serf districts with The Capitol as the ruling kingdom. It’s a Swiftian situation.”
After a quick review of the plot, attendees happily started discussing the various characters. Most of the women came down firmly on the side of Team Gale. The men didn’t spend too much time questioning this point, one of them scoffed, “I’m not going to get into a Twilight-esque debate over Breadboy and Hunterguy.”
Readers, both teen and adult, preferred to discuss motivations of the characters and their places in the novel. Andrew felt that “Katniss was ambitious, strong and independent and without her, Peeta was a goner. She could have easily won without him.” Kenzy wanted to talk about the ‘Careers’ and their places in the novel. Luke and Xan pointed out that it was kind of sad that the Careers had only one purpose in their lives, to be sacrificed by their Districts in the Hunger Games. “They are products of the history of the Hunger Games. Their entire lives are dedicated to being gladiators.” Luke said, “The Careers are no more than brainwashed killing machines.”
Macky was eager to discuss the character of Haymitch and his role in The Hunger Games. She was certain that if Peeta had not competed with Katniss, Katniss would wind up like Haymitch, depressed and drunk. Macky mused, “Yet for all his manipulation of Katniss and Peeta, I think Haymitch will turn out to be on the side of good. He can’t afford to get attached to Peeta and Katniss, even though he feels a connection with them. Haymitch shows both of them what the Hunger Games can do to a human being.” Xan said, “Haymitch is Yoda” and the room burst into laughter and started making comparisons to Star Wars.
It should come as no surprise that the teens did most of the discussing. The adults would offer up questions and the teens were eager to answer. This experimental discussion group showed me that there are teen books that adults will find appealing and that teens and adults are willing to talk about. I will post a list of other YA titles adult readers will find compelling at a later date.