Hunger Games…

Cindy: I finally scraped together a couple of free hours with my husband in town so we could go see The Hunger Games movie. I’ve long since gotten over expecting movies based on books to live up to my standards, but I have to admit that this one fared well. Within the obvious limitations of the time constraints it represented the plot and themes well and the sets were great. I loved Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Jennifer Lawrence was perfect as Katniss. I could have done without the shaky Blair Witch Trial camera action–I mean, really. The tech crew that was working the magic of the arena on their computers, generating predators with their computer 3D animations certainly could have produced smooth camera work, but…whatever. Some of the special effects were better on screen than I had imagined them…but some moments paled in comparison. I cried when I read about Rue’s death as Katniss sang to her…but the scene in the film did not pull at my emotions in the same way. But, I’m not really here to discuss the movie. It just happens to overlap with several conversations I’ve had with adults in the past few days concerning Suzanne Collins’ trilogy.

A woman with young teen children asked me what I thought about the books and when I responded enthusiastically, she said she just couldn’t get excited about books that pit children against children in a fight to the death. A male teacher, big fan of Harry Potter, admitted he can’t bring himself to read these for the same reason. The woman had read the first book at least, but just couldn’t get past the violence. She started to come around when I talked about the issues of socio-economic differences, corrupt governments supressing their people, our fascination with reality tv, the power of the media, compassion for our adversaries, remaining true to yourself at great risk/cost…etc.  These weren’t the first concerns I’d heard. So…I’m curious. Have you read any of the books in the series? Seen the movie? Or are you avoiding them…and if so, is it due to the premise? Leave a comment. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

5 Comments on "Hunger Games…"

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  1. angela.craft@gmail.com' Angela says:

    I’ve been trying to get my mom to read Hunger Games for ages – and nope, she’s not budging. A book where kids kill other kids just doesn’t sound remotely entertaining to her, no matter what other themes may be explored.

  2. hrl@lefebvre.us' Heather L. says:

    My daughter (11yr) was begging to read them so I started it to see what I thought. I felt it was very dark and a heavy emotional burden for a child to bear and decided my daughter was not old enough (emotionally) to handle the book. After staring at the cover every evening for 2 weeks and deciding on something else to read each night instead, I finally returned the book to the loaner and decided the series was not for our family……..

  3. andykaiser@gmail.com' Andy Kaiser says:

    For me, it’s all about perspective.

    I’m an adult and a parent. I don’t like the theme of The Hunger Games. As a reader the story didn’t hold my attention – I made it halfway through the second book.

    I can still see the bigger social issues that are being dealt with. While those ideas are great and certainly should be presented, I think the themes miss the target audience:

    How many young readers are going to reflect upon socio-economic differences, reality TV, and other complex social commentaries? I’m not dismissing the intelligence of younger readers. Or rather, I’m knocking myself: When I was a YA reader, I read for entertainment. Escapism. I wanted a funny or exciting or imaginative story. I’m sure I could’ve appreciated the themes you raised, Cindy, but at the time I never looked for them. I read for different reasons back then.

    So “YA Andy” reading these books today would see an awesome story with engaging characters, and a protagonist who is pretty different from what I’d normally read. The fact that it’s “kids killing other kids” wouldn’t have an effect on “YA Andy” because he’s a kid himself. The books are about people his age.

    To use a related example, “Lord of the Flies” is probably more gut-wrenching to most adults and parents than to any young reader. We view kids differently than kids see other kids. And how many children would look for or recognize the social themes without being taught or asked?

    To summarize my point: The Hunger Games isn’t my cup of tea. I can see why kids like them. When my daughter gets older, I’d be fine if she reads them. If I can engage her on the allegorical concepts, even better. But for a young reader, that’s a secondary reason to read a book. Reason number one is to read a great story.

  4. princess-brianna5@hotmail.com' Brianna Jackman says:

    I personly LOVED this serious. I did not think the themes were to heavy for me and I am a 12 year old girl. BEST BOOKS EVER! (in my opinion)

  5. operatingrn@yahoo.com' Janet Frost says:

    I read this book at the insistence of my daughter-in-law (24 y/o), sister-in-law (48) and niece (14). At first, I must admit,I was leery of the premise of this series. But I refuse to reject a book without personally reading it, especially the ones getting massive press. So staying true to my policy I delved into these books. Once read with an open mind and an eye to quality writing I found myself hooked.
    I work with 5th grade students this year and have had a constant struggle with whether these kids should take on these books. Some of the kids are gifted and certainly capable of reading this series from a vocabulary perspective. However, I believe there are so many “big” themes and issues in these books that an older reader would be better able to appreciate its depth. But of course kids are the most vulnerable to hollywood’s advertising and a blockbuster movie is hard to resist. Interestingly, it is not my gifted students chomping at the bit to read these books. I require more indepth analysis from the students who have insisted upon reading the books. I warn them it is far more than an action book. I expect them to dig for the meaty ideas.
    I think every reader has the right to their preferences, and I think most books have a target age audience. These books are great given the appropriate audience.

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