All my eleven-year-old daughter can talk about is The Hunger Games. Or rather, all she can talk about is the fact that I won’t let her read the book, which has recently been made into a movie.
“Everyone is reading it,” she says, explaining her need to read Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy. She is right about that. The Hunger Games is written for a teenage audience, but much like Harry Potter it has readers of all ages enthralled. Visiting my brother’s house last week, my niece was perched in a backyard tree with a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Her inspiration, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, lives in a post-apocalyptic totalitarian regime, which stretches over most of North America. The urban centre of this new nation, called the Capitol, rules over 12 districts. Every year, to dissuade the district citizens from rebellion, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games. For the games, two teenagers are selected from each of the districts; they are then forced to kill one other in a televised battle.
Even though the first book in the trilogy has been out since 2008, the movie’s marketing campaign has put the books back in the spotlight. Trying to keep an open mind, I read them. In fact, a group of parents picked up the first book to discuss collectively whether it was okay for our kids. Some were appalled by the violence. Others argued that the book portrayed a dystopia — a world gone wrong. In their view, it was good for kids to read, to understand why maintaining a democracy and peace is important. Katniss is a strong moral character who allies with other teenagers to fight corruption.
I came away from our discussion sympathizing with both sides, and not really knowing how to answer my daughter’s pleas. If she were just a few years older, I’d have no second thoughts. As a teenager, I’d want her to read other cautionary books such as Orwell’s famous 1984.
In the end I cave. With the contraband in her hands, my daughter reads straight through the book in one day. Talk of The Hunger Games has died down in our house. She hasn’t asked to read the second book or to see the movie. Still, she insists she liked The Hunger Games, and that it didn’t scare her. “It’s a world that we’re not supposed to want to live in,” she explains. She is certainly right about that.
Heather Allen is a reader and writer in Penticton.