Things you should know before you read this post: 1) I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy; 2) The first two books blew me away. I was hooked to the point of obsession. Mockingjay is the most disappointing book that I have ever read. 3) I know that I have a more liberal view than most of what kind of materials children can handle. I think communication is the key. 4) I’m talking about teenagers. 5) I originally wrote this for MamaPop so it has a different tone than I usually use here. A little more edge and less reflection perhaps.
The American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books includes The Hunger Games trilogy, teen phenomenon and recent hit movie, for the second year in a row. The list also includes such subversive influences as To Kill A Mockingbird and Brave New World. The reason most often given for keeping The Hunger Games out of libraries, both on-line and by people in my own life, is that it is too violent. “It’s a book about children killing children.”
True. Like A Separate Peace is a book about a kid pushing another kid out of tree. Like The Scarlet Letter is a book about adultery and teen pregnancy. And Moby Dick is a book about killing an mfing whale. In 2012, we are simplifying books to a parodied shell of themselves in order to remove them from libraries and protect our innocent teenagers.
Okay. I argue there are reasons to have teens read The Hunger Games trilogy, war, torture, disturbing violence and all.
The Hunger Games (the first book by that name and for the most part the entire trilogy although I found the plot weak at the end and unnecessarily rushed) takes a simple teen coming of age romance and underlies it with social commentary. It targets the way in which power corrupts no matter whose hands it’s in and the objectification of a group of people until their lives don’t matter. It also covers government and class oppression and the horrors of war. On top of all of that, The Hunger Games is a biting satire of the possible extremes of our reality-television-obsessed culture.
In the context of a brutal regime that pits its subjects against one another for its political ends and for entertainment, yes, teenagers are forced to fight to the death. And here’s where the book gets really awful as it explores the themes of mercy, loyalty, courage, and relative and situational morality.
It’s true. There’s no reason to subject teens to these themes. I mean where on earth could they encounter a situation where governments give teenagers weapons and tell them to kill each other while raining unfathomable horrors on all of their heads. Hmmm? I don’t know. Maybe. … Every War Fought In The Less Than Stellar History Of Mankind?
When could it ever be true that a ruling government would target a group of people, vilify them, scare the ruling class into believing that they were superior to this awful segment of the population and then brutally starve, torture and kill them with full support of an apathetic majority? Tough one. Sounds like Molocost. Rhymes with Kalanda. Two words … enough.
Even without the socio-political undertones, parents of girls everywhere UNITE because, oh hell yes, we need another hero(ine). Did you catch it? Don’t you see? Katniss is powerful and strong. Katniss – a seventeen year old girl – is smart and arguably selfless and she can kill when she has to do it to protect those she loves. Katniss feeds her family. Katniss protects Peeta. Katniss exercises mercy and struggles with compassion. Katniss reads Haymitch’s signals and survives.
Peeta is nurturing and kind. Peeta is her softer half, encouraging her to hold onto her humanity. In a war romance, Peeta is in the traditional role of the … girl. And Gale? Another strong male role? Gale is left behind to take care of their families.
Holy fireballs. Even my most favorite teen heroine, Hermione, doesn’t measure up to this. Hermione is the brains. She’s book smart. She’s quick, but she’s not the leader. She’s not the one with the charisma and the power to be the savior. Nope, that role’s left to Harry Potter. A boy. It takes nothing away from the Harry Potter series, but it’s worth noting that as a girl in the “circle of power” in that particular war story and rebellion, Hermione plays a very traditional role for women in the inner circle. She’s the geeky girl at the computer screen. Best supporting rebellion leader.
I won’t even mention the “heroine” of the books about sparkly people that cannot be named. (Rhymes with My Fight.)
Katniss is a pawn in the power struggles of Panem, but she’s the savior. She’s the one that outsmarts them all right down to the final assassination of the new dictator. Best supporting rebellion leader awards go to Peeta and Gale.
That is worth putting this book in every library in the country.
I understand why a parent wouldn’t want their child to read these books. What I don’t understand is the need to control others. If some think these books are too violent, then (brace yourselves) those parents can tell their children not to read them. Parenting, it’s complicated.
But what if a teenager goes to the library to get a book that he is specifically banned from reading? Congratulations! It appears you’ve managed to raise a free-thinking, intelligent member of society in spite of yourself. No seriously, maybe it’s an indication that this young adult is ready to pick his own reading material.
Bad parenting choices, however you define that, are just that. They can be overcome by good schools, good communities and good governments. They don’t define our society. As The Hunger Games teaches, corrupt governments control everyone. Banned and burned books have been the prelude to less innocuous situations in our history.
“Where books are burned, in the end people will burn.”
The motives of people in power may not always be what we hope they are. Ask Katniss. Ask Harry Potter. Ask a citizen of Germany in 1936. Ask the prisoners of North Korea. Ask any soldier, you can pick the war.
The themes explored in The Hunger Games trilogy actually affect children in this world and we should talk about them with our teenagers, write about them, teach about them, and analyze them to keep history from endlessly repeating. Real or not real?