Well, I finally finished The Hunger Games trilogy a few days ago. On the whole, I enjoyed these books. They were entertaining, compelling, and thought-provoking, albeit not really in new ways. My main reaction to the books is that I feel a bit old, now. Honestly, I can’t imagine a young adult audience being able to comprehend these themes and to read these books without being profoundly disturbed. Since I read some crazy shit when I was an adolescent, it seems remarkably hypocritical for me now, as an adult and mother of young children, to think that parents should be careful about what books their adolescent children are reading. But, seriously, that’s what I was thinking the whole time I read these books.
Mockingjay starts out at a fairly slow pace. Blah blah blah, District 13 sucks a lot, blah blah blah, Katniss is all kinds of messed up, blah blah blah… on and on for about a hundred pages. When it picks up, though, it keeps its accelerated pace through to the end. I was not confident that Collins would be able to craft a believable and satisfying ending to the book, but she did, for the most part.
OK, now back to my ridiculous issues with young people reading disturbing books. I pretty much never stop reading, and I’ve been that way ever since I can remember. I cannot comprehend a person who finishes a book and does not start another the next day (or the next minute). It’s just weird to me that people can get through life without having a book in hand, purse, or knapsack. I’m an adult now with a steady source of income, so I am able to buy a book (or download a free ebook, if I’m feeling penurious) whenever I need new reading material. I read about 150 books per year (no joke).
When I was a kid, I read just as much, but I didn’t have the ability to buy books on my own. As a result, I was a book borrower and, occasionally, a book thief. When I had read all the interesting books in my elementary and middle schools’ libraries (which included R.L. Stine’s creepy books for kids), I started rummaging through the books in my mom’s bookcases. So it was eighth grade, and I was thirteen years old, and I read romance novels, horror novels (Stephen King and the like), suspense novels (John Grisham and Dean Koontz, among others), an odd smattering of nonfiction, etc. I read all the sci-fi and fantasy novels that my friend Luke would lend me. In ninth grade, I read the first four books of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series, and I got hooked on the terrifically violent The First North Americans Series by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. So, yeah, I read stuff that was disturbing and difficult to understand, and I didn’t talk to my parents about any of it, because I wasn’t supposed to be reading that stuff. And Mom, before you start to feel bad about buying me all those First North Americans books, the first few weren’t violent at all. I was already hooked on the series before it started to get disturbing (in the fifth or sixth book), and I really loved the combination of history and fiction.
Anyway, back to The Hunger Games. I’m a total pansy about this sort of thing, but I had a couple of nightmares that were obviously triggered by The Hunger Games books while I was reading them, and I’m over thirty! (I had nightmares about Harry Potter, too, so maybe I’d have nightmares about anything.)
So let’s say my kids decide to read these books (or something like them that comes out in ten years). What kind of parent will I be? Will I continue to be a bit of a helicopter mom, constantly trying to start up a conversation with the girls about the books, talking with them about the disturbing sections, asking if they have any questions, and generally being a bit overbearing about the whole deal? Will I sit back and assume that they probably won’t pick up on the most disturbing elements the way I didn’t quite get what’s so creepy about Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird until I was much older? Will I even know what they are reading?
I get that it’s completely ridiculous that I’m worried about how I’ll respond to what my daughters are reading in 10 years (what the hell can I do about it now? Why even bother thinking about it except to torture myself with the fear that I’ll be completely inadequate when the time comes?)… Has anyone else reading this blog read the Hunger Games books? Am I totally off my rocker in thinking they’re a bit much for a young adult audience?