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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Hunger Games a Library Conundrum?

Cover of "The Hunger Games"
Cover of The Hunger Games
 The past month in the learning commons we have read, debated, researched, and endlessly discussed the challenge that is The Hunger Games.  My son read the trilogy in grade 7, loved all three books and would have read more if Suzanne Collins wrote another edition.  I read the first book with reluctance,  because I have a sensitive stomach and don't tolerate violence well.  But with all our teens wanting to read this book because of the media focus, I thought it necessary.   Needless to say I was absorbed by the author's excellent style of establishing pace and tension, until the violence took a nosedive...

So why does the violence offend me?  I understand that Suzanne is trying to convey the message that violence in society needs to be highlighted.  Our kids are so desensitized to violence on a daily basis; they are assaulted on every level from computer games, digital media, movies, cartoons and books.  Having witnessed students as young as 9 years old reading this book, I doubt they would understand the critique on violence that Collin's is conveying? 

Collins highlights graphic violence as a means to an end.   Survival justifies killing in this story.  By participating in the Games, even the heroes allow themselves to be infected with its kill-or-be-killed ethos.  It is hard to envisage children killing children with knives, hatchets, swords, bombs and then very scary insects and animals.

The protagonist Katniss does not support any kind of redemptive qualities in the first book, although I have heard that she improves in the second novel.  Time and time again she allows her feelings to guide her as to what is right and wrong.  People are used in the plot as a means for manipulation,  to further her intent.

Cover of "Lord of the Flies, Educational ...
Cover of Lord of the Flies, Educational Edition

Cover of
Cover of The Giver
I would set this book at about a grade 10 or 11 novel study along the dystopian lines of Lord of the Flies and The Giver, for students to truly understand the implicit message.  Our learning commons recommended age limit for this book is 14 and over.  If you see your student reading please take the time to read yourself, so you can discuss some of the themes and prepare them for the message behind the violence.

Let me know what you think about this book?  In terms of controversy this book is on the ALA most challenged books for 2012.  

Pippa and the learning commons team.

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  1. I read the series and enjoyed it - it's an adult's novel really. The books highlight the detriments of reality TV which is so prevalent today - the participants are degraded and the audience are desensitized. We balk at the ancient Roman gladiator days of using violence as entertainment, but we haven't made much advancement ourselves if we look at our own entertainment industry.
    I think the books touch on some good social issues and provide food for thoughts, but it's ironic that the production and marketing of the movie celebrates exactly what it mocks.
    I personally would not recommend this series to youths (and definitely not children!). It takes more maturity to discern the implicit message and not get carried away by revenge-justifies-all tone.

  2. Thanks for sharing Tina. I agree that the marketing of this book and movie celebrate what it mocks. Double irony! Yes I am not sure how this book was marketed at the age group 13 and up. In terms of rating have we capitulated to the new norms in society?


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