UPDATE: I just learned that my eleven-year old granddaughter in Kentucky brought home "The Hunger Games" as suggested reading from her teacher.
Any thoughts on this ?
Now that the movie is out, I have reposted this so that the "comment line" is open again.
Please answer the two questions at the end of this post !
The Hunger Games (trilogy) is a young adult novel written by Suzanne Collins for children ages 12 and older. It was originally published in hardcover on September 14, 2008, by Scholastic. It is written in first person and introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, holds absolute power over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a a televised battle in which only one person can survive.
Toward the end of the Game, the Gamemakers announce a new rule: if the final two tributes are from the same district, they can both be crowned Victors. Katniss seeks out Peeta, who is injured and near death from infection and blood loss. She cleans him up and takes him to safety, and realizes that if she pretends to be in love with him (as she believes he is pretending to be in love with her), she will gain sympathy from the viewers, and as a result receive life-saving gifts from sponsors. Later, Katniss risks her life by fighting with other tributes to get medicine to cure Peeta's moribund infection. Finally, Katniss and Peeta are the last alive, but instead of being crowned joint victors, the rule is revoked and there can be only one victor. Katniss readies to defend herself, but Peeta throws away his knife. Katniss then suggests that they commit suicide by ingesting the nightlock berries. Katniss finds the idea of killing Peeta unbearable and that she would rather die herself instead of taking his life, along with a small amount of hope that the Gamemakers would rather have two victors than none. The ploy works, but the two later find out that it was considered by President Coriolanus Snow to be a rebellious act against the Capitol, invoking his ire against them. Once the two are safe, Peeta finds out that Katniss was at least partially pretending to be in love with him for the cameras and sponsors, which causes him to withdraw from her. Katniss finds out at the same time that Peeta really has been in love with her, that everything he has done was not an act. Due to a leg injury in the Games, Peeta ends up losing a leg and receives an artificial limb. When he discovers that Katniss may have been faking love for him in the Games to get sponsors, he is saddened and emotionally withdraws himself from her through the beginning of the next book, Catching Fire.
Here is an excerpt: A boy, I think from District 9, reaches the pack at the same time I do and for a brief time we grapple for it and then he coughs, splattering my face with blood. I stagger back, repulsed by the warm, sticky spray. Then the boy slips to the ground. That's when I see the knife in his back. Already other tributes have reached the Cornucopia and are spreading out to attack. Yes, the girl from District 2, ten yards away, running toward me, one hand clutching a half-dozen knives. I've seen her throw in training. She never misses. And I'm her next target.
At the beginning of Catching Fire, Peeta Mellark (another protagonist) and Katniss embark on the Victory Tour, an event strategically timed in between each Hunger Games where the victors visit the other 11 districts to remind everyone of the Games and for the Capitol to remind the districts of its power. Peeta and Katniss have barely interacted since the end of the Games because Peeta is disappointed with Katniss for faking affection for him. Katniss is confused about her feelings and is uncomfortable to be with him because of her close friendship with Gale Hawthorne, who also has strong feelings for her. During the 75th Games in this book, the players eventually find out that the arena is shaped like a clock, with 12 sections, and each section is triggered at the same times each day. Different hours indicated different tortures such as, blood rain, acid fog, lightning storms, killer monkeys, big waves, and other catastrophic scenes of destruction and death. As they formulate a plan to kill the remaining tributes, Wiress, another player, is killed and Katniss is attacked by Johanna.
In the book, Mockingjay, Peeta is captured by the Capitol and is tortured physically, emotionally, and mentally. His feelings and memories are distorted with hallucinogenic tracker jacker venom, a mind-control technique. The Capitol uses this method to turn Peeta against Katniss, making him believe that she is not only responsible for the death of his family, friends and the destruction of District 12, but also that she tried to kill him numerous times and that she is not even human, but rather an evil mutation instead. This leads him to try and strangle Katniss when he is reunited with her in District 13. While imprisoned by the Capitol, he witnessed the torture of Portia, his stylist for the Games, and the rest of the members of his prep team, as well as the torture and murder of Avoxes Darius and Lavinia, who served the District 12 tributes before the Quarter Quell. The doctors of District 13 try to undo his hijacking, but the process is slow and turns his terror into confusion, where he is unable to differentiate what is real and what is not, especially when it came to his relationship with Katniss. When the rest of the victors journey to the Capitol to fight, Peeta is initially kept behind because he is considered too unstable to be sent into combat. However, President Coin then changes her mind and sends him not only into combat, but assigns him to Katniss's squadron named the "Star Squad." Despite the fact that the members of the squadron do not trust him, they help with his recovery by creating a game called "Real or Not Real" in which Peeta will ask them about something he believes is true, and the members will tell him if they are real or a hijacked memory. The squadron eventually comes to the conclusion that President Coin had deliberately sent Peeta to Katniss' squad in hopes he will go mad and kill her because Coin sees Katniss as a political rival, and unfortunately during a surprised attack, Peeta actually does lose his sanity temporarily in the midst of the chaos and tries to kill Katniss again. He becomes responsible at least in part for the death of one of their team members, who he accidentally throws into a barbed-wire trap during the attack. The squadron repeatedly debate whether or not they should kill Peeta, and even Peeta himself asks to be killed to stop endangering them, but Katniss cannot bring herself to do it. Realizing he cannot convince anyone to kill him or leave him to die, Peeta insists on remaining cuffed instead since the pain in his wrists help him stay focused in reality instead of succumbing to madness. Further on in the Capitol when the team is escaping from an army of mutts, the nightmares in Peeta's mind become so intense that he is on the brink of losing his sanity, but Katniss manages to reach him, kissing him and telling him to stay with her. After hearing these words, he relaxes and eventually stops being a threat. After the rebels win the war, Katniss is driven to depression and mental instability due to the death of her sister, Prim.
NOW, if you're still with me, the excerpt and descriptions barely scratch the surface of the violence depicted in these books.
Don't get me wrong. I read them. I read all three of them. Cover to Cover. Cover to Cover. Cover to Cover. Without putting them down.
But the entire time I was reading them, I tried to visualize myself in one of my sixth grade classrooms reading these book to my 12 year-old students.
I just couldn't imagine that I would have ever chosen this trilogy to read to them.
I just couldn't imagine that any number of parents would have probably challenged my decision to read them to their children.
The types of book I read to my sixth graders were: Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, The Incredible Journey by Shelia Burnford, Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, Wayside Stories by Louis Sachar, and so on and so forth.
Granted, it's been several years since I've been in the classroom, realizing that times have changed.
Most everyone reading this post has read all three of those books.
If not, hopefully the passages above will give you a good enough idea of some of the gory, gruesome violence in all three of these books.
1) Would you want your twelve-year old to read these books ?
2) Would you want your twelve-year old's teacher to read these books to the class ?
Your opinions are very important to me.
I'm beginning to think I'm off-my-rocker . . . and that I'm the only person on the face of this Earth who has some misgivings about the popularity of something so dark and gruesome.