The Hunger Games – not for me

mockingjay pinI think I now have a better understanding of kids who don’t enjoy reading.

Sometimes, it’s the subject matter that puts them off.

Take me and The Hunger Games, for instance.

I have tried to read it several times. But every time I picked up the book… yep, still about children killing each other.

It’s not for me.

I don’t get the whole dystopian thing. I find it creepy, depressing and scary.

But I also get that The Hunger Games, and the whole dystopian genre, is hugely popular with kids. They love it.

The Hunger Games is well-written and compelling. The characters are well-rounded, the world itself intricate and thoroughly thought-out.

But… it’s about children killing each other.

I saw the movie on the weekend.

When the lights went down, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster to a scary destination, from which I couldn’t disembark. And essentially that’s what happened.

From the first moment, when we see how the people in District 12 are living – and all throughout the movie – it’s my version of hell. Watching children living in horrible distress, being set up by adults, and ultimately watching some of them die.

It’s the reason I walked out of Slumdog Millionaire. (Which was billed as “uplifting” – a marketing lie I still haven’t forgiven.)

I didn’t want to see the The Hunger Games, but as a children’s literacy blogger and writer I could no longer avoid this literary juggernaut. I had to get into that rollercoaster and buckle up. (With my 10-year-old, who thoroughly enjoyed every second, wasn’t very disturbed by it, and helped me through the scary bits. “Remember, it’s just a movie, mom!”)

All of this has given me insight into kids who are forced to read material they haven’t chosen for themselves.

No matter how well-written or popular it is, sometimes you’re just not into certain books.

If I were a kid and The Hunger Games was on the curriculum, I can imagine the teacher saying, “it’s a great book! Millions of kids love it!” But it wouldn’t be my choice and all those other kids loving it still wouldn’t make me want to read it.

I’m glad I saw the movie. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to get through the books – although now that I’ve met Katniss Everdeen I do kind of want to know her better.

In the meantime, where did I put my copy of Scott Pilgrim? I need a chaser.

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  1. Val says:

    Excellent article. (And, yes, that Slumdog Millionaire lie stays with me too.) Sometimes it’s a mood thing as well. I’m just not in the mood lately for anything remotely dark. I can’t handle it right now. But speaking of dystopian kids-killing-kids novels, I loved Lord of the Flies when I was a teen. Plus ca change…

  2. JGCanada says:

    Yes, and my husband mentioned that “every generation has its (movie) Hunger Games” – his was The Running Man (1987), and mine was probably Roller Ball (1975) or maybe Blade Runner (1982). Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
    But they – and yes, Lord of the Flies too – all give me that queasy “I wanna get out of here” feeling.

  3. Serena says:

    Good article.

    My husband and I felt assaulted by the images of children killing each other. We turned to our kids (ages 10 and 18) worried they might be traumatized, only to find they were they were enthralled.

    The only redeeming aspect of this experience was the conversation it generated in our family. We discussed how the future portrayed on the screen is not far from reality shows such as survivor… We also talked about how these shows can desensitize people to the pain and humiliation others experience in such a public arena for our entertainment.

  4. Jen says:

    I think this takes guts to admit. I do love the Hunger Games, at least the first two books (the movie doesn’t open here until August). But Battle Royale? No. No way. Have tried in the originial and in English and I just can’t do it.

    Everyone has their own tipping point and we need to respect that.

  5. Joyce Grant says:

    Serena – thanks for your comment. We also had a discussion about “Survivor” afterwards. The Economist had an excellent article about the fact that the camera angles and jiggly, hand-held sequences help to make our point of view “different” from the Capital audience’s. In other words, we are not those made-up dandies watching and enjoying – our seat is closer to the action and more empathetic. Interesting read.

  6. Joyce Grant says:

    Thanks for your comment.
    I took me a long time to decide whether I would “out” myself as someone who doesn’t like the Hunger Games. You can see that I waited until I’d seen the movie – I wanted to be able to understand the whole phenomenon better.
    You’re right about the tipping point. I acknowledge that I have a pretty low one, lol! But still, great art is great art and this clearly qualifies – even if it’s “not for me.”
    Enjoy the movie!

  7. Joyce Grant says:

    And then, of course, there’s this…

    An 11-minute “Beanie Baby” version of the Hunger Games.

    Takes a lot of the sting out of the original, lol.

  8. Michelle says:

    Hi Joyce, love your analogy…I literally felt like I was on the same roller coaster as a result of the hand held super 8 video camera they must have been using. Shut my eyes throughout the entire movie much to the horror of my 10 year old daughter. Enjoyed reading the first book and somehow dealt with the subject matter much better that way : )

  9. Joyce Grant says:

    Thanks, Michelle! Did your daughter read all of the books? My son isn’t interested in reading the books – he said the movie spoiled it for him. I read a great blog post (rats, I forget where now) that outlined how Katniss is a much deeper and more interesting character in the book. That *might* get me to take another look at the books…

    Jen – I forgot to mention that I *love* your blog! (Click on Jen’s name to see her blog.) (But then come back to mine.) (Promise.)

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