Typical Book Groupers got together to discuss The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Mind you now, we are a group of moms who read. In that order. Moms first, readers second. Several of the book groupers had refused to read Hunger Games for years, because they could not imagine how a book about children fighting to the death on television could be worth reading. But after giving it a chance, we all loved it.
Basically, The Hunger Games is a book about children forced to fight for their survival, as part of a reality TV show. The children are selected lottery style from the 12 districts surrounding the Capital. The people in the districts are poor, and the people in the Capital are wealthy. For instance, the people in the districts are frequently cold and starving, while the people in the Capital are all about plastic surgery and outrageous outfits. The main characters are Katniss, Peta and Gale who are all from District 12.
What makes the story bearable is that Collins imagines it so well. It seems almost conceivable that if we aren't careful, something like this could happen in the future. We are obsessed with reality TV. We constantly thrive to make the challenges more difficult on shows like Survivor and Wipe Out. How far could we really be from a reality TV "star" dying on camera?
One issue that we discussed tonight was who, in today's terms, is playing to the role of the Capital residents, and who is playing the people in the districts. Most of the book groupers thought that the U.S. is like the Capital, where medicine, food, and plastic surgeons are readily available, with the other less wealthy countries playing the role of the districts. Being more politically jaded, I have to wonder if maybe the Capital is "the 1%", and the people in the districts are the rest of America.
Another debate that we had was how old our kids should be before they should be allowed to (1) read the book and (2) see the movie. Both of my kids, who are in 12 and 13, have seen the movie. My son and I read the book together when he was about 10. Although I have not seen the movie, those who had indicated that some of the most violent scenes from the book were only alluded to in the movie. I think that as a group, we would draw the line for seeing the movie somewhere around 6th or 7th grade. As for reading the book, we agreed that 3rd grade is a little young, but seemed to think that 4th or 5th grade could be OK.
On a related note, my daughter, who I never thought would be interested in The Hunger Games saw the movie, and loved it, so she saw it again. Now she is reading the second book, Catching Fire. As the parent of a young child with dyslexia, parents of older dyslexic kids told me time and again that some day my child would find a book that she loves, and that would make all the difference in her reading. I have tried everything to get her to find that book. It turns out that all it takes is a hot guy. After seeing Josh Hutcherson in the movie, her interest was piqued. Last night, we got to a critical part in Catching Fire, and I told her that I wasn't going to read any more. She wound up staying awake and reading for another hour and a half. We joked that I never thought I would have to tell her that she can't stay up all night reading, but I did last night. And now, the only thing that I worry about is that she is going to get through all of the books too fast! If only she had fallen for Harry Potter - his stories are a lot longer and there are more of them!
Next up: Next we are going to read Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Still Reading: Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn
Still Listening to: Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. Have I mentioned that I am loving this book?