Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is The Hunger Games the next Harry Potter? or Twilight?

I've heard several tweens talk about The Hunger Games being the best book. I've also heard several adults gush about this creative story. I think it's been optioned for a possible film. And there will be second book in the series published this fall.

Sound familiar? A book that is equally riveting to adults and tweens and teens? A book that so enraptures those who read it that they want more more more?

We don't have to measure the success of books by the phenomenal success of Harry Potter, but I love the fact that there are children's books that adults are reading alongside their kids* (or simply because it's a great story).

Amanda was already reading it when I saw that Dawn was writing a review for it at 5 Minutes for Books. I was able to email her and discuss its suitability for my precocious ten-year-old reader, since she described it as a book for teens and that had been my impression as well.

Serendipity stepped in, and audible.com was having a big member sale, with audiobooks selling for only $4.95, and The Hunger Games was on that list! I listened to all eleven hours within a week or so.

The audio format was great. The telling was dramatic, but not overly so. The story pulled me in right away, and I loved every minute of it. Instead of giving a recap of the story, I'll point you to Dawn's review because she did a good job of laying the groundwork.

If you're a mom, like me, and wondering whether or not it's appropriate for your child, the best advice I can give you is to read it yourself. If you like thrillers, you'll love it. Even if (like me) you prefer a good character drama, delving into the lives of Katniss and Peeta will satisfy that itch as well. You know your child, and you will know what he or she can handle.

But if you have a child who reads like Amanda, you have likely given up trying to keep up with all that he or she reads (like me). So I wanted to address my thoughts on the plot.

When Amanda is reading at her reading level, she's often above her age level. I'm okay with that, but as a mom I'm always concerned about sexual content, language, and violence (or intensity). The Hunger Games had no language that I remember -- if there was any, it was mild and infrequent. The main characters are fifteen (I think), and so there is the requisite teen romantic angle, but it's chaste and more speculative than real (You know, the whole, "Do I like him? Does he like me?" sort of angle). The violence or intensity is what might be the deal-breaker if you have a child who is sensitive to that. Amanda loves adventure, and an intense story doesn't usually cause her to have nightmares. It's also not an area that I am particularly sensitive to, so I don't want to make a baseline recommendation. The premise in itself (a fight to the death) is fairly intense, but considering the topic, it is handled well and without unnecessary glorification of the violence.

I would think that if your child has read the later Harry Potter books that this book is not any more intense than they are. If you have specific questions, feel free to email me or leave me a comment asking for details, because as a mom, I'm always looking for specific information about the content of books to help me decide whether or not they are appropriate, and this information is usually lacking in reviews that I come across.

Like Harry Potter, because it's fantasy (a different time and place from our real-life world), I find it a bit easier to process the plot as pure fiction, so it doesn't affect me in the same way. I think Amanda probably sees it that way as well (That's one reason I don't worry about the "sorcery" in Harry Potter books either). For example, a novel featuring real-life gang violence set in this current time always affects me more because I can't divorce the story from the reality of this tragic behavior.

It's a great book, and I too am looking forward to Suzanne Collins' next book featuring . . . well, you know -- whoever wins the Hunger Games.


*This feeds perfectly into my Read Together challenge. Perhaps now would be a great time for you to read that book that your kid is raving about! We'll be setting goals, reading and reporting our results this April. Find out more about the Read Together challenge.

I read this book not only in response to Amanda's enjoyment of it, but after reading Dawn's gushing review at 5 Minutes for Books. You can find out other books that people couldn't resist at our quarterly 5 Minutes for Books I Read It! carnival.

Amanda read another book at the recommendation of 5 Minutes for Books as well. Carrie wrote up a review for The Tail of Emily Windsnap a while ago. I refer you back to her review for plot details and possibly-objectionable content. I had heard about this book -- I guess on other book review sites -- but didn't have a strong feeling for or against it. However, Carrie's assertion that it's one of the "most imaginative books that she's ever read" stuck with me. Since Amanda loves that sort of tale, when I saw a copy of that book in TJ Maxx for $3.99, I knew that I had to bring it home as a treat for her! She loved it so much that she has added the next two books to her spring reading list.


Carrie said...

I REALLY enjoyed hearing your detailed thoughts on The Hunger Games. This is a fabulous post. And now I'm sweating bullets wondering what Amanda thinks of Windsnap. ;)

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

I appreciated this review, Jennifer. As you know, I have the audiobook on my iPod, but I haven't started it yet. sounds like something I'll enjoy though (since I AM one of those thriller-lovers).

Julie said...

Thanks for offering your honest views. I agree with you about the difference between the sorcery in HP and other books that depict a more realistic view. Great post. :)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

The Hunger Games must've gotten past my radar. It sounds great, though.

Thanks for a great review, Jennifer!

ibeeeg said...

Thanks for this post, it is a very good read. I agree with what you have said.

I find that reading the book first is the best way to discern but not always practical. When not practical to read first, then I read and discuss with child afterwards. This is working well for us.

morninglight mama said...

Yay! We're drawing more and more people in every time we talk about this book! The excitement that I feel in awaiting the next installment is so familiar, as well....