I'll confess. When the hot marketing machine that's driving Scholastic publishing's teen book "The Hunger Games" reached my 40-something cruising altitude I first pictured anorexic girls.
The characters in the novel are hungry, yes, very, but it's for blood. The blood of the 24 tweens and teens chosen in a lottery to fight to the death on a sadistic TV show. The "Twilight" series is TAME comparably. Downright preschool material.
The hype-sters are doing such a great job I actually heard about the movie (opening at midnight Friday) before the book. And when my 10-year-old started talking about it, I decided to read it.
Do not let the kiddie label publisher or the PG-13 rating fool you. The book's dark brutal post apocalyptic theme definitely does not fit with the company's other fare you're likely familiar with in those order forms sent home from the classroom.
The book is fantastically written. Beautiful language. Great story. But for grown-ups. I was pretty shocked to find out that fifth-graders were reading it, and I promise you I'm really hard to shock. I count "The Road" among my favorites ever, and I read "The Lord of the Flies" when I was in elementary school.
But as a parent, this was the first book I actually found myself saying "no" to my kid about.
I found it so incredibly heavy emotionally and sad and violent. I could not picture how my daughter would handle those feelings. She has puppy pictures on her wall for Pete's sake. But I also loved the story for its underlying themes of love, friendship and loyalty.
My Patchy associate Julie Dowling in San Ramon said her seventh-grade son read it and was very blown away. He and his friends re-enacted a scene in their back yard in which one of the favorite characters, a 12-year-old girl, is showered with flowers as she lay dying.
Julie said her son's school keeps the book off the shelf, requiring parental permission for it to be checked out.
Not being much of a fan of censorship in my own home, I handed the book over to my daughter, who read a few chapters with relish, asking some questions about words she didn't understand, then soon losing interest and putting it aside. Perhaps she decided those Justin Bieber biographies are a little more age-appropriate reading material afterall!
I'd love to hear how other parents are dealing with this. Did you let your kid read it? Are you letting your child see the movie? (And, by the way, the New York Times gives it a lukewarm review, saying it falls short of truly capturing the gritty feel of lead character Katniss' plight.)
Did anyone see the movie? What did you think of it? And did you think it was too violent for kids?
Tell me in the comments.