A week or so ago, an acquaintance and I talked about Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, and how it had chilled him. As the father of a six-year-old, he found a story about children fighting to the death -- and one death scene in particular -- unbearably grim. I routinely shun stories I find too sad, grim, and disturbing, especially ones on TV like CSI. I put myself in the shoes of the devostated survivors, families, and can't bear it. Yet, I really enjoyed Hunger Games. As I spoke -- sheepishly -- to the fellow last week, I couldn't defend it. He asserted he really couldn't see it being "for" anyone younger than 16. We nearly underwent a challenge of another book on pretty much the same grounds recently, so his turn of phrase bothered me all week.
Yesterday, I began the sequel, Catching Fire, and now I can find some words for defese. (Not that his comment was meant as a real attack.) It is good, suspenseful storytelling. There are Robin Hood elements -- the oppressed trying to rise up, that sort of thing. It's got survival elements like tracking and hunting. Even with ugly deeds to be done, we know who the heroes are. And even in this dark world, Collins proves a laugh line or two [of course, I didn't mark one to quote]. I am engrossed in the story, and yet I don't absorb ugly images. Possibly, I have never been great at tranforming words into pictures. Unless it's a book I reread often, I don't think I picture the town or the character so well that "the movie spoils it." Maybe that's what's protecting me from the kind of story I wouldn't normally like, but now can't put down.
I suggest these two books -- read Hunger Games first -- to fans of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan), or post-apocolyptic stories in general.