Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What The Hunger Games Taught Me About Books and Kids

On the off chance I get sucked into some alternative universe where YA publishers actually want books that feature two MC's that are male I have the book for them. With my setting being before the American Revolution there's plenty of opportunities for violence. The weeks leading up the the Boston Tea Party were full of mobs in the streets attacking tea merchants' homes and shops until the night when the tea went into the harbor. My main concern has been how much violence can I put into this story before it becomes too violent for young adult audiences? My answer came at the book fair of a local middle school.

They had an end of year bogo deal I took advantage of and bought The Hunger Games trilogy shrink-wrapped into a set, and a copy of James Patterson's hilariously funny Middle School, The Worst Years Of My Life. All of the books are great. Patterson's book will leave you in stitches even if your middle school career happened decades ago.

The Hunger Games I tackled just as quickly, read off and on through the summer when I found time and just finished Mockingjay a few days ago. To say I enjoyed all three books is an understatement. This is the first work of fiction I've read in a long time that was a genuine page turner for me. The characters are real, you really feel the emotion of these people and their struggles come off the page. The other thing that struck me however was the intense amount of violence in these books. There is fighting, there are battles and most of all there is lots of death in these books. Characters you wish the best for die with horrible grisly detail. If it weren't for the red and white Scholastic logo on the back cover of the book I would think The Hunger Games was a series written for adults.

My book takes place in the past. Collins' novels are in a dystopian future. The time doesn't really matter because in both settings there are plenty of ways for the characters to torture and kill each other. If The Hunger Games are considered suitable reading for middle school aged children then my books which will have plenty of violence but no one historically dying should be fine. I also found through reading the series that in the one area I've been holding back - the violence - going on in Boston in those days leading up to the Boston Tea Party I won't have to hold back at all.

And I was worried about the Pope Night scene being too graphic.