My book club is reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which is ostensibly for older kids and is hugely popular.
I raced through the audio version and was more than a little obsessed by it and I was a little concerned about that obsession. You see, I could have written a very similar version of this book and fortunately for my own mental health, I did not write any such thing. I had two very different responses to this book and at first I was thinking it was ambivalence and now I realize it was the reaction I would have had as the rather brooding, morbid child I was and the relatively happy adult I am now.
The book is a deliberately distressing topic that involves children being forced to fight and kill each other like gladiators where the last one alive is the winner.
As an adult, I liked the book as long as I was able to forget that many of these characters are children (the main characters are older which felt ok), but the second that it became clear that there were also children under the age of 16 involved, I most definitely did not like it at all. The character development and imagery are excellent, and the plot twists were generally ok, but I mentally kept pulling out and rewriting it because I've had a lot of practice mentally creating these scenarios and it's why I had to sort of hold my experience of the book at a mental arm's length. The feeling I was getting was that of what I imagine a junkie's is. Not wanting to go back for too long to the mental place that I was at as a kid.
As a pre-teenager I was having crushes on girls and the occasional boy, (but mostly girls) and I had no context for understanding those powerful feelings at all. All I knew is that I really, really liked whoever I was crushed out about and I wanted to spend time with them and I wanted to tell her how I felt even if I didn't know what I was feeling (I didn't come out until I was 20, so I really was at sea here.)
So what a better situation to tell someone you care about them than a life and death (mostly death) situation where one of you isn't going to live anyway? At nigh as I was going to sleep, I would mentally spin scenarios where I and another girl or even several friends were in a prison or concentration camp and were being systematically tortured and killed, with all the adjunct death scene conversations. Yes, I was a really dark kid, and am lucky to come out of it only with a tendency to get depressed (I think I got addicted to the feeling of your Serotonin level lowering when you get bad news that slowly sinks in - It feels really good for a very brief moment just before things really get awful)
When I understood the scenario of The Hunger Games, I mentally started to shake a little, in more ways than one. The kid who wanted to experience that all over again, and the adult who most definitely did not. Listening to the book was actually very easy and really difficult for me.
The other thing was that kidlet was really really opinionated about the plot and what should happen next. "Well if I were writing it, then this should happen. or this, or this, or maybe this." It was actually pretty exhausing, though I as a adult, who knows how to write, was happy to help briefly before calling time on the whole mental exercise.
My reason for holding it at bay is not wanting to go back to that dark place again. I fear getting stuck there, even though I don't think I would.
And then of course there's the envy/jealousy factor. Susanne Collins had the mental fortitude to turn this all into a book series. I didn't. Part of me knows that I certainly could have done it, but the price was and is much too high for me.
Though this does bring up. Why do we write such things for children? Is it because that's what they want to read? I certainly would of read it as a kid, but I certainly would have been (actually am) a die-hard Harry Potter fan and there's a very marked difference between the incredible intensity of the Potter series and the distressing premise of The Hunger Games. Harry Herminone, and Ron are forced to fight evil, but they are not exactly forced to outright kill other kids. Think how different things would be if Hogwart's was in a bloody war with Slytherin? Feels completely at odds doesn't it?
Anyway, The Hunger Games movie may become a reality in 2013 or so (Lionsgate owns the rights as of this writing). Some rather interesting trailer-like items are on You Tube right now but I don't know what they have to do with anything.
There are other books in the series and I don't know if I'm going to continue or not.