I hate it when I read a book I wish I'd written.
I just finished THE HUNGER GAMES. I'm a little late to the party on this one, since the third in the trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, came out last month. But I've been a little busy, what with writing my own series and then writing and rewriting a YA of my own. Oh, and right: the day job and the kid and the house and the husband.
But back to THE HUNGER GAMES.
It's a pretty simple story, actually, and we all learned it in history class: The Romans threw the Christians into the arena with the lions to see who'd win. THE HUNGER GAMES twists it around a little and sets it in the future that looks remarkably like the past and throws 24 kids into the arena—although this one is a lush landscape with forests and ponds and lakes—and the last one standing is the winner. That's right. They have to kill each other to win.
It's GLADIATOR meets SURVIVOR. It even has alliances, which, of course, don't work here, either, because there can only be one winner.
One thing I've discovered with YA books is that they don't shy away from showing the reader violence and gore and the dark side of human nature. Once I started reading books like THE HUNGER GAMES and GONE and UNWIND, I wondered what my audience, the cozy mystery audience, would make of these books. I am constantly hearing about how writers can't kill off pets or favorite characters. YA books have no such restrictions. Characters are killed. Animals, too. No one is safe in a YA book.
And then I began to wonder about my daughter. She's 13, in eighth grade, and she is the audience for these books. What darkness is lurking in her head? But when I try to discuss these books with her, she is oddly not disturbed by any of it. They're stories that have been told. I can't blame it on the TV or movies she watches—we spend a lot of time watching Food Network and The Amazing Race, we usually rent Hitchcock or Marx Brothers movies on the weekends and we own five seasons of I Love Lucy and she watches them over and over. So I'm flummoxed.
The darkness aside, though, Suzanne Collins tells a good story. One that kept me turning the pages so quickly I read the book in two days (see earlier reference to how I don't have much time and this can be impressive). And one that made me wish, when I closed the book for the last time, that I had come up with this idea, that I had written it, because despite the darkness, a good story is a good story.
If you've read THE HUNGER GAMES, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And if you haven't, well, you should.