Yes I know it's Easter. But that's how it works, apparently, for me to find time to write. Another beautiful Sunday afternoon to myself while the kids play outside and I try to fend off the nap I've wanted since drinking two glasses of wine at brunch.
I've been busy. Not just with work and carpool and laundry, either. A couple of weeks ago I discovered The Hunger Games Trilogy. I mean, I knew it was out there, I just hadn't had time to start it. I think part of me knew that I would need to clear time to read it all together, which is exacty what happened. But when the movie came out and Drew wanted to go see it, I figured I better read it first. I started on a Thursday evening, and finished Sunday morning at 2:30am. All three books.
So, I've been reading. And reading, and re-reading. I didn't think I loved it that much after I read it the first time through, in fact, I was kind of upset about it. But then I realized I was angry because it was over, not because I didn't like it. I keep re-reading it for one reason: I keep hoping to find more in the story. Because I don't really want that to be all there is to it. I keep hoping to find a sentence I missed, a nugget of detail that satisfies my need to know these characters more than I already do. It angered me, reading these books, mostly the second one, Catching Fire, because the ending left me so distraught for the characters that I couldn't fathom not finding out more, and so I began reading the third book at 10pm on a Saturday night and read it straight through until 2:30 in the morning. The dog was quite content to keep me company downstairs on the couch while I listened to my husband snore through the floorboards as background noise while I inhaled the story.
I haven't read like this for a while. Probably not since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I will admit to you that I sucked down the Twilight Series, all four books, over the course of a week, the last two over consecutive days of a weekend. But I didn't re-read them. I liked it, it was good fun, but I didn't feel the need to keep going back. I didn't want to prevent the story of Bella and Edward from being over. I could let them go - unlike Katniss and Peeta, people who felt such a part of my life I can't allow them to fall out of my immediate conciousness. This is what makes a great story, to me.
Last weekend I took Drew to see the movie. He read all three books before I did, and had been looking forward to it. He's just 11 and a half, true, and it's a pretty violent story. But I don't really worry about what he sees in the movies, especially if we are going with him and then can help him process what he sees, and even more so if he's read the story beforehand. We're talking about a child who read all seven Harry Potter books the summer between 3rd and 4th grade, one right after another. He's read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of The Ring, and all of Rick Riordan's Olympian's series. (If I could only get him to inhale food instead of pages with such fervor.)
It made me remember the novels and short stories I read as a child that left me with the same raw emotion that these books did. Black Stallion. The Color Purple. Flowers In The Attic. The Stand. Clan of The Cave Bear. Centennial. The Veldt. I was a precocious reader, you may be thinking.
The Veldt. Oh Ray Bradbury - how did you know children could be so evil? I knew - I had met them at school - they were in my class. But adults don't like to admit these things. Yet here he was, writing about it for all to see. Mesmerizing. Much like The Hunger Games.
Here's the thing. People keep saying kids younger than 12 shouldn't read it, or see the movie. That it's too violent, a story about children murdering each other. Do they not remember Lord of The Flies? The Veldt? Roald Dahl's The Swan? Or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, for that matter? Have these people even read the great young adult fiction of our history? Or have we bleached ourselves and our kids of such horrific violence so that they don't recognize it when they see it?
Children can be mean. Children can be murderous. No more and no less than adults. It shocks us when children in stories act this way, instead of the innocent. Violence isn't the moral lesson, humanity is. The point behind these stories is the humanity that lies between.
I was never more glad to read the news this week than to find the movie Bully was finally granted a PG-13 rating. We can't keep trying to protect our children from violence, they are already experiencing it, seeing it, reading it. We need to teach them how to interpret it, how to learn from it. And how to be above it.
* For the record, there is a huge difference to me between a violent story with a greater message of society and say, Fight Club. I think he can wait a few years to read that one.
**I feel the need to defend against some (ahem, husband..) who will give me a hard time because I don't like to let my kids play violent video games but I'm not worried about books and movies. It's the development of character caught up in violence that matters. There is not much character development in the video games my kids want, and there's certainly no moral. (At least not beyond good guy vs. bad guy. That's not enough, for me. )