It’s amazing to see my teenage children immerse themselves in the popular culture of today. Having a ‘pigeon pair’ means that Hubby and I have been surrounded with the dystopian frenzy of The Hunger Games and the engineering feats of Minecraft. I look at my nearly 16 year old daughter and try to reconcile the person I know she is and the types of books she has read. When I was a teen, if I read at all, it was romance, romance and more romance!
Of course we went through the ‘fairies and magical creatures’ books, but after Rowan of Rin, my eleven year old girl needed something more meaty. I’m not sure who suggested the Hunger Games to Rae, but before I knew it she was devouring the books. I couldn’t understand the fascination of the content. Fighting and killing were definitely not my cup of tea. As her love of the books increased to borderline obsession, I urged Hubby to read them, so at least one of us knew what our daughter was reading. Rae wanted everything ‘Hunger Games’; posters, wallet, earrings, necklace, bags, badges, calendars. She even has a mug with an image of Katniss shooting her bow and arrow which when filled with hot water, bursts into flames. Although we supported and even enabled this collection of paraphernalia, I had this nagging voice in my head ‘garbage in garbage out’. Surely the violence of such books would affect my young, impressionable girl. This notion was also fuelled by media reports on teenagers in America committing violent crimes.
Megan Creasy shared my concerns in her 2013 article, where her 13 year old daughter got ‘hooked’ on the trilogy. She considers the theory that children read this type of material to cope with feelings and understand violence in the world. However, Megan’s true understanding of the pull with this particular trilogy is not realised until she herself read the books. As a parent, when I read the Hunger Games, I found myself searching for the key to what made this book so special for my daughter. Was it the heroine that will inspire the next generation or the political empowerment or the prophetic statement of the world heading down the highway of destruction. The truth of the matter is that I actually forgot about all the possible reasons and found that, like my daughter, I was drawn into a well-told story. These books were not glorifying violence, but rather they bring together many aspects of society that teenagers can relate to. In fact, violence in young adult’s popular fiction is nothing new. I actually feel rather foolish thinking that the violence in these books could adversely affect my daughter. Based on this logic, anyone reading the Old Testament Bible could be motivated to perform acts of violence against another human being. Regardless of my views about the material my daughter is reading, the wonderful thing that I have discovered through reading young adult’s popular fiction is the fascinating conversations which have been ignited through a shared experience. This is more than enough motivation, however I also see the benefits of reading YA fiction as my role as a teacher and the ‘cherry on top’ is that I usually enjoy the read.