NEW CASTLE —
If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?
I know I'm probably going to catch a lot of flack for my response on this one, but my answer would be "The Hunger Games" trilogy. It's not just because I really, really loved the books, which I did. But I think the story has a powerful message to deliver, too.
Our children have grown up in a utopian world. Again, you might want to argue with me about this point, but let's face it: for all intents and purposes, our kids have it made. They have their own computers, their own cell phones, their choice of the finest and best brand-name clothing, and it doesn't matter in their world that gas is almost $4 a gallon — mom and dad find a way to get them where they're going no matter the cost.
And I'm not talking about spoiled, over-priviledged kids from affluent families, either. I'm talking about your kids. And my kids. And with very little exception, every other kid our kids know.
It's not a bad thing to want the best for our children. It's only natural that we try to protect them from the harsh realities that we face as adults every day. It's a tough world, and we want them to be kids.
But you have to admit, it's a little scary that most of them are more prepared to survive a zombie apocalypse than an economic collapse.
For those of you who haven't read the entire "Hunger Games" trilogy, or who have only seen the movie, this story is about far more than a futuristic reality show gone bad. It's the tale of a society (very much like our own) that has succumbed to an out-of-control government (very much like our own) and where class lines are so distinct that the poor live in oppression, poverty, and violence, while the rich gorge themselves with extravagant over-indulgences. (Sound even a little bit familiar?)
Author Suzanne Collins doesn't even pull any punches with the setting and plot. The nation known as Panem is the former United States. The spoiled citizens known as "The Capitol" are garish reproductions of our own celebutantes and corrupt elected officials. And our heroine, Katniss, struggles to survive while taking care of a mentally ill mother and a little sister with limited resources and rations of food.
It wouldn't do our kids any harm to realize this type of dystopia is one civil war away from becoming a reality.
Of course, we all hope that this type of speculation is ridiculous. But just 12 short years ago, we could hardly imagine the bombing of the World Trade Center, or the war in Afghanistan, or the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
"The Hunger Games" gives our children the chance to ask themselves some hard questions about priorities, about their government, and most of all, about their own character. Never in history have our children needed the lessons taught in this trilogy more than they do now.
This is a book that should be a required part of every high school English curriculum in America. Of course, it probably never will be, because of the violent content that we need to protect our children from.
“But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.” — Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay