Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teen Drama: Hunger Games and Witch & Wizard

By now, if you haven't read the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, you have at least seen them, read reviews, and heard pro-and-con discussions, so I'm not going to write a book by book review.

We were introduced to the series last summer when Amanda enrolled at Kansas State University.  A new program, Kansas State Book Network (KSBN), distributed a free copy of book one to each incoming freshman.  The general idea was to give "K-State faculty, staff and students...something intellectual to discuss with the incoming freshmen".  The press release (link above) also said that "several K-State instructors are already planning to incorporate the book within their curriculum... Along with campus discussion and visiting speakers, a campuswide multiplayer game will be offered in the fall revolving around "The Hunger Games."

Amanda hasn't been a big reader since the days when she would select a Dr. Seuss and wordlessly back up to your lap, waiting to be picked up and read to. The only book she's ever raved about was Mr. Popper's Penguins in 3rd grade.  But she decided to give Hunger Games a try so she wouldn't be out of the loop - and she loved it.  I actually found her in her room - READING - no tv, no computer, no texting.  Well, a mom can dream - there may have been texting - but there was definitely reading.  After completeing the first book she requested volumes two and three!! 

Dave and I took that as the highest praise and decided to read along.  In case you've been living under a rock, here's the general premise of the series:  In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. (from publisher synopsis)  Most definitely NOT my usual genre!  But we were so intrigued, that we read all three together.

I understand why the story appeals to the high school/college demographic - teens rebelling against adults that force them into the ultimate TV reality show.  Oh, the drama!  But the Panem government also has shades of Communism that strike a chord with anyone who lived through the Cold War.  Much like the Harry Potter books, even though this series is marketed as Young Adult, it appeals to a broad audience.

Fast forward to October.  James Patterson, ever the clever marketing exec, got in on the hoopla with the first of the Witch & Wizard series, a Hunger Games knock-off aimed more at the Jr. High crowd.  Dave and I both needed a "teen book" to complete our Library Bingo cards, so we shared this one on a recent car trip. 

The similarities to Hunger Games are obvious, with a sprinkling of Harry Potter stirred in, but it's still an engaging tale that brought us back for volume two - The Gift - which came out in December, and we'll probably read at least one more to see how the story develops.

We recommend Hunger Games for all adults - both for entertainment and for the cautionary tale.  We recommend Witch & Wizard for the younger set, or for parents/grandparents who want to "have something intellectual to discuss" with the kids.


  1. Well that is very exciting! Further proof that there is a reader inside all of us - and why no one should ever make light of a genre. Romance, graphic novels, YA, thrillers - they all get a bad rap from one set or another for being too fluffy, easy or drivel. But there is quality across all genres and matching a reader to something that can swallow their focus completely - especially in this day and age - is a victory. I hope your daughter approaches more books with excitement now because of this series. One I haven't read yet but am glad to know how many new readers it has created.

  2. What an interesting thing! I'm all for any books that gets reluctant readers to read ... and I could see The Hunger Games being that book for young adults.

    I'm NOT a big James Patterson fan so I have to say BOO to him and his series.

  3. I'm glad to hear that this series spoke to something inside your daughter and got her to willingly read again. Good for K-State.