What makes violence acceptable in books for young readers?
Suzanne Collins' “Hunger Games” has recently been the focus of articles on violence in children's books. The book is about a young girl selected to compete in a reality show. The winner gets to live. As in the most frightening dystopias, the story is set in the near future, in North America. The population has been decimated. The few who remain scrounge for food, and once a year the authorities select 24 young people, two from each of the twelve districts, to fight each other to the death. The novel is highly readable. For those who feel books should let children be children, I would say, Yes, but.
It is patronising to imagine that children cannot face violence on the page when we know what they face in life. Childhood is not idyllic for all children. Some are abducted, or sold by their parents to work on tobacco farms and in factories, fight in armies, and worse. Collins brilliantly ties it all to today's television reality shows, where respectable adults visit psychological and emotional violence on children while everyone applauds, and a classic is born.
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