Tag Archives: young adult

The Hunger Games

After this movie, I left the theatre and went to a bar a block away and sat down just as Louisville and Kentucky tipped off in game 1 of the Final Four. It was as if the movie never stopped.

If you’ve been living in a cave without electricity, you may not know the plot of The Hunger Games. Here it is: To atone for their rebellion, each year twelve downtrodden districts send two kids (boy and girl) to play a death game in a stadium-like setting until only one kid survives. The state rigs it for maximum entertainment value, the elite watch and cheer because they think it’s glorious sport, and the kids do it for free because they have no choice or because they fantasize about the fame and fortune that only one kid can achieve.

If you’re still in that cave without electricity, you may not know the plot of the NCAA Tournament either. Here it is: To make money for big corporations and keep college costs low (jk), each year hundreds of educational institutions vie for the chance to send their basketball team to a huge tournament played in stadiums across the country until only one team is left. The not-for-profit NCAA and the TV networks commercialize it to maximize profits, people who can afford cable and have lots of leisure time watch and cheer because they think it’s glorious sport, and the kids do it for free because they have no choice or because they fantasize about fame and fortune attained only by a few.

So I rebelled. I watched the NCAA Tournament at PJ Clarkes, drinking Guinness and shoveling mini-cheeseburgers, chicken quesadillas, and warm cinnamon cookies with caramel sauce and ice cream down my throat. What I’m saying, silly, is that I rebelled against the depressing feelings brought on by The Hunger Games, not against the injustices done to college athletes.

After I got past the self-loathing, I had a constructive discussion about the movie with my wife. The conversation ranged from comparing it to Star Wars, to asking “What is happening to this world?,” to “hey man, The Road Runner had plenty of gratuitous violence.”

The movie prompts some good discussion.

It was enjoyable and it made me think, but I thought it was just an okay movie. It felt a little slow at times and the characters didn’t engage me for some reason. I didn’t read the books and I went in with very high expectations, the death knell for any movie for me. I did think the ending was cool and I liked the political undertones a lot.

I don’t know why Gail and I decided to see this. It’s basically the same genre as Harry Potter and the Twilight stuff, isn’t it? We had no compunction to see those whatsoever, yet The Hunger Games was on our screen from the get-go. Is it just a little more adult than those mentioned? Were we affected by the overt and subtle media push? Or is it just a better story? I’m going with the better story route.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to discussing it with my nieces.

Further reading:

Powerhouse Five

I mentioned this book a few months ago after reading a piece of teen fiction called The Hoopster. It was shortly after reading that book that I ordered this one from Abe Books (it’s out of print). This book has a lot of nostalgic value because it’s the first book of fiction I remember reading.

I said that it’s the first book I remember reading, not necessarily the first book I read. They could be the same, of course, I just don’t trust my memory. But suffice it to say, this book certainly had a big impact on my lifelong interest in reading. I’ve thought about it a lot during the last three decades of reading. And strangely, the name of one of the main characters, Studs Magruder, has been stuck in my skull forever. That’s about the only major detail I recalled from the book.

I didn’t remember any other characters, I didn’t remember much of the plot, and I didn’t remember any of the scenery. I just remembered that it was about an outsider hired to coach an industrial league basketball team. And upon finishing this second reading, NONE of it came flooding back.

I thought I would say, “Yeah, I remember that.” But I didn’t, which I’m taking as a sign of old age, and that’s okay.

The item I did remember, Studs Magruder, has been inaccurately recalled by me for the last three decades. I knew he was a villain, but I thought he was just a troublemaker on the same team. That was someone else, Studs was on an opposing team. He was the best player in the league on the best team – a dirty player who eventually gets his comeuppance on the last few pages.

And what an abrupt ending! It did not feel like a short story after I returned it to the Wilson Vance library (which I do remember, so it had to be 4th, 5th, or 6th grade that I read it). All in all, a great walk down memory name.

Fallen Angels

Myers writes mostly teen lit. This is a war story about a group of guys in Vietnam during a twelve month period in the late 60’s. It’s told from the first person perspective by a young soldier named Richie Perry. It’s a horrors-of-war story for the most part but with some hopefulness.

As far as teen lit goes, Myers doesn’t sugar coat much in this book. I think Myers wants to paint a realistic picture so there is plenty of swearing and a fair amount of graphic violence, including some intense scenes involving civilians. I don’t mention this to suggest that you shouldn’t let your teen read it, and I certainly can’t claim any knowledge of parenting, but I just thought you should know.

The violence is not depicted like action/adventure style violence. There is definitely no glorification of war in this book. I didn’t really expect that. I figured since it was teen lit that Myers would make it more of an adventure to hold the attention of young readers. But it’s more of a slog, which is probably the point.

I don’t read enough teen lit to know what to expect but I’m consuming more of it, so I’ll get there. When my nieces and nephews start hammering through books I want to be able to relate in some form.

The Hoopster

The earliest memory I have of a “chapter book” is one called Powerhouse Five. I think I may have read it in 5th or 6th grade. It feels like yesterday. In fact, I can picture the grade-school bookshelf with all of the basketball books. All I can recall about the book was that it had a basketball player named Studs Magruder. At least I think it did. Well, I’m going to find out because I just ordered it from Abe Books.

I was inspired to find this book from my childhood because of The Hoopster; a solid piece of teen fiction written by California’s 2003 Teacher of the Year. The Hoopster is about Andre, a basketball junkie and budding teenage writer with a summer internship at a local magazine. He gets a chance to get published if he can write an article about race with a fresh take. He does so and gets front page billing, but some thugs from the PPA (fictional organization, stands for People for a Pure America) don’t like it and beat him up.

The book has a few good lessons in race relations. Andre is black, his best friend is white, and his girlfriend is Latino, so Sitomer sets out to prove that we can all get along. Along the way he exposes some of the nastiness in race relations.

This is an excellent book for any teenager. It’s funny, has plenty of dialogue, includes a lot of interesting characters, and sends plenty of good messages along the way.

Deathwatch

I’m jamming through some serious fiction on this long weekend, so I was forced to reload in a book store in downtown Ventura, CA. It was a huge used book store called Bank of Books. Awesome. As I was wandering through the store I saw a book that brought back a flood of memories from my early reading days. It was this one, Deathwatch, by Robb White.

I read it so long ago that I didn’t have an ounce of recollection for even the major details. I think it might have been 5th or 6th grade when I read it. My memory was clear about one thing though; I loved it back then.

Today, even after the second reading, it did not disappoint. It’s a straightforward action thriller about a college-aged kid who’s trying to make enough money to pay for his next year in college. He does so by being a week-long, hired guide for a high-powered businessman who wants to kill a bighorn for his game room.

Well, the businessman, Madec, accidentally shoots an old prospector who he mistakes for a bighorn and tries to cover it up. Ben, the kid, won’t have anything to do with that so a disagreement ensues. So what does Madec do? He manufactures some evidence against Ben, strips him down, and sends him off into the dessert to die.

The rest is just vintage, somewhat brainless, action. Which goes down very easily for me next to the pool, but I understand that some aren’t ready for something this straightforward so I put the with reservations in. In a relative sense, I didn’t like this book today as much as I did back then. Back then, it was so different and so much more intense than what I was reading at the time. I was just a kid in awe and went on to read a few of his other books (Up Periscope was one that I definitely remember).

But, this book certainly stands the test of time. I wasn’t bored this time around at all. I think this book works well for adults or kids. All in all, a very cool experience for me personally.