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'The Hunger Games' and One Mother's Frazzled Nerves

If you are a parent, then reading books about starving, near-death or homicidal teenagers will mess you up. Reading five of these books in a row willmess you up.
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Before I launched into reading Suzanne Collins' ubiquitous "Hunger Games" trilogy, I asked my mom friends, "As a parent, will these books scar me for life? Will I have a nervous breakdown from reading them? Will I become paranoid?"

Their answer, in a nutshell: "No. Just read them and shut up about it."

So I read them. And because I'm the type of person who enjoys a little company with my misery, I forced my own mother and several of my friends to read them as well. Now, I'm not one for exaggeration, but we all agreed: These books will burrow into your soul, jackhammer your heart and take over your entire life.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law's boyfriend, the Professor, mentioned that the books sounded a lot like a movie he saw called "Battle Royale," based on the book of the same name. As it happens, my cousin Slim had a copy of "Battle Royale" (the book, that is -- I never see the movie before reading the book), so we swapped over Thanksgiving while I was in Miami. Family rumor has it that his wife, Mrs. Slim, read the trilogy in a matter of hours. Because it takes over your entire life.

Meanwhile, I had a whole pile of to-be-read's at home, including "Life of Pi," which my husband's been nagging me to read for about 50 years now. So I read it. And then I picked up "Battle Royale," and am now more than halfway through the book's 600-plus pages. Here's what I've learned from all of this: If you are a parent, then reading books about starving, near-death or homicidal teenagers will mess you up. Reading five of these books in a row will really mess you up.

"The Hunger Games" trilogy and "Battle Royale" follow essentially the same idea: teenagers forced into an arena to fight each other to the death until there is only one person left. "Life of Pi," for you four who still haven't read it, is about a 16-year-old boy stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With a tiger on the lifeboat. The tiger's name is Richard Parker.

You can see how reading all of these books in a row might start to make one a little paranoid. I told my husband that before our son, the Juban Princeling, turns 12 years old, I'll need him to learn the following potentially life-saving skills, just in case he's ever chosen by a random lottery system to participate in a yearly death match for the viewing pleasure of a few rich elite, stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger, or sent to an island to fight his eighth grade classmates to the death:

  • Basic archery skills

  • Basic camouflage skills
  • The difference between edible and poisonous plants
  • How to distill fresh water from salt water
  • How to fish without a rod or net
  • How to kill and butcher a sea turtle
  • How to set basic forest and jungle traps
  • How to throw a knife
  • Basic tiger-taming skills
  • How to shoot a variety of guns
  • How to disarm a bomb, especially one that's embedded in a metal collar around your neck
  • Do they just teach these things in public schools nowadays, or do I need to hire an expert?