'Mockingjay': Is It YA That Makes You Stupider or Smarter?

mockingjay etc.

I would not ever have been caught dead with a copy of Harry Potter in public. When I’d see my fellow adults, some of whom may have been kidults actually, toting those books around, I’d feel a very real horror. I think it is embarrassing for them! And so I didn’t ever even read it. It wasn’t just the squeamishness about the popular and mass market, even though I’m a little bit of a snob, sure-it’s really just a fear of being someone who reads books that don’t require advanced reading skills. Even in a world where there’s lists like The Best YA for Adults 2009, and where “His Dark Materials” was basically considered grown-up dinner party conversation, I still think a certain amount of shame about being an adult who reads things meant for 12-year-olds is appropriate. So I was a little skeeved out by myself at midnight, while I was reloading Amazon.com, waiting for Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay to be released.

The book, if you don’t know it, is the finale of a YA scifi-ish [N.B. technically “dystopian future”] trilogy, called “Hunger Games,” which stars a teen woman who lives in a terrible time in which everyone’s a slave and young people are forced to star in reality TV shows where they battle each other to the death. This latest and final book has a first printing of 1.2 million copies.

Unlike another YA scifi series that stars a strong young woman character, the Books of Ember series, this trilogy is kept linear and short enough-it’s all narrative, no backtracking-and from the beginning, the point of the books is clear: that the heroine is supposed to basically smash the state and liberate the people and so on.

This is also way more interesting than Harry Potter’s tiresome obsession with avenging his parents or whatever! I mean, that’s the kind of value system I want to inculcate in the young!

But similarly, the “Hunger Games” series is also very clean in that soothing YA way. Everything is clear-including our heroine’s romantic choices (there are two boys! Et cetera!)-and all is spelled out in fairly big block letters.

Is it making me stupider? Maybe! But only for a couple of hours. I mean, this kind of book goes down fast.

Though I can’t tell you for sure yet. It turns out that Amazon is a west coast company at heart. And their idea of a “midnight” release is what people over here on the real coast of America call “3 a.m.”? Only the kids can stay up that late to get their books. (Also? Check it out! Young people, staying up late at night for books again!) But from the first page, all I had time to scarf down over breakfast, I would say that the book is like totally awesome, you know?