I've tried and failed to persuade my daughter to read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. She did start but it was a bit slow for her. I suppose that bit at the beginning about the history of the Finch family is off-putting for some. She likes more action and particularly enjoyed the 'Divergent' series by Veronica Roth. It, like The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, is set in a dystopian future society and features a strong female character who takes on evil tyrants and corrupt leaders. There's always a love interest but this doesn't distract the heroine too much from her quest to conquer evil. Both books have spawned a series of films, hugely popular with teenage girls.
Last night, as a reward for surviving a week of back-to-back mock examinations, I took Kate to see the latest of these films based on The Hunger Games, Mockingjay; Part 2. Usually I avoid these films and she goes with friends but no one was around so I went along, expecting to fall asleep as I am prone to do on a Friday evening. I dozed a bit at first but then woke up mainly because it was an incredibly violent and frightening film. I had to cover my eyes in the part where Katniss Everdene (the 'mockingjay', a teenage girl who, like James Bond, seems to have an uncanny ability to survive every attempt to kill her) and her companions are attacked by zombie-like creatures in an underground tunnel. And this is certified 12A? I certainly wouldn't be happy taking a 12 year old to this. Sometimes I think they get these certificates wrong - the, Guardian review of the film also makes this point. I'm worried about showing Zefferelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' to my Year 10 group because it has a 15 certificate, presumably because at one point we see Romeo's bare bottom. This is hardly going to upset 14-15 year olds, but I bet some of the younger teenagers who watched Mockingjay Part 2 were traumatised by it: I certainly was!
There has been much discussion in the press about whether Katniss is a good role model for young women. In general, I think she is: she is independent, strong and has a clear sense of justice. She doubts herself but goes ahead with what she has to do anyway. But I felt the final scene of the film with Katniss cradling a baby while Peeta, the more sensitive of her two suitors, plays with a toddler in a sunlit meadow was a bit disappointing and ultimately unconvincing. Why wasn't she leading the new regime instead of the army commander who was chosen instead? And what happened to Gale, her other love interest?
Despite the violence, these are good books for teenage girls. Certainly better than the Virginia Andrews 'Flowers in the Attic' books they used to read when I started to teach. But I'd still be happier if they were reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.