‘Hunger Games:’ Darkness starts early

As I was complaining once again about the “Twilight” saga the other day, a pop-culture-savvy friend suggested I read Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy. So when I ran across the first installment in a store, I picked it up. Now I can’t put it down. It’s a brilliant, impeccably-paced book about a dystopian nation that rose from the ruins of North America, and it’s also a biting commentary on our culture of reality TV. (In essence it imagines what would happen if  “American Idol” were a death match instead of a singing competition.)

When I like something this much, I tend to get obsessed, which is why I’ve also been Googling reviews and Collins herself. One thing I learned: She’s in her late 40s. It always makes me happy when someone who’s been slogging away finds hard-won, mid-career success. Even more intriguing: She used to write for “Little Bear,” one of the preschool shows that’s on Jesse and Ava’s frequent-viewing list. At first, it seemed incongruous. How could someone so steeped in the gentle preschool world create something so gut-wrenchingly dark?  But when I think about it, “Little Bear” isn’t as cloyingly sweet as some of its competition. Out of the corner of my eye, I’ve seen goblins and funerals for dolls and bears who briefly take the shape of monsters. I’m going to have to watch more closely.

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