On the second last day of Freedom to Read Week, I am actually reading a book that was banned at one point. Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami. When this book was first published, it was widely criticized as being violent and exploitative, as well as presenting an “improper” story about young teens.
The story? Teens forced by the government to participate in war games, where the winner is the last survivor. Sound a lot like Hunger Games? Very similar plot lines.
It was extremely popular nonetheless (there’s no such thing as bad publicity), and was made into a graphic novel serial, as well as a film. The film was never released in North America, because they thought audiences would be repulsed by the premise. Obviously, not the same people who decided to create the Hunger Games franchise.
Yesterday’s smut is today’s zeitgeist, apparently.
I’m enjoying the book – it’s darker than the Hunger Games, and delves more into the moral decisions and instincts of all the players, not just the main characters. Granted, there are a lot of characters to keep track of at first, but it doesn’t take long for them to start being killed off. I also found the differences in a book written from the perspective of Japanese teen culture interesting – I almost feel that I need to read it again now that I’m used to the slightly different references and relationships, which at first I had some difficulty with.
Also, there are no pulled punches here, and don’t expect a lot of happy endings. I recommend it highly, but make sure you’re in the mood for something very very dark. I haven’t managed to track down a copy of the movie yet, but I hear it’s worth watching.
If you get a chance, grab a copy of this, or any other book that’s been banned or censored. I believe in the right to make my own choices about what I read, and what my kids read. I don’t want anyone else to do it for me.