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Welcome, Better Mom readers! Glad you’re joining me today. A great place to start is with my 29 Days to Great Sex. Or you can browse 17 ways to keep your physical life exciting, even with kids! Or you can just read my column below.

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. And–gasp!–sometimes I actually write about stuff other than sex. I know lately I’ve been preoccupied with The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, but here’s this week’s column for something different:

Recently I broke one of my cardinal rules. I read novels in the middle of the week.

I created that rule when my children were small. After trips to the library to cart home truckloads of Berenstain Bears books, I’d sometimes stick a book in there for me. But I have a sickness. When I start reading a novel, I can’t put it down until I’ve finished it. Unfortunately, that means ignoring my children and telling them to get their own cereal for lunch. After several episodes of this, I decided I could really only be trusted with novels on vacation.

However, as anyone with teenagers knows, on March 23 The Hunger Games is opening in theatres. And before my kids see the movie (they bought tickets over a week ago), I thought I should read the books.

I hesitated because the plot sounds so horrific. A tyrannical society is run by the “Capitol”, a version of ancient Rome where the citizens enjoy massive leisure while the slaves do all the work. And in order to keep the slaves in line, each of the twelve slave districts has to produce two teenagers to compete in the annual “Hunger Games”, a gladiatorial like fight to the death contest.

It sounded so brutal I thought there was no way I could enjoy it. But my children, who are far more squeamish than I am, kept saying, “it’s not as gross as you think.” And so I read them. And they were right.

It is not that the books are not disturbing; they are. And after I see the movie, I’m sure Rue’s 4-note song will haunt me. But these books give a realistic depiction of the inner conflicts warring within each of us.

That’s why I think these are more profoundly true than other teenage books-turned-movies. Harry Potter is classic good vs. evil, but while it’s entertaining, I don’t find it as deep. And I have always been uncomfortable with the Twilight series, because it portrays love as obsessive and secretive. A girl who uses Twilight as her measure for what true love is will either be profoundly disappointed, or will end up in a bad relationship and hang on, thinking, “the fact that no one understands our love is proof of how real it is.” That’s dangerous.

The Hunger Games, on the other hand, present complex human dilemmas. Katniss, the main character, has to rely on herself because she’s been betrayed by adults–not just the evil adults who run the government, but even her mother who gave in to depression, leaving Katniss responsible for the family. What do you do when you’re in a hopeless situation? How do you keep going and not give in to despair? For many teens, let down by parents or stuck in impossible situations simply because of their age, these are questions they wrestle with.

The third book, though, was actually my favourite because it seemed ripped right from the front pages of the newspapers. When the rebels start to fight The Capitol, you slowly realize that the rebels are tyrannical, too, just in a different way. It’s like the poor Poles during World War II: who do you root for—the Soviets or the Nazis? Or what about Egypt? Who should we have rooted for? The military dictator or the Muslim Brotherhood? As Shakespeare said, “A plague on both your houses”.

Sometimes the solution to our problems can’t come from government, and it can’t come from waiting for someone else to save the day. You have to war within yourself to figure out what is right, and live up to your morals, even when the tide is turning against you.

Of course, one can see the movie and read the book just for the riproaring fun of it. Nic, one of my daughter’s 14-year-old friends, complained, in the middle of the first book, “Enough with all the kissing. Get back to killing people.” That’s a perfectly legitimate sentiment. But to me, the series accurately depicted the heart issues of life. And it’s a rare author who achieves that.

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