Hunger Games Reflections



            Walk into any local Hot Topic, or look at the cover of any magazine, and you’ll be sure to see something about The Hunger Games. A brilliant novel, now made into a film, which came out on March 23rd. It’s everywhere.In general, fans are usually ecstatic  when their favorite book becomes a film adaptation: we’ve seen it in the Harry Potter series, Narnia, and The Lightning Thief. The  Hunger Games is no exception.  The Hunger Games follows the story of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who takes the place of her sister in the title’s competition. The Games are like a cross between the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and a reality TV show. Oh, and the 24 contestants- all teenagers- must fight to the death. And only one can win. Pretty heavy stuff for a young adult novel, but exciting nevertheless.

“I’m so excited. It’s going to be amazing,”  Eva Gnegy, a 14-year old Trinity Middle School student, exclaims about the movie. I’m a big fan too, and I must say that if it’s anything like the book, it will, in fact, be amazing. It’s one of those books that you are instantly hooked on from the first page. As cliché as it may sound, you just can’t put it down. You feel like you know the characters, a feat few authors can accomplish.

            When films come out that are based on a book, especially one that you love so much, some feel a little wary about it; whether or not the actors will do the characters justice, if the story line will be accurate, and so on. I know I’m definitely going to be disappointed if the movie is not comparable to the book. “Oh my gosh, yes, if they don’t get it right, I’m going to be so mad. But I’m one of those fans who’s like ‘No! Her braid is supposed to go straight down her back, not to the side!” says Delaney Elling, also 14 from Trinity. Gnegy nods in agreement. Many fans will be waiting to see whether or not their beloved book has made a “good enough” movie. In the film adaptation, Peeta and Gale will be played by heartthrobs Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, something that leaves female fans squealing in excitement.

             In the book, a love triangle is formed among the three main characters, leaving fans with a question: Team Peeta or Team Gale? “Team undecided!”  Elling, replies when I ask which leading guy she chooses. “Team Peeta, obviously,” replies Gnegy. Personally, I’m Team Peeta all the way. The love triangle formed in the novel, along with the male actors, often draws comparisons to a certain series about vampires and werewolfs: But don’t mention it to the die-hard fans. “I hate that. It’s nothing like Twilight. Twilight is garbage. The Hunger Games are so much better. Any book I try to read now just doesn’t measure up,” Gnegy states. I agree with her, the story lines and plot are completely different than Twilight. Don’t compare them.

            So far, the movie has received great reviews. Critics are raving about the performances of all the actors, the screenplay. Lines at the midnight showings were apparently out the door. I’m excited to see what the movie is like. So are fans everywhere.

            If you haven’t read the book yet, I highly suggest you do, before or after you see the film. It’s definitely a good read to say the least. As for the movie, this weekend, I’ll be one of the many fans going to see it. Whether it’s an outstanding one has yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, though; the fans of The Hunger Games are right to be in love with the book, and the commotion caused by the novel and movie are definitely far from being over.

Posted by Emily Palefsky in Teens and Youth
Life is the Answer

As a young nurse I worked on the pediatric/adolescent unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Death then was common; cancer treatment has advanced a great deal since the Seventies. The experience taught me valuable life lessons: that I am mortal, that life is precious and must be treasured and lived well, and that young people are resilient and amazing. In time I worked as a hospice nurse and began to understand death as a part of life. My faith provides me with the strength to embrace all of life, including death. But death by suicide - especially the death by suicide of young people - is tragic to me. I know I will always react with a broken heart when I hear of a young life lost.


I'd like to share an online response to recent suicides. Noted writer and media pundit Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better Project in September 2010 as a unique way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT Youth that — it gets better ( I quote from the website: 


"Justin Aeberg. Billy Lucas. Cody Barker. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Raymond Chase. Tyler Clementi. All the names of American teenagers who in recent months have taken their own lives after being bullied in school.


For too long, LGBT youth have been forced to struggle through their formative years suffering from bullies in their schools, churches and homes — and with no support system to provide them any help. is a place where young people who are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans can see with their own eyes how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. It’s a place where LGBT adults can share the stories of their lives, and straight allies can add their names in solidarity and help spread our message of hope."


I'd also like to recommend a new music video by Season Nine American Idol  contestant Todrick Hall ( Hall wrote the song to support the It Gets Better project; the video and lyrics are moving and on target. "I heard about all of the recent suicides, and I knew that I had to do something," Hall told BlackVoices. "God put this song on my heart, and I put it down on paper."


If you know a young person who is being bullied for any reason, show your love and support him or her. Model acceptance. Remind teens by your words and your actions that they are not alone. Our Real Talk Performers are working on a play about bullying called "Labels". The final lines, performed eloquently by our lead actor James MacKinney, state: The most important things are simple. We're all different. We can rise above the labels assigned to us. We're not alone. We can learn and grow stronger. We're alive and is the right choice!


Posted by Mary Jo in Real Life
Faith, Food and Family

Sunday morning. It's fitting that I start this blog on a Sunday morning. I grew up in an Italian-American household where Sunday was the most important day of the week; a day of rest, worship, family, food, contemplation, and renewal. As a nurse I've worked more Sundays than I can count but I always tried to retain a sense of sacred on that day.


My childhood Sundays revolved around church and food. My mother was awake at 6 AM making tomato sauce (in our family we called it 'gravy' like they did on the Sopranos). Church was at 10:30, "dinner" was at noon. Not 12:01 or 12:05, but 12:00 on the dot! My papa was an immigrant; he moved from his native Italy as a 14 year old and never looked back. He always said he'd return to Naples when they built a bridge! My mother was one of 11 children born to immigrant parents; her first three siblings were born in Italy. I was raised a patriotic, proud American with rich Italian traditions that I've passed on to my children.


My parents only spoke Italian when they didn't want me to understand what they were saying (consequently my knowledge of Italian is a little weird). The constants in my life were faith, family and food - each equally important every day.  We prayed, we supported one another, and we cooked. The cooking part was not only tasty and fulfilling, it was also fun. I was always part of preparing the meal. I learned to knead fresh bread as a preschooler (although my piece of dough was always a tad dirty my mom baked it). My father's garden was larger than our small house and he taught me how to select fresh basil, the ripest tomatoes, and the best lettuce when I was so small I came only to his knee. Picture Tony Soprano - my papa was a big man, although incredibly gentle. My fondest memories of him are in his garden. He knew how to coax huge tomatoes from tiny seeds he brought from Italy. He could graft sweet cherries on a sour cherry tree. He nurtured -  his garden, his family, his church community, and me.


I share a tiny window into my own heritage this morning because culture is on my mind. Our Adolescent Advisory Board has its first meeting this Tuesday, October 12th; our focus this year will be bullying. I want to explore culture and diversity with these fine young people in the hope that knowing about others will help avoid the hate that is the root of bullying.


I believe that every encounter with an adolescent is a cross-cultural experience. By that I mean that walking into teen culture is no different than traveling to another country. How do we learn about other cultures? By listening with respect to someone from that culture. I don't like charts that describe the traits of people in different cultures; such efforts, though well-intentioned, typically draw on stereotypes and generalizations. My papa taught me that we need to bring everyone to the table to eat. We don't learn about people while watching them from the other side of the room...if we break bread together we begin to share lives. I believe in bringing all people to the table; hence our over ten year old Adolescent Advisory Board. If I want to learn about the needs of young people I need to listen to teens. I don't believe in a committee of people gathering together to ascertain the needs of others. If the goal is solving a community's problems you need to listen to people from that community with respect - make them part of the solution, put the leaders in that community in charge.


We're all in this together. Have a blessed Sunday.

Posted by Mary Jo in Real Life