Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 6, 2012

Required reading changes relationships

By JAKE KLEIN
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Dear Ms. Suzanne Collins,

First off, I am an avid reader. It is unusual that a book like "The Hunger Games" slipped under my radar for so long; I only had the opportunity to read it in my Science Fiction class as a required book.

Once I left "The Hunger Games" behind, I blazed through "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" — all in less than a week! Not only were these books enjoyable, they opened my eyes to a problem.

The problem I am referring to is how I treat my siblings. I am not very nice to them at all, calling them offensive names and making fun of them with every opportunity I have.

In addition, there is a significant amount of violence between my siblings and me.

Throughout the book there is evidence of a strong, unbreakable bond between Katniss and Prim. When I read the part where Katniss volunteers herself for Prim in the reaping, I had a sudden epiphany. The way I had treated my siblings was very wrong on all accounts.

At first, I felt a great shame at this realization; I thought I was the worst brother in the world. Then a more powerful feeling overcame me, the feeling of remorse. I had realized I had done a great wrong to my family, including my mom. Instigating fights between all of us is a surefire way to get her in a bad mood. I understand now why she is yelling all the time. It is because of me.

I think of all the times I called my little brother weird or a loser, all the times I called my sisters mean names or all the times when I ruthlessly tickled someone to death or put them in a headlock. There was a great deal of grief caused by me, so I intended to fix it by taking after Katniss' example.

Now, after apologizing to all of my siblings personally, we have a better relationship. I help everyone with their homework, encourage everyone to eat their dinner, and go to their sporting events.

Mary Kate, who is the second oldest, talks to me now — after a prolonged period of silence between us. We have jokes and we are good friends.

The third oldest, Mary Clare, constantly needs motivation to finish her homework or study for a test. She is just growing up, so I try to help her along the way.

Joe, the second youngest, looks up to me as a role model. I set a good example for him and encourage him to do his best at everything he does. He comes to me for advice, and I offer what somewhat limited advice I have. Instead of playing Xbox, I make him do his homework and then play a less violent game or read.

Finally, there is Mary Frances, otherwise known as Frannie. She is the youngest, the baby and the most spoiled kid in the family. It is pretty hard to tolerate her sometimes! Even though she is spoiled and gets her way, she is perhaps my favorite. We have our tickle fights where I always win, of course; however, what I truly enjoy is attempting to teach her how to ski

So there you have it. I am a brand-new brother — one that is supportive, caring and does not treat his siblings like dirt. I love my siblings, each and every one of them. Now they respect me and see me as a role model, so I will have to continue to set a good example.

Even though I would gladly volunteer my life for my siblings like Katniss, I hope that it will never have to happen.

Thank you, Ms. Suzanne Collins, for writing the book to give me this valuable insight. I hope others around the world in the same situation can have the opportunity to read "The Hunger Games" to be able to change their attitude toward their siblings also.

Jake Klein is a sophomore at Elk Rapids High School. He said he's on "Team Peeta."