Monthly Archives: November 2013

May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

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As we conclude our month-long look at The Hunger Games trilogy, I wanted to share a few articles that I found interesting and helpful.

The Hunger Games: An Allegory of Christian Love by Julie Clawson.

The Definitive Christian Review of The Hunger Games by Dr. Wes Bredenhof.

The Hunger Games Hightlights Godless World, or Glorifies Violence? by Katherine Weber.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on The Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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Review of “Mockingjay”

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This week I am continuing to review Suzanne Collins’ futuristic novels, The Hunger Games trilogy.

*Please be warned: if you have not read Mockingjay, there are spoilers!*

“Almost nothing remains of District 12.”

Mockingjay begins with Katniss Everdeen  in the ruins of District 12, following her escape from the Quarter Quell.  Katniss now lives in District 13 with her mother and Prim, Gale, and the refugees who have made it to the safety of District 13’s underground lifestyle.

“What they want is for me to truly take on the role they designed for me. The symbol of the revolution. The Mockingjay.”

District 13’s President Coin and the other rebellion leaders desperately need Katniss to be their symbol, their Mockingjay.

A symbol of overcoming all odds. A symbol of something the Capitol never anticipated.

The Girl on Fire has sparked a revolution that threatens to destroy the Capitol and all it stands for.

“When the war is over, if we’ve won, Peeta will be pardoned.”

When Katniss’ comrade and fiancé, Peeta Mellark, appears on Capitol television with Ceaser Flickerman and calls for a cease-fire between the rebels and the Capitol forces, President Coin is outraged.

But Gale and Katniss know that Peeta is still doing everything in his limited power to protect Katniss, to keep her alive.

So when Katniss agrees to be the rebellion’s Mockingjay, she gives Coin stipulations: Prim keeps her beloved cat, Buttercup; she and Gale go hunting in the woods; full pardon and immunity for Enobaria, Johanna, and Peeta; and Katniss gets to kill President Snow.

“Because they took a slice of bread?”

Once she is the Mockingjay, Plutarch Heavensbee sets out to have her transformed into Cinna’s creation.

To do this, he needs Katniss’ prep team: Octavia, Flavius, and Venia. But when they set out to find them in District 13, they are found abused and shackled to the wall of their confinement cell, where they have suffered for weeks.

All because they took a slice of bread not granted by the strict government of District 13.

“I want everyone to think of one incident where Katniss Everdeen genuinely moved you. Not where Peeta was making you like her. I want to hear one moment where she made you feel something real.”

Katniss struggles to become the Mockingjay the rebellion desires. But she is floundering without Peeta by her side.

So Haymitch challenges everyone to evaluate why they need Katniss.

And what they realize is that they need her reality, her humanity, her fire.

“The impact of the blow that’s inseparable from Peeta’s cry of pain. And his blood as it splatters the tiles.”

Peeta once again risks his life to save Katniss, warning her and all the inhabitants of District 13 of the impending bombing.

Locked safely in an underground bunker, Katniss feels the strain of being the Mockingjay, as she is constantly watched by the refugees, and is forced to stay strong when she feels like she is falling apart.

“You know who else, Katniss. You know who stepped up first.”

In District 13, Katniss has continued to grow apart from Gale, as they have constant disagreements over the management of the rebellion.But when the decision is made to rescue Peeta from the Capitol, Gale volunteers, because he knows how much it means to Katniss.

And to the rebellion.

While the rescue mission is busy, so are Katniss and Finnick, as they divert the Capitol’s attention by airing videos that criticize President Snow and bolster support for the rebellion.

“My lips are just forming his name when his fingers lock around my throat.”

After the successful rescue mission, Katniss and Haymitch are excited to see Peeta, to have him with them, to have him safe. But when Peeta tries to strangle Katniss at their reunion, they know that something is wrong.

They soon discover that Peeta’s mind has been hijacked by the Capitol through torture and Tracker Jackers, causing him to be lost in a maze of terror, desperation, and confusion.

“Real or not real?”

Katniss and Gale are assigned to a squad to film promos for airing on Capitol television, and when President Coin sends Peeta along, hoping he will kill the Mockingjay, things take a turn for the worse.

As they begin to have real battles, Peeta begins to question which of his memories are real, and which are Capitol-induced propaganda.

The squad weaves their way underground, getting closer to the President’s mansion, and Katniss’ mind burns with one mission: killing Snow. 

When she reaches the City Circle, there is utter chaos as the rebels begin taking over. Huddled within a barricade outside of the mansion are children. Capitol children that are being used by Snow as a human shield.

As the rebels flood the Circle, a hovercraft releases silver parachutes, like those used in the Games, over the barricaded children. As they tear open the parachutes, they explode, littering the Circle with the bodies of children. Rebel medics rush to the wounded children, and Katniss recognizes Prim among them.

But it’s too late. The remaining parachutes begin to explode.

Will anyone make it out of the Rebellion alive?

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Some words of caution to parents: while I found Mockingjay to be just as wonderful and thought-provoking as The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, once again, I would not recommend the book be given to a young person under the age of thirteen, possibly older, depending on the maturity of the child.

There is a large amount of violence and death described in Mockingjay, though I certainly would not describe it as gratuitous.

Another aspect that parents should be aware of is that sex trafficking is discussed, however it is handled delicately and quickly.

“We learn to keep busy again.”

In Mockingjay, we see Katniss grow and develop in the midst of great suffering and sorrow. And while her decisions are not always wise, we see her strive to be a good leader, and a good friend. We even see her questioning her own motives, struggling to do what is right, to gain freedom, to protect those she loves.

While not a perfect book, I found Mockingjay to be a wonderful, thought-provoking book and believe that for a mature audience, it would be worth reading and discussing. I would give the book a “B+”.

Have you read  the book? If so, what are your thoughts?

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Review of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Movie

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As part of this month’s series on Suzanne Collins’ series, The Hunger Games, I wanted to share my review of the film based on the second book in the trilogy.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, opened this weekend, and is doing well in the box office, surpassing The Hunger Games in ticket sales.

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In Catching Fire, the story of Katniss Everdeen (reprised by Jennifer Lawrence) continues, as she struggles to find normality in life following The Hunger Games.  As Katniss and Peeta (reprised by Josh Hutcherson) prepare to leave for their Victory Tour throughout Panem, it becomes obvious that Katniss is struggling. Struggling to cope with the nightmares that follow the Games, struggling to figure out her feelings for Peeta and Gale (reprised by Liam Hemsworth), struggling to protect herself and those she loves from the oppressive hand of President Snow.

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Following the Victory Tour, the 75th Hunger Games are announced. But this year, the third Quarter Quell, holds something special: the reaping of tributes will be from among the pool of victors. Katniss is shattered, because she knows two things: the reaping of the male tribute will be between Haymitch and Peeta, and she, The Girl on Fire, is returning to the arena.

When Haymitch is selected, Peeta volunteers in his place, determined to return to the arena with Katniss to protect her. But Katniss knows the Capitol will never allow two victors. Will she make it out alive?  Will she be able to save Peeta? Will she be able to protect the ones she loves?

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While the film was not completely true to the book, and is of course a compressed version of the story, I have to say that I was pleased with the film. I felt like the film kept the heart of the story, and you couldn’t ask for better actors to bring the story to life.

A word of caution to parents: please take the PG-13 rating to heart. While the violence is handled well, and is certainly not gratuitous, it is nonetheless prevalent throughout the film, even before the Games, as rebels are flogged and shot. There is also more language in Catching Fire than in the original Hunger Games film.

One other aspect parents should be aware of is that while Katniss and Peeta sleep together to ward off her severe nightmares, nothing inappropriate occurs, but there is a scene in which a fellow victor-tribute undresses in an elevator with Haymitch, Katniss, and Peeta, however you only see her bare back and shoulders.

I found the film to be a wonderful adaptation and a very enjoyable film. If you would like to read Movieguide’s review of the film, you can do so here. If you would like to read my review of the book, you can do so here.

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Remember Who The Enemy Is

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Tomorrow Catching Fire will release to theaters. In case you haven’t seen the trailers yet, I am posting them below.

And if you have already seen them, you can always watch them again.

Don’t ask how many times I have watched them… I’ve lost count!

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Review of “Catching Fire”

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Last week I started a month long series that will be focusing on Suzanne Collins’ futuristic novels, The Hunger Games. This week I will be reviewing the second book in the trilogy, Catching Fire. 

*Please be warned: if you have not read Catching Fire, there are spoilers!*

“I hunt. He bakes. Haymitch drinks. We have our own ways to stay busy, to keep thoughts of our time as contestants in the Hunger Games at bay.”

Catching Fire picks up six months after The Hunger Games, just as the Victory Tour is about to begin. Katniss and Peeta now each have a house in the Victor’s Village, their only neighbor being Haymitch, their mentor and friend.

Katniss and Peeta now understand Haymitch’s alcoholism stem from the nightmares that follow The Hunger Games, and they each struggle to find something to fill their days, but most of all, to help them forget.

“Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have provided a spark that, left unattended, may grow to an inferno that destroys Panem.”

Ever since Katniss’ grand entrance into the opening ceremonies, she has been known across Panem as “the girl on fire”.

But it is not her costume that disturbs President Snow. It is the fact that she single-handedly outsmarted the Capitol, not only by saving the life of her friend, Peeta Mellark, but by refusing to simply be a pawn in their games.

“You’ll never, ever be able to do anything but live happily ever after with that boy.”

When President Snow threatens to hurt her family and friends if she doesn’t convince him that she is madly in love with Peeta, and quell the uprisings popping up throughout the nation, Katniss is desperate to pull it off and save those she cares about.

But it is only when she shares her troubles with Haymitch that the reality finally hits her: she has no choice about her future if she wants to save her family and friends.

Yet, she has distanced herself from Peeta until there is only a frosty relationship remaining. Is it even possible to pull it off?

“Isn’t it strange that I know you’d risk your life to save mine… but I don’t know what your favorite color is?”

As they begin the Victory Tour, Peeta and Katniss reconcile and agree to become friends. Not lovers for the cameras, not allies for survival, but finally, to just be simply friends.

They begin by discussing colors, hobbies, and nightmares, until they are interrupted by their arrival at the first stop: District Eleven.

“I hear Haymitch’s voice. “You could do a lot worse.” At this moment, it’s impossible to imagine how I could do any better.”

The ceremonies of the tour begin in District Eleven, and Katniss realizes just how unprepared she really is. How can she face Rue’s family? What words can she say that will ease their aching hearts?

But it is when Peeta gives an unexpected gift to the families of Thresh and Rue that she is stunned, and realizes that perhaps she could really love Peeta for himself, not just the cameras. And she is inspired by his courage to give her own thanks, to share her own sorrow.

But it only causes trouble. For her, for Peeta, and for District Eleven.

“I’m speechless, staring at the pretty little glasses and all they imply. Peeta sets his back down on the table with such precision you’d think it might detonate.”

As Katniss and Peeta continue the Victory Tour, they draw closer, working hard to convince President Snow that they really are the “star-crossed lovers from District Twelve”. But when the Tour concludes at the Capitol with their engagement, President Snow extinguishes all of Katniss’ hopes with a shake of his head. He’s still not convinced.

So she pushes forward, trying to block out of her mind the severe consequences that are sure to follow.

But when her prep team encourages her and Peeta to drink a crystal-clear liquid from tiny wineglasses filled full, it is only at the last moment that the truth hits home: it is a potion designed to make them vomit up all they have eaten so they can eat more. And they are both sickened, thinking of the starving back in District Twelve, contrasted to the extravagant feasting of the Capitol.

“Peeta steps up on a crate against the wall of the sweetshop and offers me a hand while he scans the square. I’m halfway up when he suddenly blocks my way. “Get down. Get out of here!” He’s whispering, but his voice is harsh.”

When Katniss and Peeta return home to District Twelve, their lives begin to crumble around their ears. More Peacekeepers arrive to enforce the Capitol’s laws. The fence, once silent, is now buzzing with electricity.

The final blow arrives in the announcement of the third Quarter Quell, marking the 75th Anniversary of The Hunger Games. The tributes will be reaped from the existing victors.

Katniss is going back to the arena.

“I just want to spend every possible minute of the rest of my life with you.”

Katniss and Peeta relive the nightmares, training once again for The Hunger Games. This time they are more determined than ever to let the Capitol know that they think they are wrong, and that they won’t play along.

In their private sessions, they each use their time to rebel, to try and protect the other by drawing the hatred of the Capitol to themselves. Because neither expects to come out alive.

For the interview of all the victor-tributes, Cinna is commanded by President Snow to dress Katniss in the wedding gown that the Capitol chose for her– the gown she will never be married in.

Yet, Cinna has chosen to no longer be a pawn of the Capitol, and he fights back, transforming Katniss into not only “the girl on fire”, but also into a mockingjay, a symbol of revolution and a slap in the face of the Capitol.

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Some words of caution to parents: while I found Catching Fire to be just as wonderful and thought-provoking as The Hunger Games, once again, I would not recommend the book be given to a young person under the age of thirteen, possibly older, depending on the maturity of the child.

There is a large amount of violence described in Catching Fire, though I certainly would not describe it as gratuitous. No foul language used in the book, however the author does reference the use of obscenities, though they are never directly used.

One other aspect that parents should be aware of before giving the book to their children is that on the Victory Tour, Katniss and Peeta often sleep together to ward off their severe nightmares. Their relationship is completely honorable, however, with the author being clear they are not sleeping together in a sexual way. Peeta also lies to Caesar Flickerman, saying that they are secretly married and expecting a baby at the interview prior to the games, trying to keep Katniss from having to go back to the arena, or at least to cause the other victors to have pity on her.

One obvious, albeit nauseating, comparison Suzanne Collins draws between the Capitol and ancient Rome in Catching Fire, is the practice of vomiting in order to empty the stomach and continue feasting.

“Cinna has turned me into a mockingjay.”

Throughout Catching Fire, we see the character of both Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark develop.

Katniss becomes more aware of how her actions affect others (1 Corinthians 12:26); she faces the Quarter Quell, determined to see Peeta make it out alive (John 15:13); she is tender with the elderly victor-tributes (Psalm 82:3); and once again, she does not kill except in self-defense (Exodus 20:13).

While obviously not a perfect book, I found Catching Fire to be a book that is both thought-provoking and powerful. For a mature audience, I believe the book to be worth reading and discussing. I would give the book a “B+”.

Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts?

 

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Review of “The Hunger Games” Movie

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As part of this month’s series on Suzanne Collins’ series, The Hunger Games, I wanted to share my review of the film based on the first book in the trilogy.

It is well known that The Hunger Games trilogy of books is being made into four films, with the second film, Catching Fire, being released later this month.

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In The Hunger Games, we are introduced to Katniss Everdeen (portrayed by award-winning Jennifer Lawrence) as she comforts her  younger sister, Primrose, who is suffering nightmares where she is chosen as tribute for District 12.

In a matter of moments, we become familiar with the harsh and destitute way of life in District 12, and the fact that Katniss risks her own safety to hunt in the forbidden woods with her friend Gale Hawthorne (portrayed by Liam Hemsworth).

When Prim is selected as the female tribute from District 12, Katniss volunteers in her place, becoming the very first volunteer in the history of District 12.

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After the reaping, Katniss and Peeta Mellark (portrayed by Josh Hutcherson), the male tribute from District 12, are sent to the Capitol, where they are trained to fight and survive in the arena, along with the other tributes.

When the Games begin, Katniss runs into the forrest of the arena, hiding and escaping death, before making an alliance with a young female tribute called Rue. While destroying the food supplies of the Careers, or professionally trained tributes from Districts 1 and 2, Rue is killed, leaving Katniss alone, mourning the death of her young friend.

As the Games continue, the gamemakers announce a new rule: there can now be two victors, as long as they are both from the same District. Filled with hope, Katniss sets out to find Peeta.

When she finds him, he is weak and wounded. Can she use her skills to save them both? Will they make it out of the arena alive? And if they do, what price will they have to pay?

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I know it will sound cliché, but the movie is not as good as the book.

I understand that it is impossible to portray every detail of a book, and inevitably a fan of the book will feel that an important aspect was left out. And really, The Hunger Games is an excellent adaptation, possibly the best book-to-screen adaptation I have ever seen!

I have to admit that as I read the book after seeing the film, I saw Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and heard Woody Harrelson’s voice everytime Haymitch called Katniss “sweetheart”. And while there were some changes and additions to the storyline, I believe that viewers will walk away with many of the same sentiments and reactions.

Horror at the cruelty and corruption of the Capitol. Touched by the love of Katniss for her sister, Prim. Devestation at the loss of sweet Rue. Emboldened by the bravery of Katniss, risking everything for those she cares about.

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A few words of caution to parents: please take the PG-13 rating to heart. While the violence is not gratuitous, and handled delicately, it does consume a large portion of the film. There is also some brief mild language, including taking the Lord’s name in vain on two occasions.

The film is a worthy adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ amazing book, including a wonderful soundtrack that features the music of both Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars.

A fun note for fellow homeschool graduates: Willow Shields, who portrays Prim in The Hunger Games is actually homeschooled!

Interested in reading Movieguide’s review? You can find it here. Want to know more about some of the Biblical principles seen in The Hunger Games novel and film? You can read more here.

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Review of “The Hunger Games”

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I first heard about Suzanne Collins and her famous series, The Hunger Games, back in 2012, when the world was gearing up to see the first book appear on the big screen.

I remember how everyday my Facebook feed was littered with the phrase, The Hunger Games. I had so many friends raving about the series and excited about the film, that I began keeping up with the film release.

However, when the film first came out, I had not read the books, and I heard a review saying how awful it was. Then I read Movieguide’s review.

So I moved on, thinking I would never read or watch The Hunger Games. But they just didn’t go away! Friends continued to occasionally mention the series, always saying how good it was.

Finally, I just decided to check the film out from my local library and watch it. I was hooked. I knew I wanted to go back and read the books. And I could not wait for the second film to be released.

*Please be warned: if you have not read The Hunger Games, there are spoilers!*

“District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety.”

In The Hunger Games, we meet sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the post-apocolyptic nation of Panem, the ruins of what was once North America. She is the provider for her family, made up of her mother and younger sister, Primrose. Katniss has only one friend in the world, her hunting companion, Gale, and they risk their lives to keep food on the table.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

The day we meet Katniss is the day of the Reaping. The day when the Capitol chooses two tributes, one boy and one girl, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, from each of the twelve districts. These tributes are then forced to fight to the death in an arena, much like the gladiators of Rome, for the enjoyment of the Capitol. And for the punishment of the Districts, who once rebelled.

When twelve-year-old Primrose is chosen as District Twelve’s girl tribute, Katniss is stunned, but immediately moved to action. She volunteers as tribute in her younger sister’s place.

Just hours later, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, District Twelve’s tributes for the 74th Annual Hunger Games, are speeding towards the Capitol, to be prepared to fight to the death.

“I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Captitol they don’t own me.”

Katniss hates the Capitol. She hates what they stand for, she hates what they do. She hates the fact that the boy tribute from her District, Peeta, is the boy with the bread, the boy who once saved her life. And the Capitol, it would expect them to try and kill each other?

Things only get worse when Peeta reveals that he has been in love with Katniss for as long he can remember.

At the advice of Haymitch, their mentor, they become known across Panem as the star-crossed lovers from District Twelve. And while Katniss’ main goal is to make it home alive, Peeta’s is simply to not become a pawn of the Capitol.

“You here to finish me off, sweetheart?”

As The Hunger Games are coming towards the end, as the tributes are dying one by one, the Capitol announces a new rule that allows two winners, instead of the usual single winner, if they are both from the same district.

At the announcement, Katniss sets off in search of Peeta, determined that they will make it home alive, together.

When she finds him, however, he is weak, wounded, and ill. She cares for him, risking her own life to save his. And when the Capitol revokes the new rule, trying to force the “Star-Crossed Lovers from District Twelve” to fight each other to the death, they both refuse, choosing double suicide or death at the hands of the Capitol instead.

“One more time? For the audience?”

In the end, when Katniss reveals that she simply played along with the “Star-Crossed Lovers” craze just keep sponsors, just to keep them alive, and that she really isn’t sure whether she loves Peeta like that, he is crushed and disillusioned.

And Katniss begins to awake to the realization that she may have just wounded her truest friend, “the boy with the bread”, the boy who saved her life, the boy willing to die for her, beyond repair.

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A few words of caution to parents: while I found The Hunger Games to be a wonderful and thought-provoking book, I would personally not recommend it for a young person under the age of twelve, possibly older, depending on the maturity level of the child. While Scholastic may put The Hunger Games on the same level with The Witch of Blackbird Pond, I would not.

The book does use a curse word, but the author typically bypasses foul language by saying someone used profanity or obscenities, rather than actually using it in the novel.

I think a big drawback for a younger audience is the violence. While I certainly do not consider the violence gratuitous, there are plenty of descriptions of fighting and killing. I am not saying that reading about violence is wrong, simply that parents should be aware of the maturity level of their children before handing them a copy of The Hunger Games. Because, if your children are reading Scripture, they have most likely read some pretty violent passages:  Ehud killing evil King Eglon (Judges 3:12-30); the torture and death of Samson (Judges 15:21-30); the execution of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:33-37); the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ (John 19:1-30).

It is also possible that some of the messages that Suzanne Collins is trying to communicate could very well be lost on a younger audience. Most ten-year-olds simply are not going to read The Hunger Games and connect it to the gladiatorial games of the Roman Colosseum.

“The idea of actually losing Peeta hit me again and I realized how much I don’t want him to die. And it’s not about the sponsors… And it’s not just that I don’t want to be alone. It’s him. I do not want to lose the boy with the bread.”

Younger audiences could also be confused by the absolute lack of any reference to God, with the characters not even using His name in vain. However, Katniss does exemplify some godly character throughout the book: she tries to care for her family to the best of her ability (1 Timothy 5:8); she volunteers as tribute in the place of her sister, knowing it means almost certain death (John 15:13); she cares for Rue, and tenderly stays with her until her death, even covering her with flowers when she dies (John 13:34-35); and with the exception of her coup de grace of Cato, she does not kill except in self-defense (Exodus 20:13).

We also see in Katniss the Biblical truth that hatred is the same as murder, as every time her thoughts turn with hatred towards her fellow tributes, her thoughts turn to murder, which thankfully, she never executes. (See Matthew 5:21-22 and 1 John 3:15) We are able to see her individuality, her uniqueness, yet we can also relate to her very real humanity.

While certainly not  a perfect book, I do feel that The Hunger Games is worth reading and discussing, as it is extremely thought-provoking. I would give the book a “B+”.

Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts?

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