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.
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?