Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins includes The Hunger Games (Book 1)Catching Fire (Book 2), and Mockingjay (Book 3)

I'd heard a lot about these books and wanted to read them for myself. I really enjoyed the first book, so much so I actually purchased the second and third to read on my Kindle (and forced myself to wait a week and a half to do so because I knew I needed to be a little productive before I bought the books or nothing would get done until I finished reading them).

I am going to try to talk a little about these books without revealing too many spoilers, for those who want to read for themselves. Therefore, please forgive my vagueness. I'd be happy to give more information over email to those who are interested in more details. I'm also not trying to start a big conversation in the comments about the appropriateness of these books. I just read them myself and wanted to state what I thought.

Katniss Everdeen find herself a tribute in the Hunger Games, an annual battle of one girl and one boy from each of twelve districts who fight to the death in an arena filled with traps and horrors to entertain the people of the Capital and remind everyone else of their subjugation. The Games are horrific and Katniss actually participates, killing other tributes. Kansas Dad has read a bit about the series, though not yet the series itself, and says many people criticize the series because Katniss participates at all in something that is obviously immoral. I personally thought the first book gave a lot of room for understanding and compassion for Katniss who really doesn't have any choice but to participate and does so as well as she can. (She doesn't kill everyone she can. She protects other tributes.) The people in these districts know nothing of ethics or faith, though they sense the natural law that makes the Hunger Games and the behavior of the government as a whole obviously wrong.

As I started reading the second book, I hoped very much to see Katniss grow as a young woman to understand how to place herself in a moral world and to fight for that which is right rather than just to keep herself or those she loves alive. Though the second and third books were just as exciting (and even more horrific, if you can believe it), I was disappointed to see no such growth. In fact, no character shows that kind of transformation. Only a few main characters are consistently good and all but two (I think) perpetrate acts of extreme violence.

Overall, I enjoyed reading these books. They were entertaining, but they were not instructive. While parents could find some interesting themes and aspects to discuss with teenagers about morality, just government, justice, truth, and manipulation, the books themselves do not provide adequate responses or answers. I would put them above the level of twaddle, but below the level of anything we would read for lessons.

This is definitely a series for mature readers only (high school and above). I would even encourage my children to read the Harry Potter series first. As dark as it is at times, it is not nearly so violent. The third book of the Hunger Games series in particular repeatedly contains acts of senseless violence against the most innocent and defenseless. As a small part of a well-rounded and extensive pool of books, these would be fine. If this series were the best books my teenagers were reading, I would be greatly concerned.


  1. You know, as someone who hasn't read the books, and is still on the fence as to whether I want to or not (believe me, if I had highschoolers wanting to read them, I'd make it more a priority), I really appreciate your (and other Catholic mama's) perspectives on this. It seems balanced and refreshing. There has been a lot of polarizing stuff out there about these, and I think I got caught up in some of that initially. So thanks again. Did you see Faith and Family's review? I thought it was pretty good as well.
    Again, thanks.

  2. That all being said, I still find it horribly inappropriate to be sitting at our neighborhood park, hearing kids that appear to be in the 10-12 age range talking about the books and "playing" Hunger Games. That's just weird. From the little I know about the books, the content is WAY too mature for someone that age to try to handle.

  3. Monica, I don't think I read the Faith and Family review, though I vaguely remember seeing the headline. In fact, that might have been when I decided to read them myself.

    I would be very uncomfortable with a 10 or even 12 year old reading these books. It's hard to say since my oldest is only 8, but these are pretty dark books without a clear moral line. Better to start with something like The Lord of the Rings - dark but with marvelous heroes.

  4. I've read the first two books so far and I agree with your assessment. I started reading them because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I think I would limit it to older high school and above. I'm amazed that parents would let their younger children read it. Although the kids at the park probably didn't read the book, just saw the movie. I didn't see the movie, but if it's even half as graphic as the book, I wouldn't want those images in my young child's head. I know I found the books fascinating, though. You could imagine our world like that someday and that made everything all the more horrifying.

  5. H of B, it's nice to know someone else thinks the way I do about these books.


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