Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Recommendation: Recommended

In this futuristic novel North America no longer exists, the continent (Panem) is now divided into 12 Districts which are all under the rule of an oppressive government. Poverty is widespread and the expanse between rich and poor is ever widening. One method the government has devised to keep control and also provide entertainment for its people is The Hunger Games. Children 12-18 years old are chosen, a boy and a girl  from each district to compete, and the winner is the only one who walks away alive.

Young Katniss Everdeen has provided for her family since her fathers death by illegally hunting beyond the District borders. She has kept her mother and sister alive by using the hunting skills her father taught her. She has also developed a wonderful friendship/hunting partnership with Gale whose father was killed in the same mining accident. Together they take on the role of family provider and enjoy each others company. That all changes the day Katniss' sister is chosen for The Hunger Games and Katniss willingly takes her place. From that moment on her life is forever changed.

Positives: This is an action-packed, suspenseful story. You will not want to put it down. I think the author did a commendable job of not letting the imagery become too graphic for children.

Negatives: The whole idea of young kids killing each other for the entertainment of others is repulsing to me. While there is nothing pornographic, there are several instances where Katniss and Peeta kiss and they do lay down together at night to stay warm. One of the characters is habitually drunk. Katniss does have to stand before her male stylist nude.

Talking Points: While this book is written for 13 years of old and up, only you as the parent can discern whether it is appropriate for them to read. There is a lot of violence. I highly recommend reading it beforehand as it provides many opportunities to discuss ethical and biblical issues. One of the first thoughts that came to mind is the sanctity of human life. The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) tell us that killing is wrong. Talk to your kids about the dilemmas faced by Katniss and Peeta in particular as they struggled with killing others. How would/should Christians respond in this type of situation? Who are we obedient to? Where do we turn for answers?

 Throughout the story I thought of the many Christians who were martyred for their faith and, beginning with Stephen in Acts 7, many were killed in  front of crowds and for the purpose of entertainment (as well as attempting to deter anyone who was thinking of becoming a believer). While these kids were not being persecuted for any beliefs they held, they knew that they were to provide entertainment for the people, particularly those in the Capitol. What is a Christian view of entertainment? What are we entertained by? Should it be different than what the world is entertained by?

While the world described in this book may seem far-fetched to our children we need to help them understand the depths of human depravity. This is where sin leads us. No, we may never live through a time similar to this, but others have. Ecclesiastes 1 tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. We need to help our kids develop a biblical worldview and know where to turn to for answers to moral and ethical dilemmas they will face in the future.

Age Level: The publisher says 13 and up. As I stated earlier, please be wise. You know your child better than I do!

3 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I've read the series and couldn't put them down, but wondered about your thoughts. I appreciate your insights so much!

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  2. Heather, this was a hard review for me to write. I too enjoyed the books but struggled with the idea of kids reading them as they were so violent. Hopefully if parents let their kids read them they will have redeeming conversations about them. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. One thing that struck me when reading the books was that they were completely devoid of any spiritual baseline. There was literally no mention of a spritual component in their lives. I am a 30-year-old single woman, but if I had kids and read it with them, I would totally want to talk about that. In many books there is a spiritual part (whatever it looks like or however it is twisted) but here... nothing. Not even in the description of marriage ceremonies. I think that speaks volumes to our culture and a lost society. (I loved the books, btw, I just thought that was surprising and clearly purposfully done)

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