The Hunger Games – A Review

A lot of parents are hearing about ‘The Hunger Games’ from their teens and when they discover what the plot is about they are horrified and disgusted. It sounds like a gross trick being played on modern teens, and the parents are reluctant to become involved or allow their teens to be involved in reading the books or watching the movie.

Parents of teens need to be informed on things that matter to young people. So after reading a few reviews and hearing mixed messages, I read the book and watched the movie myself to draw my own conclusion and to be able to guide my teenager.

The Worst Part

The worst part of the story about The Hunger Games is the actual premise of a reality television game show which involves killing the other contestants in order to win the game. That’s the worst part.

The second worst part was actually starting to read the book. I really did NOT want to read this book. I was sure it was going to be awful and I had to screw up my courage to start.

Good Things About the Book

It’s a fast, easy read. The plot is strong. The writing is good and not cliché-ridden. The sci-fi part of the story is creative.

Good Things About the Movie

Most of the violence occurs off screen. I saw no sex scenes, no nudity, no skimpy clothes, no swearing and no vomiting.

Bad Things About the Book and the Movie

It’s a story of violence and it’s aimed at an audience of young, impressionable people who would be better off reading inspiring and encouraging literature.  This book isn’t literature and so I wouldn’t like to see it being used by English teachers as a book to write about and discuss. But there are ideas, situations and comments in the book that shine like a powerful car headlamp on the hypocrisy of our world.

For example, when the protagonist is explaining about the Games arena she says, “The arenas are historic sites, preserved after the Games.” This reminded me of the Olympic Villages that can be visited after the Olympics; so far so good.

She continues, “Popular destinations for Capitol residents to visit, to vacation. Go for a month, rewatch the Games, tour the catacombs, visit the sites where the deaths took place. You can even take part in re-enactments. They say the food is excellent.” At first blush this is shocking and disgusting. But what’s the difference between that and visiting the Coliseum in Rome? Or battle sites? And what about battle re-enactments? Is it okay if the events took place a long time ago, but not okay if they happened more recently? I am challenged here.

I’ve heard that the protagonist doesn’t make a good heroine or role model because she kills, even though she does it reluctantly, she still does kill. But there are many lauded movies and stories where people kill reluctantly and the killer is considered to be a hero or heroine. I’m challenged again.

I am not speaking out in support of the book and the movie. In fact, I don’t think it is suitable for the audience it is aimed at. Although it does depend on the age of your teen; what a seventeen-year-old guy can deal with is very different from what any thirteen-year-old is able to handle. And I think most people would agree that this book and the movie are not appropriate for younger people.

In Summary

I have mixed feelings.  I think it’s over-rated and had too much attention which serves to make it desirable to many teens.  I think each parent needs to decide for themselves if this book is suitable for their child. And the best way to do that is to read the book yourself. Don’t rely on reviews – if your child is eager to read the book, then read it first yourself to decide or read it aloud together.

If your child is interested in survival stories try Hatchet by Gary Paulsen or My Side of the Mountain by Jean C George.

One Final Comment

I’ve only read the first book in the series of three. An adult family member read the other two books and said that they thought they were not as well written and were more violent. So I absolutely don’t recommend them at all.

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