The Hunger Games, Book 1

Common Sense Media says

Exciting, provocative tale of lethal reality show.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Beginning with elements of the Theseus myth, Collins mixes in a large dollop of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, elements of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, reality TV shows Survivor, American Gladiators, and Project Runway, and an extrapolation of contemporary political and social trends. This will be a terrific discussion starter for middle-school literature groups, in which students will quickly make fruitful connections to our own society. Readers also learn a bit about how to survive in the wilderness.

Positive messages

The story and its sequels are rich in provocative political and social commentary, and explore epic themes of morality, loyalty, obedience, oppression, rebellion, redemption, sacrifice, and, of course, survival.

Positive role models

Katniss is a strong and capable warrior girl who bravely takes the place of her younger sister in the deadly competition. Through her journey, readers will explore many big ideas.


For a story about 24 teens forced to kill each other, the gore level is fairly low -- but there is some. Teens are speared, shot with arrows, stabbed, mauled by wild animals, burned, and have their heads smashed and their necks broken. Injuries are realistic, including burn blistering, blood poisoning, and gangrene. A girl's tongue is cut out.


Some kissing.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink, and one is a falling-down drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is a story about a reality show where 24 teens must kill one another until only one survives. They do so with spears, rocks, arrows, knives, fire, and by hand. It's not unduly gory, but there is lots of violence, all of it teen on teen. The Hunger Games was adapted for a 2012 film, and the second book, Catching Fire, was adapted for a 2014 film. The third and final book, Mockingjay, is being adapted into two parts, to be released in 2014 and 2015 repectively. 

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In the future, the U.S. is gone. In its place is Panem, in which the city of Capitol, somewhere in the Rockies, rules over 12 rebellious districts. To maintain an iron grip, the Capitol holds an annual televised reality show, a lethal form of Survivor to which each district must send one boy and one girl. Out of these 24 teens, only one will survive. Katniss, who volunteers to take her sister's place, and Peeta are District 12's competitors, but their competition is complicated by Peeta's announcement that he is in love with Katniss.

Is it any good?


Author Suzanne Collins burst onto the scene with her marvelous Gregor the Overlander: Underland Chronicles, Book 1, a different sort of middle-grade fantasy marked by unusually strong characters. Now, for her first young-adult novel, she has mixed together elements both classical and modern to produce a story that, if not entirely new, nevertheless bears her unique imprint. Beginning with elements of the Theseus myth, she mixes in a large dollop of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, elements of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, current reality shows Survivor, American Gladiators, and Project Runway, and an extrapolation of current political and social trends. But she makes it her own, and the book avoids feeling derivative through her complex and poignant characterizations of both major and secondary characters, and the bewildering interplay of personal feelings and political machinations.

She does all this in the context of an all-out action-thriller told in straight-ahead yet subtle prose with a carefully calibrated level of edgy violence that never goes over the line. A story of teens massacring each other could, in the hands of a different author, have been sensationalistic and even sick but, by keeping the focus relentlessly on the personal, Collins makes it both moving and thought-provoking. This will be a terrific discussion starter for middle-school literature groups, in which students will quickly make fruitful connections to our own society. Gregor the Overlander was brilliant, but could have been a fluke. With this second series, Collins shows that she is a major voice in children's and young adult literature.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of this series. Why has it struck such a chord with readers? Why are you interested in reading it?

  • Parents may want to address the many issues the author raises. How much of a stretch is it for people to see killing as entertainment? Which reality shows remind you of the one in this book?

Book details

Author:Suzanne Collins
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Sports and martial arts, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:September 14, 2008
Number of pages:374
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of The Hunger Games, Book 1 was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 10 year old Written byCoredestroy October 14, 2009

Hauntingly feasible, irresistible to put down, impossible to forget.

I am currently teaching it to my 7th grade class. We are exploring the social issues of poverty, classism, devaluing human life, and risks of extreme entertainment. Hunger Games has electrified discussions in understanding character motivation, thematic irony, the human condition, and societal injustices. Every kid has had something to say, and often their insight into why people do what they do is captivating. A powerful, edgy novel that motivates non-readers and stimulates the minds of the well read.

Adult Written bycaitiemm January 28, 2011

Amazing book series, but shouldn't be taken lightly

First off, I love this series. I think the messages within it are more mature and useful in this day and age (as it, not like Twilight and pointless vampire romances). I believe it's one of the best series I've read (though the last book I was not as happy with, but that's for another time).

However, I would strongly suggest you NOT let anyone under 14 read it, though it does depend on the child. While this book in particular might be okay, a child will continue to want to read the series till the end, and I don't believe Mockingjay and the book series all together should be swallowed by a child.

What you need to consider is your child's maturity and perception on difficult situations. This book is very political and war centered with a feel of the Holocaust to it. It deals with many rights and wrongs and human nature (how strong it can be, and how horrible). This series should not be taken lightly, and I highly recommend you read it before your children to see if they can handle the undertones of this book, and then use this opportunity to discuss these difficult subjects with them.

One of the things you should be careful of is the desensitization this can cause to difficult subjects. As the series goes on and death tolls mount (among other things), the young reader might start getting defensive and numb.

If your child is not ready to talk on issues of WWI or WWII, don't give him/her this book yet. Give it time so they can get everything they should out of the book and not be numbed by it.

But I will note, that while this book is based on violence, Collins handles it carefully so not to make it too gruesome. The physical violence is not what concerns me for young readers wanting to read this book.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old Written byGummiBearGirl March 6, 2011

Only Read This Book If You Want To Call Off Reading Forever!

This book is amazing, and nothing you'll read can top it. Violence? A lot of scary stuff, including people who's tongues are cut out just for disobeying the government. Other violence includes a scene where a character is mauled by dogs, one scene where someone dies from bug stings, resulting in a bloated body covered with oozing pus.
Sex? Katniss and Peeta kiss. Katniss is described to be naked in a few scenes.
Language? Hell.
Drinking, Drugs? Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta's only lifeline in the games, is a drunk beyond repair, that pukes on the mayor and falls off the stage in a comedic scene.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models


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