The Hunger Games, Book 1



Exciting, provocative tale of lethal reality show.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

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 CollinsThe 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. 

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?


For her first young-adult novel, Collins 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:Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

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

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Shocking sci-fi gives teens plenty to get wound up about.
  • Satire with a nice bite -- for mature teens.
  • Exciting, provocative dystopian novel will make teens think.
  • Fun, provoking start to dystopian series for teens.

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byMemereMaria December 30, 2011

What are your children reading?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a series of books that are being given almost the same acclamation as the Harry Potter series. The first movie is due out in March. I’ve read that some schools are asininely including them in their curriculum and that some young girls are left with nightmares after having read them. Due to the popularity of these books, I would like to issue a warning to parents. Please read the entire series before allowing your children to read them. I feel the books could be psychologically damaging to young, impressionable minds. Please read them in a critical manner. The following are my own thoughts on the series and then I included another review: I finished reading the series last night as I had received them as a gift. The books were riveting, charged, highly emotional, but having said that… I have real reservations about the series. The series is about the extremely sadistic torture of young teenagers. The further along in the series…the more twisted and perverse the story line becomes. But, because of the way it is all presented, you tend to forget that these are children and not adults who must survive these gruesome, hellish games. The sarcastic glory with which the Hunger Games are treated by those in power adds an utterly depraved dimension to the plot. For those who are unfortunately familiar with the Saw movies, the books are more insidious. Besides the almost continuous and multiple ways the author finds to torture and kill off her characters, the under-age main character must stand naked while a man examines every inch of her in deciding how she is to be dressed, is handed suicide pills, watches a close friend beheaded, sees her sister go up in flames and learns that the former victors were sold as prostitutes. Children are forced to kill each other. This is a series for young pre-teens and young teens? What happened to half-way wholesome books for our young ones? Let’s throw-out the misleading ‘young adult’ label these books are given. Children are not ‘young adults’ until they are 18 years old. They should not be considered adults until they are 21 as it always was, but political reasons forbid this. By the end of the series the main characters are left so completely broken in body, mind and spirit that there is no victorious rejoicing. While the feat of eliminating the Hunger Games forever is accomplished, there is very little else to celebrate. This is entertainment for children? Books which are completely absorbing as are these, leave a deep-seated impression that cannot be easily shaken. There is a subtle subconscious psychological impact. In a way, similar to movies and television, the story is such that it almost desensitizes a person to the subject of the torture of children and I feel that is a very dangerous thing. Only someone who has read the entire series will understand what I am saying, here. I would be very interested in knowing what a panel of psychologists would say about the effects of this series on young minds. Whether intentionally or not, to my mind, the series glorifies the torture of children. The movies will do so at a deeper level. I almost have to wonder why the books were written. Supposedly, it was to show the effects of war on children according to one review. But, in reality, these books aren’t about a realistic war, which is bad enough. In reality, there is no-one, no-one who could survive what the author puts the main character through in the games. The series seems to be the product of a mind who has thought up every way imaginable to torture innocent children and present the torture as a story to the world. These books are not the way we want our children’s imaginations to be stirred. Those who will rush to see the movies, which has a big-star line-up, think about what you will be endorsing. Make no mistake, the entire series is about the unmitigated torture of children in as many imaginable forms possible. If we consider these future Hunger Games movies entertainment, then what is that saying about us? Because of the level of violence, sadism and the torture and sacrifice of children, I don’t plan on seeing the movie. And, let’s hope the crazies out there don’t see them, either. I know that everyone is raving about this series….but when people regard a series of books whose entire content is about the extreme, bloody torture of children in every form imaginable, their having to kill each other or be killed ….these are children’s books? Come on. Shame on Scholastic for publishing them. These have to be the most violent children’s books on the planet. They are sadistic in the extreme.
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
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.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide