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The Hunger Games, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Hunger Games, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Exciting, provocative tale of lethal reality show.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 186 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 800 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

Some kissing.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 rom... Continue reading
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 entertain... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old 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 disobeyi... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 21, 2010

FABULOUS! my fave read

well. WARNING: side effects of reading this book may include: skipping meals and sleep to read it, having socks blown off in awesomeness, and reccomending the b... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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