A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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- 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?
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?
- 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
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 374
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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