Reader Question: What Do You Think of The Hunger Games?

Ashley from Tips4Mom.com recently shared with us how to intentionally select the best books for your children. In response to her post, I received the following question in my inbox.

I appreciated your blog post about choosing books.  I own the book Honey for your Child’s Heart but haven’t looked at it for years!  I want to find it and pull it out.  My kids are NOT avid readers I am sorry to say.  I always was and do still love to read but go in stages with it as we are so busy.  We are on a new quest as of early this week to make reading a priority with our youngest 2.

Anyway, the point of me writing is I would just love to hear your view on this latest popular book called The Hunger Games.  It became a movie before I even knew it was a book.  My daughter brought it home from 5th grade recently…

She went on to explain her concerns with the book and informed me that her daughter’s teacher was going to be reading The Hunger Games aloud to her fifth grade classroom. It certainly gave me a moment or two of pause.

The irony of this question was that my husband and I had just picked up the first book in this popular series and decided to read it as we traveled across the country to our new home when this question came in. I found it to be no coincidence.

Before I give you my thoughts, let me give you some information about Mark and me. We’re not ones for hopping on band wagons. For instance, I’ve never read the Twilight Series. We don’t watch TV every day, and when we do flip on the monster, we are selective in what we watch. Our radio stations are generally set to Christian radio, but sometimes, we will deliberately flip over to something secular. However, we do not mindlessly listen to the radio regardless of whether it is Christian or secular. As a matter of fact, I’m on strike from listening to one popular Christian radio station because they made a poor joke about the Duggars.

We are intentional about what our eyes see and our ears hear. We’re not legalistic by any means. There is a difference and maybe some day I’ll write about it. On the whole, I would consider us discerning readers and viewers when it comes to entertainment.

The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, was a battle for us. It quickly became popular, and a lot of our friends had read and recommended the book to us. This surprised us. Like you, we had heard the plot, and honestly, it was disgusting and nothing short of disturbing. However, we decided to read the book together.

Two chapters into this book and my stomach was in knots. I wasn’t sure I could continue. The writer wastes no time getting to the point. For those of you not familiar with the plot, let me enlighten you.

North America, as we know it, no longer exists. It has been destroyed, and divided into 12 districts. These districts are run by an oppressive government known as the Capitol. Every year, the Hunger Games takes place at the Capitol. One boy and one girl from each district is selected at random to take their spot as “tributes” in the game.

This is a spectator sport where the 24 tributes are thrown into an arena where they will fight it out to the death. Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl from District 12, takes her sister’s place as one of the tributes. The entire length of the Hunger Games is televised on national television, and everyone is required to watch. It is the government’s way of keeping the nation “in check.”

The tributes range in ages from 12-18 years old. Their only goal in the games is to stay alive. This means that they must kill each other using whatever means necessary to win. To not participate in the games would mean harm to their families.

Within the pages of this book, you will find suspense, romance, and a whole lot of action.

I can certainly see why many parents struggle with this book being marketed to elementary and middle school age children. There are a lot of reasons to be upset and concerned.

However, I do not want you to write this book off. Parents, I think you should read this book. Christian parents, I think you should read this book. Here is why I think every parent should read The Hunger Games, and with discernment, maybe even read it with your children.

The Hunger Games reveals our total depravity. I think this book goes right to the core of humanity. It shows us a world without God. The brutal way in which these children must fight for their lives is heart breaking. Yet, how often do our children find themselves fighting for their lives whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually while we sit by and spectate.

As adults, we take a back seat and allow our children to run the course of life alone. We struggle to read this book due to the brutal way children are treated and forced to act, yet we turn a blind eye when we see a woman shoved into the back of an 18-wheeler. We head to the Super Bowl with excitement, but care less that it is the number one event for human trafficking. We allow our children to walk into the nearest abortion clinic and end a life while alone and scared. We sit in our comfortable seats, staring at our plasma screens, and grow repulsed by the plot of this book turned movie, but if we thought for a moment about the children being born into poverty all over the world, we would see that there is not much difference.

Yet, when faced with The Hunger Games, we put it in a category all to itself. The problem, as I see it, is not The Hunger Games. It’s the fact that we merely see it as entertainment. Maybe you didn’t see it this way, merely entertainment, but I did. We bought the book to entertain us across the country. We bought the book to see what all the hype was about. We bought the book so we could tell our friends how disgusting they were for finding this book worth reading. Maybe you didn’t. But I did. Miss Intentional By Grace.

The Hunger Games evokes a level of sobriety that is needed. It will drive you to your knees in prayer. It will make you take a second look at your faith and what you are teaching your children. As I made these connections throughout this book with the world that hungers around me, I found myself in tears and unable to sleep. This book is a much needed reality check, especially for adults.

Furthermore, Stacy Makes Cents recommended a wonderful article from a fellow blogger that I had not yet seen when formulating the bulk of this post. Halle the Homemaker humbly shared her thoughts on allowing her teenage daughter to read The Hunger Games series. I found her thoughts on the plot interesting and thought-provoking, and I would highly suggest checking out her article: Would You Let Your Child See the Hunger Games?

However, I must agree that this book does not belong in schools, or in the hands of children without parental supervision. This book is not appropriate for their little minds without careful guidance from us, the adults. Children are much too impressionable and much too reliant on the world of fantasy, if left to themselves . They should be. God made them this way so that they would be compliant to heeding the advice of wise and helpful parents. They need us. This book could be a helpful tool with careful parental guidance, or incredibly confusing for a child still discovering the world around them. Only you, the parent, can know when your child is ready for the message of this book, and even then, it’s a book to be read slowly, building on an already solid foundational understanding of the Gospel.

The Hunger Games should not be read as mere entertainment. Just as with any form of entertainment, we cannot passively indulge our senses. We must be ever watchful, seeking God continually, and looking to see how this can remind us of and strengthen our understanding of the Gospel. For me, The Hunger Games reminded me of the sobering reality of the extent to which Jesus had to go to reconcile us to God the Father. We need a Savior, and Jesus came for that reason.

What do you think of The Hunger Games?

Please, be kind in your words, if you disagree with me. I love hearing from you, but since this is a sensitive topic, know that I have the right to remove your comment. I don’t for see this being a problem, and forgive me for even having to say it, but it is the internet. So play nice, folks!

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31 Comments

  1. “The Hunger Games reveals our total depravity. I think this book goes right to the core of humanity. It shows us a world without God. The brutal way in which these children must fight for their lives is heart breaking. Yet, how often do our children find themselves fighting for their lives whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually while we sit by and spectate.”

    That is BRILLIANT. Well said. I totally agree. My husband and I had long conversations about it when we went to see it together on a date night a few weeks ago.

    Hallee

    1. Thank you, Halle! When I was reading the book, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that apart from the grace of God, I could be the one leading the Capitol…Oh, how sweet the Father’s love that He gave His son for me!

  2. I’m so glad I read your thoughts on this book/movie. I am taking my friend to see it tonight for her birthday. She’s read the entire series and I was leary to see it. I purposely avoided the Twilight series for numerous reasons but was intreged by the plot of this series. Thanks for the reminder to read/watch it through a spiritual lens. I’d already made some conections to how a “Godless world” would look and that’s kind of why I chose to finaly go see it. Thanks again for your honest trustworthy opintion!

    1. Jules, I, too, avoided the Twilight series, but this one is significantly different in my opinion. I do think the key to any form of entertainment is to constantly be asking yourself how this reminds you of God, what it makes you think about God, and does it draw you closer to God? If we are purposeful, and ever watchful, we can certainly become more intimate with God through what our eyes see. 🙂

      1. Okay girly, I saw the movie. Cried. Jumped. Sat with my stomic in a knot and hands sweating nearly the entire time. My heart aches. How different a the world will be without any sign of Christ. I’m glad I saw it and will have to watch the series now.

  3. Haven’t read it, no intention of watching the movie. “Disturbing” is just not my cup of tea. BUT you make excellent points about the spiritual application.
    I must say, I am appalled at the idea of reading it to fifth-graders!

    1. Janice, to each its own, right? Well, except when it comes to children. There is no doubt this should be carefully considered by parents. As for the adults, you stick with what works for you. There are plenty of books out there worth reading. 🙂

  4. “As I made these connections throughout this book with the world that hungers around me, I found myself in tears and unable to sleep. This book is a much needed reality check, especially for adults.” ~ This is exactly why I have not endeavored to read these books. I don’t know that much about them, but for me the plot seems to hit a little too close to home. I think that we would be naive, as Christians, to think that our society is far from this level of depravity. I know that sounds harsh, but when you begin to remove yourself from the world and it’s temptations(limiting television, secular music, etc.), yet are still a part of the world, it becomes more obvious. At least this is my opinion and experience. I understand the points you are making and think that they are completely valid and it should be read with sobriety and a solid knowledge of the Gospel. What scares me is all the teenagers that are reading it without this knowledge and without parental guidance. I currently am stressed out enough about where the world is headed and having small children to raise in a completely depraved world. For me, I don’t want to read about it any more than I have to. Just for my own peace of mind and sleep comfort! 😉

    1. Dusti, I always look forward to your feedback.

      You said: I know that sounds harsh, but when you begin to remove yourself from the world and it’s temptations(limiting television, secular music, etc.), yet are still a part of the world, it becomes more obvious. At least this is my opinion and experience.

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Sometimes, we don’t realize how far removed we are until we come face-to-face with something, and then, we realize just exactly what the world has to offer that is completely contrary to God.

      Just remember, God has not forgotten us and where we find ourselves in this world. The world is turning just as He intended. To see the depravity is not meant to cause us fear, but to cause us to flee into the arms of God, praying without ceasing, and rejoicing always in His unfailing love. Your children are blessed to have you by the way. Just thought you should know. 😉

      1. “To see the depravity is not meant to cause us fear, but to cause us to flee into the arms of God, praying without ceasing, and rejoicing always in His unfailing love.” ~ I love this! Thank you for the wonderful reminder. And thank you for the compliment! You have such a wonderful and gentle way of expressing God’s love to us! I so appreciate your posts!

  5. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie. Which is very odd considering I live within a mile of where some of it was filmed. A lot of people I know have read it, have seen the movie and this was the first time that I have heard anything remotely close to this point
    “The Hunger Games evokes a level of sobriety that is needed. It will drive you to your knees in prayer. It will make you take a second look at your faith and what you are teaching your children. As I made these connections throughout this book with the world that hungers around me, I found myself in tears and unable to sleep. This book is a much needed reality check, especially for adults.”

    Now, that does nudge me to read it a little more. I am not the type that reads a book and heads to the theater when it comes out. I have read most of Nicholas Sparks books and I have yet to see any movie of his books.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I Love your thoughtful response to this Leigh Ann! My husband and I also read these with similar thoughts. But what struck out to us in this book were the positive character traits such as loyalty, friendship, love, courage and more! While this is a “young adult” book I would agree that it is not always fit for children. And yet, a LOT of “young adult” books are not suited for 15 and under. While I would not hand this to my 10 year old. My 17 year old sister read and enjoyed the book. She has enough discernment at her age to pick apart the good from bad. As an adult I really liked these books and they were very thought provoking. For a fifth grade audience? I’m not sure that it is appropriate. But that is up to each parent and how mature their children are.

    Thank you for writing this Leigh Ann! You bless me so much!

    1. I have only read the first book, Jami, but I will agree … there are certainly teachable character traits woven throughout the book. No doubt about that. Thanks for sharing, Jami!

  7. I don’t jump on bandwagons either. I guess that’s why we get along. 🙂 Great article, LeighAnn….you really make me think about life. I love you for that!

  8. I read the books because I couldn’t get the correlation to the Roman Coliseum out of my head from just hearing the plot description from people. I saw so many people reading them and saying how great they were that I couldn’t believe they weren’t seeing what I was. How can you not read these books and picture the Christians in the early church being thrown into the arena and forced to die. The Career tributes reminded me of the Gladiators. The muttations are like the lions. The helpless tributes that haven’t been trained to fight are the Christians. The Capitol is Rome; you can see it in the names Collins chose, the ostentatious, flagrant lifestyle the Capitol citizens live, and the “all-powerful” control of the government over a conquered people.
    Now that I have read them I understand the entertainment blindness that they experienced. They are well written books. They are engaging and suspenseful enough to keep you sucked in. They remind me of that old adage about being unable to look away from the train wreck or car accident despite how horrifying it is; but more than that they remind me of the Bible verse about relishing when we see others sinning. It is part of our sin nature to enjoy gruesome and evil things. As horrified as I was at the plotline and the idea of children being forced to kill other children, I found myself enjoying reading the books because of the entertaining quality with which they were written.
    But there is a darkness to those books beyond the obvious of children killing children. The themes woven throughout the book are dangerous in my opinion. Goodness is always corrupted and/or destroyed. Evil is unstoppable. You are all there is. There is no grace or salvation. It is as you said “It shows us a world without God”. I think that is the most dangerous part of these books is that many do not even see the lack of God in them. It is so easy to get sucked into the entertainment and be so blinded by it that we miss the biggest red flag in front of us. Where is God? Why are we not looking for Him and His salvation? During the first chapters I was looking for it, I was waiting for a messiah-like message to weave it’s way in as someone stepped in to save the day as a metaphor to Christ, but as I closed the third book I realized that it never came. I had trouble sleeping after reading these books because of the palpable evil and darkness of them. I think it is one of the biggest problems in the Church today. We don’t see the evil in the world around us like we should. Christians are blind to Satan’s activities and power in so many ways that the spiritual war we are in isn’t real to us.

    1. Renee, what a thought-provoking response. I confess, I’m not educated on the history of the church, or even the Bible times. Unfortunately, I’m not alone, which would be why you are so frustrated that no one sees the correlation between the two. Yet, I do seek to learn, and your comment certainly gave me a thirst to learn!

      You said this: I think that is the most dangerous part of these books is that many do not even see the lack of God in them. It is so easy to get sucked into the entertainment and be so blinded by it that we miss the biggest red flag in front of us. Where is God? Why are we not looking for Him and His salvation?

      I agree with this, which is why I felt it important to write this post. I think as we seek to inform others on how to go about looking for God in the secular world, or rather the lack there of, I think we can help them see where Satan lies…bringing to light the truth. I think it’s easy to grow frustrated, especially when you can see so clearly. But so many just simply don’t know. Yes, there are some that do not care. But there are many who are completely ignorant to the fact that they must be ever watchful even when it come to entertainment. So, don’t grow weary friend. Continue to reach out and teach, and offer grace to this dying world. And let us hold fast to prayer!!!

  9. Great points. I was afraid that you would do what many other people have done – write the books off solely based o the blurb on the back of the book, or what you have heard about it from other people. I think this series is a great one for young people to read for the points you mentioned, but also because Katniss and District 13 struggle against an oppressive, cruel government much as our forefathers did. You could certainly tie it in to a study on American History that way. As a teacher, however, I would certainly pause before assigning it to a class of 5th graders unless they are gifted or mentally mature enough to process all the layers. A good choice for younger readers is her Gregor the Overlander series – just as readable, much less gruesome and easier for younger readers to understand.

  10. Great points. I was afraid that you would do what many other people have done – write the books off solely based o the blurb on the back of the book, or what you have heard about it from other people. I think this series is a great one for young people to read for the points you mentioned, but also because Katniss and District 13 struggle against an oppressive, cruel government much as our forefathers did. You could certainly tie it in to a study on American History that way. As a teacher, however, I would certainly pause before assigning it to a class of 5th graders unless they are gifted or mentally mature enough to process all the layers. A good choice for younger readers is her Gregor the Overlander series – just as readable, much less gruesome and easier for younger readers to understand.

  11. Leigh Ann, I think that you gave an excellent analysis and have started a great discussion on THE HUNGER GAMES. You and your readers have made excellent points about whether or not to read these books and I will now add my 2 cents, although you will see that it’s probably not worth even half of that.

    I read THE HUNGER GAMES just last week. I had heard about the book several months ago through a podcast I listen to that reviews popular books. At the time I was intrigued but had so many other books to read that I quickly forgot about it. Then the movie came out and I remembered that I wanted to read the series. I have to confess that I was intrigued by the books first because of their political message and so I didn’t approach the books looking for a Biblical message.

    That is not to say that I didn’t find one. I was surprised to be hooked right from the start. Yes, it is disturbing. The very idea of a nation imposing something like the Hunger Games is disturbing, but sometimes we have to be disturbed. In a secular sense, this series provides a great forum to teach young teens about politics and government. Throughout all of history, most of the world has had to suffer under imposing political systems, whether inside a tribe or an empire. And on top of that, children are often the greatest sufferers with the least power. I think that the author deserves a lot of praise for writing a book series that is enjoyable and ‘thought-provoking ‘for teens.

    As far as a Biblical message, I have to say that these are secular books. I don’t think that the author was trying to give a Biblical message and so I think that it’s unfair to condemn the books for lack of Biblical themes. That is not to say (and I know that this may seem hypocritical based on my last sentence) that there are no messages to take from the series. A world that has gotten rid of God would be worse than the hell created by the Capitol which is in itself a great discussion to have with your children. Katniss’ sacrifices for her family and her care for others show a value for life that is straight out of the Gospel. Peeta’s long-suffering and sacrifices for Katniss are also ripe with a good message for discussion with teens.

    I’m sure that there are a lot more messages that can be taken from these books, but I will have to say that, overall, they should be read by teens along with parents as fodder for discussion (just like any book). Sin is disturbing and we should be disturbed more by it, not less. I think that THE HUNGER GAMES provides a good forum to talk about it with your teens.

    1. I agree, Dawn, there has been some wonderful discussion in the comments! I’m so grateful that I wrote about what I thought of The Hunger Games. I have learned so much!

      I agree that we do sometimes have to be disturbed. It’s helpful to remind us of not only our depravity, but how great a God we serve!

      I love your input. I had considered the many teachable moments that could be had with our teenagers, but without having first hand experience, I didn’t want to turn people off without credibility. 🙂 So I’m really glad a mom of many teens hopped in the discussion! I write to begin a dialogue so we can learn from one another.

      And on a completely personal note, I so appreciate your input always. You are certainly a woman to emulate, and I miss seeing you often! We think of you and Ken frequently!

  12. Okay, I read this post the other day, and then couldn’t find it again, but now that I have, I have to post this link–PLEASE take it as tongue-in-cheek humor! I think it should end with, “… when you don’t read it with God.” On that note, please giggle at the picture and don’t come back and crucify me!

    http://networkedblogs.com/x6EgY?ref=nf

    For the record, I think you did an excellent job of pointing out the pros and cons of ANY popular-in-culture book; if our kids want to read them–or their teachers are assigning these books to be read–a discerning parent will take the time to draw out the lessons, even if the lesson is what an example of a life without God looks like. As always, well done!

  13. i still wont agree that i have to read it. but i like your post. it gives me JUST enough information to know FOR SURE what its about and that i really dont need to read it. i appreciate that. im appalled that children are being told/forced/allowed to read it.

    and maybe im being oversensitive about this. but if more people in the world were oversensitive, if ALL of us were more oversensitive, we wouldnt have the HORRIBLE scenes of entertainment that we do today. 🙁

  14. Hello everyone!

    I am a little hesitant on sending this! I came across this article through a link on the review of Fifty Shades Of Grey. I haven’t read Fifty Shades and wont be reading it either. Its on a totally different level to the Hunger Games.

    I must confess that I am not a reader at all really, it is VERY rare that I pick up a book as I just dont enjoy any part of the reading process. Everyone is different though so I have respect for people who love to read 🙂 My sister loves it!

    The Hunger Games series is one of the few books that I have read though and I LOVED them! I also love the films. I am a dedicated Christian, working for a Christian organisation and very involved in my Church. I get that some people are effected by things more than other people are – if you think The Hunger Games will effect you negatively then 100% dont read it – but I just wanted to say that its written as a story and for a lot of people (like me) there is no negative effect to reading books of its kind. I also really enjoyed Twilight that I have seen mentioned in this thread a lot.

    I was just feeling a bit…bad I guess…while reading all of this for the fact that I love these stories. So I just wanted to say that:

    1. If its going to be negative for you, dont read it obviously
    BUT ALSO
    2. Lots of people, including teenagers in school, wont have any negative things come from reading it and will merely just enjoy the story and a lot of the good messages that are hidden in there.

    Im not having a go! Please dont read this negatively. Im just trying to put a different spin on all that I have read above. As a dedicated Christian I read these books and watched the films with no problem. Things effect (or affect…sorry Im not great with words!) people differently.

    Anyways…happy reading or not reading of these books aha. Loved the post about Fifty Shades though!

    Thank You 🙂