The Hunger Games

Editors note: I read this book when it first came out in 2008 and then again right before the release of the movie. I have to say this: the book was even better the second time around! It has been reviewed already on our blog by a former contributor, but we thought we would add our two-cents into the ring.

Suzanne Collins has created a mind boggling post “humanity” world. The United States is gone and what is left is the country of Panem, divided into 12 colonies or districts. The government is controlling the various districts and wants them to always remember who has the ultimate power– them, the government.

They create The Hunger Games where each district sends tributes: 2 children a boy and a girl to fight ala gladiator style– to the death. All of this televised on TV– with people cheering on their favorites and taking bets. The winner getting glory and much needed supplies sent to their district.

Its the latest, greatest version of “reality TV”… gone wrong.

The book is intense, mind boggling and gut wrenching. Yet there were times where I laughed right out loud. I was nervous for the games to begin. How can a society that watches children killing children be humane?

I was completely hypnotized. The book is addicting– I had to keep reading. I had to continue to see how it all plays out. I knew it wasn’t real, and and yet I was completely transported into the land of Panem and truly believed that I was there– in the arena with Kat, fighting for my life.

It has been a long time since a book as grabbed me and transported me into its world. The Hunger Games did just that. For days after, I would find myself thinking about Kat and Peeta. I would hear a strain of familiar music and immediately think that it would be perfect in this scene, or that.

It has enough suspense, horror and the requisite love triangle to make for a perfect read. I could have turned around and started again with this book– finding new discoveries with each turn of the page.

The author has created a believable future. I found myself often thinking “just how far are we from something like this? What will 100 more years bring?”

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at the reality shows on cable.

This book is billed for “young adult” readers, but that would imply that it was “meat head” reading, or that you would not need a brain to follow along. (Which is how a lot of people view young adult fiction.) Collins writing is smart. How else do you explain the humor that Katniss displays; a person being stung to death by gigantic wasps and adult compassion as Katniss “saves” someone from mutant werewolves?

Collins, like J.K.Rowling, is not your typical, predictable young adult author. Do yourself a favor: Read this book and love it. Love it real hard.

You can thank us later.

Check out the movie trailer for this amazeballs book. The movie is simply fantastic!!

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  1. Moss says

    I loved the books. Katniss’s character arc is brilliant. Sacrifice for others, being true to promises you have made, maintaining high personal integrity when everything around you is falling apart- this is what I got out of the Hunger Games. I loved how at the beginning of the series she feels like this is not a world she would ever want to bring children into, but by the end of the series, through much of her own efforts, the world has changed to a place where she does. I found it very hopeful and uplifting.

  2. momofboys. says

    I think there is a lot of deceptive movies/books specifically targeting the youth of the church and it makes me sad to see so many ok with a book/movie that glorifies violence. I think we all need to really ask ourselves what the real motive of these trends are and what are we giving up by defending them. I think having the spirit with you is closely connected to how sensitive you are to violence, I would be really uncomfortable explaining to my children that this book is Awesome, kids killing kids…its great! not so much…sigh.

  3. momofboys. says
    This is a great link, just some food for thought…

  4. says

    Katniss’s and Peeta actions/choices are often immoral as
    well….Katniss shoots an arrow through Marvel’s neck as revenge for
    killing Rue, Katniss killing Coin in the last book, both Katniss and
    Peeta standing before their stylists completely nude, kissing and making
    out “for the cameras”, lying in the same bed while riding the
    train….shall I go on? 

  5. Ashellforkel says

    I clearly see and hear how this book has captivated everyone, everywhere.  But as a “mormon mommy”, I must wonder, “how in the world can the Savior be okay with this?!”  Are we really allowing the thoughts that fill our youth’s minds be of children killing children in the name of entertainment?  I believe there are far better things for our children to be imagining.  Things that draw them nearer to the principles of Christ, which murder is not.  I know I am fairly lonely in my belief of this series, but not alone at all.  As we open our eyes and see things for what they are and the flaxen cord that Satan has begun using to “tickle” our senses, we will see that the fruits of this story are not good. 

  6. Guest says

    Regardless of any other theme or perceived value in these stories, we are still talking about a book in which children are forced to kill other children for entertainment. And we are entertained, even “enthralled” by the storyline and the film adaptation.  We condemn the Romans for their bloodlust in the Collesium and yet the best selling books and top grossing movie of the year glorify these same attititudes and themes. What a sad commentary on our values and culture.

  7. says

    I’ve read the books and seen the movie and I don’t think either one is appropriate for “young adult.”  They are probably not appropriate for adults either but we’ve all become so desensitized nobody notices.  I was still kind of shocked to see a pro-Hunger Games post on Mormon Mommy Blogs.  I guess I thought most LDS mommies would be on the decrying train for this one, especially with the other Christian organizations decrying it. A great review is: 

  8. Jeanine says

    I totally agree with your review!  This series was SO good on many different levels.  I’m amazed at so many people who have come out against this series!!  Sometimes I wonder if these people have even read the books.  It reminds me of the folks who came out against Harry Potter …

  9. says

    I don’t think that the material itself is offensive. I mean, the original bad guy story was Cain and Abel. And  the Book of Mormon? I’m sorry, but it is FULL of wars and killing. 

    ALL good stories are Good Vs. Evil. Star Wars. Noah’s Ark. Even Cinderella! I mean, in the real fairytale version, the birds pecked out the stepsisters eyes and the mice gnawed on their bones. There was no happy singing and dancing going on. 

    The reason these types of stories work is because they give people HOPE. Amid all the chaos, and the killing, and in the face of great evil, there is something more happening. Sure, you can look at it as kids killing kids. You can look at lots of things like that. But I think that authors, and even God himself, would want us to look at the deeper meaning behind these stories, and apply those lessons to ourselves. 

  10. Kassie Welch says

    I’m with Ashelforkel and Guest. A few years back I made a policy with myself to not jump on the trendy bandwagon in books, music or movies. I would do my research first before reading. 
    I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the latest trend, regardless of what it is, that often we don’t stop and think first about whether that book or movie or music matches the standards the Lord has set.
    For myself, I don’t see how this book could be construed as ‘virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy’ therefore I have chosen not to read it. And I have counseled my children not to read it or see the movie. Unfortunately some of them have read it, but we then have been able to have discussions about the topic.  
    I truly believe there is a difference between depicting violence for entertainment, both for the citizens in the book’s story and for the readers of the book, and the scriptures. Scriptures are not written for profit, nor are they graphic and gratuitous.  
    There is a really good discussion on this book at Old-Fashioned Motherhood. (sorry, don’t know how to do a link.)
    Also Sis. Beck talked about reading/leisure time on the Relief Society program on the Mormon Channel, Episode 35. She addressed reading trends.

  11. audie says

    I first read the books because the girls in my beehive class couldn’t stop talking about them and as I try to keep up with what they are interested in I decided I better give them a chance…  I have very mixed emotions on the series.  While I think they were well written and have many interesting and deep sub themes that are in many ways commentaries on humanity and even the world in which we now live I also felt that the left me in general with an overall bad feeling. 

    I think that any parent who’s children wants to read these books or watch the movie (which I haven’t seen) would be wise to watch/read it before they decide to allow their young teens to.  It is one of those things that really comes down to a personal decision-  but I certainly wouldn’t want my young teens to be exposed to it.  

  12. says

    Yes, the Book of Mormon and Bible are full of wars and killing. But these works were written by inspired Prophets to teach us how to avoid such evils and how we can stay close to the Lord when we find ourselves in the midst of such turmoil. Certainly the Hunger Games or any other similar books can not do that. I choose to get that HOPE that you talk of, from our inspired prophets both ancient and modern. I don’t think God himself would encourage anyone to read such dark works of fiction, just too look for the deeper meaning. I don’t disagree that lessons can be learned from such books, but care needs to be taken as to what these things can to do ones soul.

  13. Karla says

     That’s kind of the whole point of the book – that it is absolutely horrifying that this society is having children killing children be entertainment.  It’s about rejecting that notion and rebelling against a society that can allow that.  I actually found the books very moving and dare I say uplifting?  To each their own…

  14. Carly Dunlop says

    To me the difference between this story and stories like Star Wars, Cinderella, Harry Potter, etc., was that there was a very clear good vs. evil villain that could be triumphed by good.  Whereas in The Hunger Games, Kat , the hero of the story, and was forced to resort to manipulation, lying and had to kill other innocent children who were desperate for their lives.  It’s just really dark, even from the viewpoint of the protagonist.  This story definitely made me sick to my stomach, and nothing else.  I’m very sensitive to violence in general, but children being forced to kill children is just beyond too much even if lessons could be learned- for me, the spirit was not present.  The For the Strength of Youth booklet says to avoid violence in the media we subject ourselves to, this includes books, I think (I actually had a hard time deciding if Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings was okay as well.)  And I realize that the whole idea might be to show how terribly wrong and all-contolling big government can get and that there were certainly lessons to be learned, but I still feel like it’s not a story that uplifts in any way.  Especially I don’t think it’s appropriate for youth.  I read the Harry Potter series and loved them, but they had an underlying theme of good triumphing over evil, with good always winning, which was uplifting.  Nobody really truly won here.  Sure Kat makes it, but she’s mostly left with sadness and a hopeless situation.  I hope the rest of the books head toward that, but the first one did not, it just left you with a sense of sadness and the stuff nightmares are made of. 

    Also, the scriptures are full of wars and killing, but details of how they kill people are generally left out.  And I doubt the church would ever make a movies showing too many gory details.

  15. says

    Just a note on your comment “Besides. How are you going to always surround yourself “with things that are lovely, good report or praiseworthy” when just going to the store you witness people hitting their children, women prostituting themselves and drugs being sold on the corner?” 
    It is true that we have to live IN the world. We can not avoid seeing the things that you mention. BUT just because I can’t avoid seeing what others are doing doesn’t mean that I have to indulge in like behavior or surround myself of my own free will and choice with things that are not “lovely, of good report or praiseworthy”. That would be like saying “well, I can’t avoid seeing immodesty and immoral behavior all around me, so it’s OK if I view explicit websites.” We can’t avoid it out in the world, but we don’t have to bring such things into our homes.

  16. KristinaP says

     If you had continued reading the series, you would see that it actually DOES have the underlying good trumping evil story line. The first book of the Hunger Games you don’t see it. Nor did you see it with Harry Potter either. And people were bashing Harry Potter when the first four books were released because “it was too dark and evil” and did not follow “the lovely, good report or praise worthy” line. However, when book 7 finishes in Harry Potter,  you can clearly see the real story line — is which is Good trumping evil. Which is also the case with The Hunger Game series. If you stopped with the first Hunger Games book, then of course you all would think it was evil and dark and awful — because you didn’t follow it through and see how the children, nay the people,  over came the evil corrupted government to bring about good again.

    Besides. How are you going to always surround yourself “with things that are lovely, good report or praiseworthy” when just going to the store you witness people hitting their children, women prostituting themselves and drugs being sold on the corner? You only avoid that stuff if you live on a commune in the middle of nowhere and make your own clothes and farm your own food.

    I personally feel like watching movies like “You’ve Got Mail” or other
    chick flicks like that are eye gouge worthy because lets face it: If you
    cut to the real story lines in chick flicks its about people — in
    You’ve Got Mail’s case — living in sin, cheating on their partners. Is that
    REALLY an uplifting show to be watching?

    Lastly, I think we each are our own best censors, and just because one person loves the book and another doesn’t DOES NOT mean that there is a winner or loser. Can’t you both be winners and decide “to each his own?” I liked Hunger Games and you didn’t. You like Pride & Prejudice and I want to stab myself in the eye if I have to read that book.

    Besides, lets all follow President Uchtdorf’s advice when it comes to judging each others choices (ahem all you that are being nasty pants because MMB posted a positive review of this book) STOP IT. Stop judging and stop being critical.

    The End.

  17. Karla says

     Agreed, it’s fine not to like the books or feel they weren’t appropriate for you to read, but please stop judging those of us who chose differently.

  18. says

    The direct quote from Pres. Uchtdorf is “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm — please apply the following: Stop it!”

    First, no comment that I have read here is judging others, just choices.

    Second, the qualifiers Pres. Uchtdorf puts on “Stop it” are hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges and wanting to cause harm. Everyone has been respectful and there has been no attempt at any of those qualifiers. There has been no hate or gossiping, ignoring or ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm. The only name calling I see has come from you, KristinaP.

    Third, I love how Middle-aged Mormon Man put this “stop judging me” comment in context. One of the most glaring examples is when someone inevitably comes out with “Stop being so judgmental”. The irony of that statement never ceases to amaze me.  Isn’t it obvious that the second that accusation leaves my lips, I am doing the same thing I am condemning? My sentiments exactly.

    Disagreeing with a review is completely acceptable and so is being critical of the review, not the person who write it. There is a difference.

  19. says

    I think you make a good point, but I have to ask, is the author portraying murder in a positive light? Or is she making every effort to show how horrible the situation is? Killing is not glamorized in this book at all. It made me think about how awful it is that we all capitalize on the suffering of others in some way. Even if we aren’t watching or reading things that use death to entertain, like murder mysteries, many of the products we buy so cheaply here in the US were created at great price to someone elsewhere in the world. Much like the people of the Capitol in Panem, actually. My senses certainly were not “tickled” reading about the graphic deaths of children. They were warned. The fruits of this story are good because it causes us to think about things that will make us more moral people. Killing for entertainment, as you find in many violent video games, is different. There is no lesson to be found there; only desensitization and the message that cruelly exploiting others is glamorous and fun.

  20. says

    Uplifting was a good word for my experience, though I have to admit I learned to tell when something really violent was coming and skipped the paragraph. I still caught some pretty heavy stuff though. In the theater and film program at BYU, I learned to analyze and judge works based on their moral message, instead of whether or not the things that happen in the story are actually moral. Of course, that methods still has its limits. There are some things I just won’t watch or read. Sometimes those things don’t really bother other people, but they bother me, so I leave them alone. But my time in the BYU program really opened up some good, even spiritual experiences for me with things that I previously would not have read or watched.

  21. says

    I have read all three books. I did not like them AT ALL. And I am sorry I wasted my time reading them as they definitely were not uplifting. If one wants to read about good vs evil, true stories – the scriptures, biographies, histories – are the best way to go. You can really see how people react, both good and bad, not some made up version about how they react. True heroes, like those who resisted against the Nazis in Germany by hiding and protecting Jews, did not kill others or violate God’s laws. Katniss did. She is not a true hero and should not be held up as one especially for other youth.

    In this past April’s Friend magazine there is a wonderful resource for judging media. It is not just for children but everyone.

    •It is uplifting and helps me feel good inside.

    •It helps me feel safe.

    •It’s interesting; it’s teaching me good things.

    •It helps me want to obey Heavenly Father’s commandments.

    •It gives me good ideas and inspires me to do good things.

    •I wouldn’t mind if my parents or siblings were reading, watching, or listening to it.

    •I know it’s appropriate.

    •I feel it’s pleasing to Heavenly Father.

    •It has swearing or crude words.

    •It shows or talks about violence.

    •It shows or talks about breaking Heavenly Father’s commandments.

    •It makes me feel dull, tired, or like I’m wasting my time.

    •It makes me think it would be OK to do wrong things.

    •It makes me feel uncomfortable, nervous, scared, or mad.

    •I’m not sure if it’s something I should read, watch, or listen to.

    •I wouldn’t want my parents or siblings to know I’m reading, watching, or listening to it.”

    The books and movie are violent. Sadly, even those who like them agree on that point.

  22. Uturnjoo says

    It would be extraordinarily difficult to claim, after seeing the movie, that the violence in The Hunger Games was “glorified”.

  23. Uturnjoo says

    Please don’t take this as snarky- I think your post raises some interesting questions:

    Do we consider being naked in front of someone, especially in a non-sexual way like with a stylist (i.e. aesthetician), an immoral act?

    Likewise, kissing and making out for the cameras? Don’t actors and actresses do this all the time? Are they immoral for doing this?

    Is just laying in a bed with a person of the opposite sex immoral or just a bad idea?

  24. Kristina Pulsipher says

     Huh. Anyone who knows me knows that A) I don’t read books without pictures, so I haven’t read “The Hunger Games”, and B) my motto is, “If it doesn’t have gratuitous sex, violence, or language, I don’t watch it.

    Off to watch the fornicating “You’ve Got Mail!”

  25. Roxxmbd says

    I’m really doubting that those who are opposed to this book, have actually read it.   The movie IMO did focus on the bloody areas, but the book was not near as graphic.  I also felt that the writer clearly portrayed the games and events within with disgust.  I can’t imagine anyone reading the book and being tickled, or wanting more blood.  The book was not written in that style.  
    As Peeta points out before the games begin, he doesn’t want them to change him.  He chooses through the game ways to avoid killing anyone.  Kat also doesn’t hunt anyone down and kill them.  They get through the game by survival skills. 
    As to a clearly defined good vs evil plot, life isn’t like that.  There is hardly a clear good vs evil.  We all have good and evil in us.  Some choices, are hard to know what is truly good or evil. 

    I also take issue with those who find this book horrifying, but see Harry Potter as a good book.  Harry Potter books become increasingly dark to the very end.  They are violent, and many of the choices the “good guys” make are immoral.  I often thought while reading those books that Harry Potter was not a nice kid.  He often border and crossed the line of doing wicked acts.  He was clearly against the ultimate bad guy, but how often did he act just like his foe?  I would be more comfortable with my teenager reading Hunger Games, than I would Harry Potter.

  26. says

    These are interesting questions and raise others. What definition of immoral are you looking at? Immorality doesn’t just cover sexual sins but also any violation of moral principles. Isn’t that what For the Strength of Youth, True to the Faith, etc outline – the moral principles we should live by? If so then yes, laying next to or on top of a person of the opposite sex {whether in bed or not} is immoral. {I use those booklets as examples for simplicity’s sake, there are of course all the counsel from prophets and apostles about morals}

    Kissing and making out – whether for the cameras or not – depends on how much and how far. There’s countless references from Prophets and apostles speaking of the dangers of both before marriage. I’m not the judge of whether actors are immoral or not for participating in such behavior. It would be interesting to know the LDS actors who do or don’t have a standard they follow. For instance, Kirk Cameron, while not LDS, won’t kiss anyone but his wife when filming a movie so if a scene like that is to be filmed his wife steps in in place of the actress.

    Good point about being nude in front of someone like a doctor or stylist. I hadn’t thought of that.

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