Upon my second reading of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, I am convinced more than ever that every teen needs to read this brilliant series. Aside from the fact that it’s filled with symbolism that English teachers relish, there’s not a single bad word (God’s name isn’t even taken in vain once), and sex is not glorified or even shown, it is my belief that every teen needs to read this trilogy for the lessons these books teach.
And not just teens, but every person. I remember back when I worked in a bookstore, it was common to see young readers and senior citizens alike sitting in the cafe lost in one of three of the Hunger Games books. Collins wrote a trilogy not much unlike The Lord of the Rings where every person, of any age, race, or culture, can relate to and find – and lose – themselves in.
But I know there is a large group of people who refuse to get near them, or allow their kids to read them. I want to address that group today.
True, The Hunger Games centers around a televised gameshow that features children murdering each other in an arena. That’s simply the plot to get people interested in purchasing the book. And in a way, that kind of shows how messed up we are as a culture for gravitating toward such a horrific story idea. In a way, it shows that we’re not so different from the Capitol who devours this sort of twisted entertainment.
But Collins is slick. For within these books, she weaves a tapestry of the beauty and value of life, self-sacrifice, and true love. Sure, the images depicted in the books are gruesome, violent, and sometimes gory. I’m not against showing Saving Private Ryan to our twelve year old if he or she is able to comprehend the glorious story behind the violence. Same as with these books.
We can (and should) protect ourselves and our kids against gratuitous sex scenes because they will always have an option to avoid that sort of life. But they can’t avoid a violent world. They should know why people commit heinous crimes on the news, in their history books, and on the playground. We can’t protect them from those things. But we can get them to ask the question: “What side am I on? What will I fight for if the time comes?”
The Hunger Games is not just a gory, violent romp for entertainment’s sake. It’s a cautionary tale about history repeating itself in our not-so-distant future. It’s about how people suffer at the hands of tyrants and dictators. It’s about choosing what’s right. It’s about valuing others above yourself (try finding that in any other modern teen book). It’s about true love, courage, and survival.
It’s about time you get yourself a copy if you haven’t already. Seriously. Put aside any notion that it’s just about kids killing each other. One chapter in, and you’ll see that there is much more to it than that. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t refuse your children the opportunity to read them if they’re of age, and interested. I will never let my kids read Twilight under my roof, but Sarabeth and I will have The Hunger Games readily available at a moment’s notice when our kids are able to understand the significance of the warnings given.
And as a writer, my hat is off to Ms. Collins, for telling the most gripping, touching, and unpredictable tale of our time. Truly an author who’s name will go down in the history books, and much deserving, at that.