Teens and pre-teens are currently reading The Hunger Games trilogy with enthusiasm. Children you would not expect to be reading, are setting aside play (and, yes, even school work), to read the pages describing Katniss’ adventures. I have to admit that curiosity led me to read this story. I wanted to discover what would encourage non-readers to become engrossed in the written word. As a teacher, nothing pleases me more than to see children wrapped up in a world that has been created by an author.
And I also wanted to find out whether the content was appropriate for my pre-teen daughters. I had heard the novel was violent – and I wanted to read for myself the extent of death and murder in the story.
The story takes place some time in the future during a period after the world, as we currently know it, has been destroyed. Set in what we call North America, the novel describes Panem as consisting of 12 districts (formerly of 13) that are governed by the Capitol. The Capitol’s rich lifestyle is contrasted, in the story, with the lifestyle of district 12, the poorest district of Panem. In remembrance of a former rebellion against the Capitol in which district 13 was destroyed, the rulers of Panem have created what are called the Hunger Games. Two participants from each district, a boy and a girl, are chosen by lottery to participate in the games. During these games, each tribute (participant) need to fight to the death in an outdoor arena that has been created by the Games Master. The games are televised throughout the country and serve, not only as entertainment, but also as a grim reminder to the populace that they should not rebel against the current regime.
In book I of the trilogy, The Hunger Games, Katniss and her fellow tribute from district 12, Peeta, participate in the games. It is not expected that these two tributes will get very far as they are from the poorest district and have had no training for the games.
In book II, Catching Fire, Katniss discovers that her actions during the Hunger Games has ignited a rebellion in the districts of Panem. Leading up to the Quarter Quell (a 75th edition of the Hunger Games) she attempts to quell the rebellion. She cannot escape, however, participating in the Quarter Quell in which she has to once again fight for her life.
In book III, Mockingjay, Katniss becomes the symbol of the rebellion. A refugee in district 13, she becomes a tool of rebel propaganda to strengthen the rebellion and the uprising against President Snow, the leader of the Capitol.
The story is fast-paced and grips the reader right from the start. I can easily understand why a child would forgo recess in order to find out what is going to happen in the story. Collins does not take the reader on forays into another plot; or introduce us to characters that are not essential to the main storyline. Instead, we run with her through fast-paced action that slumbers at the end of book I and II; and then picks up again when we begin the next volume.
Is the story appropriate for pre-teens? The language certainly is: sentences are short and succinct; and the dialogue is written in an easy-to-understand form. The writing is descriptive without the use of complicated analogies and vocabulary. Is there violence in the novel? With rebellion and revolution running throughout the story, it cannot be avoided. Death, killing and violence is a thread that is woven into the fabric of the story. Yet Collins deals with the subject delicately. Unlike in adult murder stories, the act of killing and death is not described graphically. I found the action in the novel no more graphic than many of the animated cartoons on television that pre-teens watch.
As an adult and voracious reader, I enjoyed reading Collins’ trilogy. Fast-paced and easy to read, this story has a theme that is relevant to modern-day society. I would recommend this story for adults – but be prepared to set aside some serious reading time as you may not want to put the book down!
Have you read The Hunger Games trilogy? What is your opinion on this story?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012