Name of Book: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Book Design: Phil Falco
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Audience: Ages 12 and up
Summary: The first in a trilogy of science fiction stories, The Hunger Games is written for adolescent youth and older due to graphic and violent content.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl who has taken her sister’s place in a fight-to-the-death tournament required by the nation of Panem every year. She is one of 24 contestants from the country, and one of two from her district that must participate in these Olympic-style games until a victor emerges alive. She and Peeta, the two chosen from District 12 are taken as tributes to participate as a vengeance for the districts having revolted against the capital many years prior. The games are designed as purely entertainment for the President and Capital residents.
During the story Katniss and Peeta must form an alliance and work to keep one another alive only to have to face the reality of someone needing to die in order for the other to live. In pre-games preparation, Peeta declares his love for Katniss as a way to protect her and keep her alive in the games. In the end, his scheming allows the two of them to be saved from death as dual victors, only to then begin a victory tour being paraded around the country after the games have ended. Unbeknownst to her, Katniss becomes the token for revolution for the country against the Capital, which will carry over into the other books in the series.
Note: While the series has no Christian references at all, there are a number of routes one can take in discussing Christian faith with teenage readers. Parents are strongly encouraged to read this book either before their children or alongside their children and engage in regular faith-based discussions.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a science fiction dystopia of revenge imposed by the country leadership onto the individual districts. It is told from the first person point of view of Katniss, a 16 year old tribute to the Games. It is her story of survival in not just the games, but in everyday life as a citizen of the poorest district in Panem. Katniss is portrayed as a survivor, as is her friend Gale, while many of the other child characters, including her sister (and even her mom) are portrayed as weak and needy. The setting takes place in District 12, as well as in the Capital and in the games arena.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability make a difference to the story? Readers receive unique views on cultures as each district has its own way of life, all of which are completely different from the culture of the Capital. In each district there are more well-off citizens and the poverty stricken citizens. In the Capital, there is no poverty and hardly anyone has to work in something they don’t want to do for a job. The districts are designed to each generate a unique supply that will then be given to the other districts in limited amount and to the Capital in great quantities. Given the nature of the games, the strongest and most wily competitors are generally the victors at which time they are lavished with fame and fortune. There appears to be no tolerance for the weak, the poor, or the disabled in the eyes of the Capital, and thus the district citizens trying to merely survive.
Scripture: Galatians 3:1-5; Romans 12:1-2
Theology: As humans we fall short of the glory of God, but we are still loved and desired by God. We have turned away from God, and each other, in search of our own personal and societal gains. As sinners, we have gone against “the way it’s supposed to be.” We are unable to turn ourselves back toward God and unable to make our relationship with God and one another right.
Faith Talk Questions
- How does Katniss feel when she owes someone something?
- Have you ever been given a gift by someone that you know you can’t repay?
- Katniss is not sure if she can trust Peeta at first. Have you ever not been able to trust someone close to you? How did you learn you could trust them?
- How can we trust God when we don’t physically see or feel God?
- Are there any characters in the book that value human life?
- What does God teach us about the value of a human life?
- Katniss realizes that she is unworthy of Peeta’s love and devotion. Do you ever feel unworthy of someone’s love and devotion? How do you try and show your love to them?
- How do you think God would react to the Capital’s treatment of the citizens of Panem?
- How do you think God would react to Katniss and Peeta’s behavior as they try and survive?
- As a Christian, what advice would you give to Katniss and Peeta before they enter the games arena?
- Does this story have a happy ending? If so, what is it?
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary graduate Katie Todd
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., Fantasy/Science Fiction, High School Students, Young Adults, Young Adults Tagged: | death, dystopia, survival, trust, vegeance