Genre: Adventure, Dystopian, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”
Review: I have a certain fondness for The Hunger Games because this book introduced me (and likely many other people) to the merits of dystopian fiction. It is somewhat challenging for me to review The Hunger Games, however, because I have read the full series many times; my interpretation of this book is clouded by my feelings regarding the second and third books. However, if I really isolate myself from Catching Fire and Mockingjay, which I did not enjoy nearly as much as The Hunger Games, I can comfortably say that The Hunger Games is a really outstanding first installment. Suzanne Collins does an excellent job of fully immersing her readers in the eccentric world of Panem, and I found myself easily drawn into the tension of the Games. My reason for giving The Hunger Games four out of five stars largely centralizes on one character in particular: Peeta. Overall, Collins fails to make me genuinely care about Peeta’s fate. I understand that he was always meant to be secondary to strong, intelligent, skillful Katniss, but I found his characterization to be lackluster, especially when compared to several supplementary characters like Rue. As one of the main characters, he falls oddly flat in my opinion.
Reason for Ban/Challenge: The Hunger Games has made it onto the American Library Association’s top ten list of most frequently challenged books on three separate occasions: 2013 (ranked fifth), 2011 (ranked third), and 2010 (ranked fifth). The reasons cited as justification for challenging the book span the typical gauntlet, and include anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group. Having read the book multiple times, the only reason that even remotely makes sense is that the books have some violence. The Hunger Games is, after all, a story about children killing each other. The rest of the reasons, however, are extremely befuddling. To my knowledge, not a single swear word (or other example of offensive language) is uttered throughout the entire first book. My best guess for the occult/satanic claim is that the main characters show no apparent belief in any sort of god. And sexually-explicit is particularly confusing, given that the most sexually-explicit thing that happens in The Hunger Games is a kiss. Altogether, these particular complaints lead me to question whether the dissenters actually even read the novel.
Bonus: Edited cover from the Buzzfeed article titled “19 Banned Books if They Were Made Appropriate” (http://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/banned-books-if-they-were-g-rated#.oh3oNwL0b).