Friday, March 9, 2012

The Hunger Games - A Christian Review

I just devoured the first two books of the Hunger Games. (Pun intended.)

Riveting. Spell-binding. These books are page-turners for sure. But there's just something about this series, something that really sickens me. Honestly, I don't really know what to think about them. While I like the action and I like the suspense, there is definitely something I don't like about these books. I just haven't quite pin-pointed what it is yet.

Originally, I started the series after all the ranting and raving I saw about them on facebook. So many of my friends seemed fanatical over them. I wanted to know what all the hype was about. Plus, I wanted to have read the book before the movie came out.

Not knowing much except from what my friends had told me, I downloaded the first book to my kindle. I made the mistake of starting it at the beginning of the week. Needless to say, I was not the most productive person that week. =) I couldn't put the book down!

(Note: I'm not going to use this review to summarize the plot; so if you are unfamiliar with this series, I suggest reading these articles first so that my thoughts make more sense. Focus on the Family, CCB Review.)

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I read the Hunger Games. Generally, a book centered around teens who are forced to kill each other would appall me. I would never think of reading such a book! So why was this one different? Why did I consider it worth my time? I think it's because so many people I knew were crazy about them. They kept going on about how great they were. So I assumed it was just that. Maybe it's just me, but reading about how teens must kill each other to stay alive isn't "great" to me.

While I can absolutely see why people would love this book for its thrilling experience and relate-able characters, I just can't get past all the killing that goes on. Yes, I know it's necessary for the central plot of the story. But it's still a little disturbing. What really bugs me is how I cannot figure out the morality of these books: the morality seems to be so circular. On the one hand, killing is wrong and terrible. But the tyrannical Capital forces you to take innocent lives in order to save your own. But that's all the other person is trying to do as well! The other person is only trying to kill you because they don't want you to kill them, but the only reason you're trying to kill them is because they're trying to kill you.

Do you see how it seems so circular? I just can't figure it out. Is it honorable to kill someone in order to save your own life? If it is, then each one of the Tributes displays honor. And if all of them are honorable then no one is wrong. But I just cannot get past that there is something wrong.

I'm not saying that protecting your own life is wrong. In fact, it's right. But all of the Tributes are trying to protect their own lives. So in essence, the Capital forces these teens both to be the criminal AND the defender at the same time. You become guilty of murdering an innocent person who is only trying to preserve their own life; yet you've just preserved your own.

So this brings me to another question. Can Katniss be considered the "heroine" of the story if she is both criminal and honorable? The book series puts a bazaar twist on the dynamics of the protagonist in this plot. Is she really heroic? And if she is the protagonist then who or what is the antagonist?

I really haven't come to any final conclusions about this series. Maybe some of you could help me. I really want to know your thoughts on this series because I'm still trying to sort out my own. What do you think?

  • Why (specifically) are these books best-sellers? What is different in this series that makes these books stand out above the rest?
  • Is it okay for Christians to read about gore and death simply because the book is a best-seller or because everyone recommends it?
  • What do you think of Katniss as the protagonist or heroine of the story? Is she really a hero?
  • What do you think is the main conflict of the books? What is the struggle driving the entire plot?
  • What would you say is the morality of these books?
  • Is there some kind of political message the author is trying to portray? What are the major themes?
  • Are these books that Christians should read?
There are parts of these books that I like. And parts that I don't like. While I haven't decided for sure what my stance on these books is, I don't think that I could truly recommend them to anyone. To me, they were too hopeless, dark, and twisted for me to call them "great." Maybe there's something I don't see, and I'd love to hear your thoughts! But for now, I guess I'll have to conclude that I didn't like the Hunger Games as much as everyone said I would.



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  2. I am so glad I'm not the only one who thinks these books are twisted and gross... I haven't read them, but I've done enough research to know that I don't want to read them.Thank you so much for your input and thoughtfulness! God bless!

    Sarah King

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I haven't read them yet simply because I was a little wary of what I had heard about the plot, etc. It's good to hear of someone who didn't quite find them settling, you would be the first Christian I've heard say something other than "These books are amazing! You HAVE to read them." :) I'm interested to read what other people's thoughts are to your questions.

  4. I loved them. :) But hey, everyone's got their opinions and I do get what you're saying. :D

    1. Hey Emii! Thanks for your honesty! I appreciate your thoughts so much! And it's totally fine to have different opinions! :-) Love you!

  5. Part 1

    Hi Chloe!

    Kinsey here! I've really missed you! I hope you're doing well!

    I loved this review! If you don't mind, could I use the questions you raised about the book? I'd like to make a note on Facebook about them.

    I really believe that there is much more to the Hunger Games than what we can see on the surface. My mom and I have had many conversations about them. I truly think that it is another step of tolerance taking root in our culture. A tolerance of outright murder.

    Let me start out by saying that I couldn't put the book down either. I only read the first one, so I can't comment on the second and third. I chose to stop because of how much it disturbed me, but still there was something in me that wanted to keep going. I'm not sure what it was, but something in those books just grips the reader! Possibly it’s the characters, or the fantastic storytelling. The author knows how to write a compelling story! But the content sickened me. Your questions made me think through them in more detail and try to think of WHY they were so gripping.

    1. I don't know why these books are best sellers. Like I said, perhaps it’s the storytelling. The page turning suspense. The strangeness of a world where teens are forced to play such a bizarre game.

    2. No, I don't thing that just because something is popular or because all of our friends are doing it makes it right. Our standard isn't the culture. Our standard is Christ.

    3. In my opinion, Katniss wasn't heroic. She was relatable, but not noble or heroic. She was a tribute just like all the rest. Why do we see some tributes as bad and others as good? For instance, why do we loathe the Careers, but cheer for Katniss? Is it because the Careers WANT to kill? Perhaps. But Katniss had no problem with it either. We hate the boy who kills Rue, and are relieved when Katniss gets him for it. But in reality they were both following the rules of the game! Why does that elevate Katniss above the others? On top of that Katniss was, in a way, relieved that Rue had been killed, because that meant that she wouldn’t have to kill her if it came down to the two of them. And I, as the reader, found myself relieved as well! Would Katniss have killed Rue? I think that’s a completely different question, and frankly isn’t the point. It’s the very thought of being relieved at a murder that is loathsome. Overall I found Katniss very dislikable. Although that's probably a personal preference in what I like in a hero, still the way she treated everyone around her, even outside of the games, in my eyes, was far from noble.

  6. Part 2

    4. Again, I can't comment on the second and third books. Though from what I've heard they aren't much different from the first in their hopelessness and killing. I suppose the main conflict would be between the Capital and the public. The Capital is clearly seen as evil. But, if that is the case, in order to be truly heroic shouldn't the heroes stand up AGAINST the Capital, instead of conforming to their game? I think that a story like that, if told well, would make an incredible book and be so much more redeeming.

    5. I don't know what the morality is. I loved what you said about it being circular. On one hand killing is awful, on the other it is a good thing. In one scene, when Thrush releases Katniss, he is seen as a kind and considerate person. (Even though the next second he turns around and kills a young girl. Just following the rules of the game!) We're still glad when he gets killed because that means that Peeta and Katniss can live. I found myself and my desires being twisted. "Oh good!" I would think. "Now they just have to take out those other two, and they can win!" Since when have I ever wished anybody murdered?

    6. In my mind, if there isn't any morality, how can the author be trying to send a message? Maybe there is a political one of some sort. The only thing I can think of is that, “We should stand up for what is right, even though the big guys may be against us.” I think I got a faint impression of this in the book. But still the characters conformed! The only place they didn’t was when Katniss and Peeta were going to eat the berries and both die. Yeah, they showed the Capital what they thought of them. And still we see that there is death and hopelessness even in the triumph.

    7. A lot of people would get really mad at me for saying this, but no. I don't believe that Christians should read these books for entertainment, let alone promote them and suggest them their friends. All is gore, death, and shallow romance. Because they are so popular, should we read them for sake of being able to talk to others about them? To point out the book’s flaws and faulty worldview? Maybe. But I think it's kind of like playing with fire. How close can we get without getting burned?

    There's no way I can deny that these books are completely riveting. I've had plenty of mental battles; first telling myself how much is wrong with them, then wishing so much that I could finish them and see what happens next. I’ve struggled so much with this. What is it about the Hunger Games that is different? Why am I so drawn to them? Why am I going to want to go see the movie the weekend it opens? Like you Chloe, I'm really not sure. But one thing I do know for sure. My Savior came to give life, that we may have it in abundance. The Enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. These books are just another thing pushing our culture further from Christ.

    That's my (very lengthy) opinion on the Hunger Games. :-)

  7. Hey Chloe! Have you finished the series? I read them awhile ago, and while I don't know if I'd recommend that you pick up the last if you didn't like the first two (it's just as - if not more - intense), I know that my own opinions were only really formed after finishing all three. At first, though I found them riveting and very interesting (as well as brutal and harsh, obviously), I struggled with the morality as well, and they also felt a little too romantic for the setting to me. (Yes, I know that's a strange complaint:p) I've heard from several people that the third book ruined it for them - I guess in my case it's was opposite. I'd like to discuss, buuut..I know myself when it comes to books, I can get quite long winded. :)

  8. Hey Chloe!

    Thank you for your insight into the Hunger Games. I went to grad school for seminary education and I can see why you would be repulsed by the gory aspects of some reviews...yet think about this if you will for a minute. Was Christ's dying on the cross all peaceful and full of rainbows? Well...not exactly. Jesus carried his own cross to which he would be set upon, wore a crown of thorns that wasnt comfy, and ultimately died for the sake of all. The tributes that fought did die...yet for the sake of 1) their own survival 2) honor 3) to provide nourishment of a years supply of food for their district and 4) other reasons of sustainability be it mind body or spirit.

    Now to the real core of what I hope may answer some things for you. I believe that if you look around at our world today, there are several stories in the news that describe forms of violence, war, crimes, you name it...and yet its a reality that we all face. So to answer the question of whether a Christian should read these would be yes in my mind. There will ALWAYS be some condemnation of ANY fiction book series that doesn't reflect a total Christ-like mindset (hey...consider how many folks described Harry Potter series as devil worshipping lolz)...yet if you truly read it with some interest and an open mind I think you will find so many enriching themes.

    Second, as to about the gore aspects...I think its a personal conviction on your part whether you do or not. I definitely am an advocate of reading something that isn't swayed by general popularity...yet the reason why I got into them was because when news about the movie came about, I heard some of the scenes were filmed in Shelby, NC...which is fifteen minutes from my house and I was like wow! thats got my attention. And once I got into reading them, I could see possible themes emerging that would make for a great fiction book/biblical study.

    To conclude, I would say keep investigating and take time to finish the series if you so choose. I do especially see that circular motif you mention and now will keep it in mind as something to reflect on (so thank you for that lol). And above all, you are entitled to think theologically...which I'm a firm believer makes for great, deeper, and contextual discussions as we walk with Christ into the many facet or areas of our life and world!

    Vaya con Dios,

    Jason R

  9. Hi my name is Ashley I really look up to you as a blogger and sister in Christ and was wondering if you would help me promote my blog for Christian girls called Pray LOVE Live

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  10. 1)Why (specifically) are these books best-sellers? What is different in this series that makes these books stand out above the rest?

    These books are best sellers because they reflect a truth about life and even the Kingdom of God. All that the capitol does is a reflection of evil and a the acts of evil men. Katniss finds her self trapped in a world out of her control, but her love for others (her sister, rue, Petta and others) pushes her to fight to take down the capitol. To fight the evil at hand even though she is so tempted to run away into the woods and hide, she has the courage to step up and fight. Much like Jesus had the courage to speak against the corrupt systems he found himself in, even till the point of his death.

    2)Is it okay for Christians to read about gore and death simply because the book is a best-seller or because everyone recommends it?

    No, christians shouldn't read about gore and death just for the sake of it, no one should. But this book is NOT ABOUT GORE AND DEATH! Its about fighting for a brighter future. Its about stopping the gore and death for all future generations. About starting a revolution to destroy the evil capitol who forces such senseless murders for its own entertainment. I tell you the truth, Jesus didn't shy away from gore and death, neither should we. I don't mean to say glorify it, I just mean to say if you think its a good thing as a christian to keep yourself away from every hard, dark or gory thing in life at all, your not going to be much help to Jesus any dang way.

    3)What do you think of Katniss as the protagonist or heroine of the story? Is she really a hero?

    Absolutely Katniss is a hero. The entire point is that she is FORCED to kill. She hates this completely. That is central to the plot. The book does a good job of explaining how the games are created and oriented to not give them options. It literally is a kill or be killed situation. And sure, we could just stop and judge her for not just sitting down to be killed, thus ignoring her promise to her sister...or we can realize that she was in horrific unimaginable situations and perhaps she did the best she could. As christians we might say, "Oh, she murdered someone, therefore nothing good she had done is worth while", but lets not forget how King David had Uriah killed, and yet we know that his good was so good its worth emulating. The same with Katniss, though you must read all 3 books.

    4)What do you think is the main conflict of the books? What is the struggle driving the entire plot?

    The main conflict of the series is: in the face of unimaginable you remain in the backdrop and say nothing, just going along with everything or do you stand up and fight back, even in the face of certain death.

    The struggle is caring for self or caring for others. It is easier, everything is easier when you keep your mouth shut. Everything would have been easier if she just killed petta instead of holding out those berries! Everything would have been easier if she choose not to be the face of the revolution. She has to choose over and over again to do the right thing.

  11. 5)What would you say is the morality of these books?

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the morality of these books. If there is a distinct morality it includes. Family is important, do anything you can for those sick and dieing, killing is bad but those who force children to kill children are evil and should be brought down, Its ok to break some laws that are evil

    6)Is there some kind of political message the author is trying to portray? What are the major themes?

    People in power can be corrupt, using the hard work and toil of others to live outrageously lavish-as we in america use the labor of people in third world countries and pay them next to nothing. They starve as we play on our computers and drive our multiple cars etc.

    We are ok with watching others hurt for our entertainment. Reality tv and other such things. If things don't change for the better, we could be the people of the capitol...

    Major themes:The capitol citizens are so removed from reality that they watch children murdered for fun. The capitol is all powerful and controlling, but intelligence and natural skill outwit it. The wounded and broken in battle can change peoples hearts with honesty. Even the most unlikely can make a difference in changing things for the better. People need to ban together to defeat evil.

    7)Are these books that Christians should read?
    ABSOLUTELY. Katniss is much like King David, had to kill for battle, made mistakes, had regrets, but essentially brought the people of God into a light place of safety.

  12. ^ best, most logical and factually accurate reply here. Well done. READ these books.

  13. Thank you so much for this post! Im glad to see that im not the only person in the world that doesn't love these books ( it sure feels like it sometimes. I read the first book in two days and throughout it i kept feeling like it was too romantic and wasn't good for me to read right now. But i thought to myself "its just a book right?" Later on as i prayed about it God showed me this verse in Corinthians that says "Everything is permissible, but not everythin is beneficial." I felt like God was telling me it's "ok" to read the books but, is this going to benefit me?
    So i would say that it isn't wrong to read these books for christians but that would do need to be careful about what we put in our brains. Each person is affected differently and has different weaknesses. Anything that draws us away from God isn't good; it doesn't matter how silly it seems or how many people are doing it!
    Thanks again for your thoughts, so refreshing!

  14. The readers are the mob. The readers are the ones being entertained with dehumanizing violence. Just admit it. You and I will watch the movie to see it.
    People who love these books probably loved "the passion" which was just an exploitation film for christians.

  15. If you love hunger games you probably loved "the passion".

    ps 11:5 The lord tests the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and he who loves violence.

  16. I'm so glad to find this. My 6th grade daughter read the book before I even knew anything about it. Now she's begging me to let her see the movie. After I've read the reviews, I'm not feeling any urge to read the book. I can understand the relationship you're talking about with the blood and gore and Jesus. I don't think a child will be able to grasp the depth of story. I know it's rated PG13, but many movies that are rated the same are really not too bad. I've been struggling to decide whether to let her see it or not. I think not. Thanks!

  17. Christians are to abhor evil and wickedess as they live their lives for Jesus. Somehow, reading books like this and watching movies like this seems to miss the mark by miles of being pure and holy, of godliness. Obviously, people LIVE evil and wickedness everyday, are subject to unimaginable horrors and experience horrendous thing, but to CHOOSE to fill our minds with that, to CHOOSE to watch and read that which is full of evil, murder and wickedness...for the sake of entertainment? That just doesn't fit Biblically with a set-apart heart that wants to please the Lord. I think we live in a world that compartmentalizes the things of life, and instead of weaving holiness and the Lord into every aspect of life, we live like what we watch or read (or do and think or whatever) is perhaps not subject to the same standard for godliness as our "going to church Sunday morning" or "when we pray" type activities. May we be discerning people, and love the Lord and then SHOW we truly love Him by EVERY choice we make, from what we read and see, to what we thing :)

    Happy day to you!


  18. Any attempt to contrast a fictional book and movie with the death of Christ is borderline blasphemy.

    Christ is real, he's God, he's holy, righteous, incorruptible.

    The Hunger Games are the product of a sinful mind.

    If Christians can justify filling their mind with the voyeuristic exploitation of child murder, what else can they justify? At what point will Christians stand for holiness and righteousness? At what point will Christians stand up and live separate from the world? Or will we continue to rationalize everything in order to feed our flesh?

  19. As I have researched these books and gone to different sites to see what is all the rage, I must weigh in with a theme that runs through my spirit with this research........If we are uncomfortable and questioning a topic...I believe that if Christ indwells us, the HolySpirit stirs us to reaction...the discomfort for this plotline is clear...If something is apart from Christ, it is not of Christ...we are living in Revelation right now, the darkness is attempting to consume the light. I never read HarryPotter for the same reasons....if you desire a book of intrigue, murder, gore, power, sex, romance, love and redemption....the best read is from God Himself, literal and true...won't hurt your soul to partake...the Bible..'do not hold fast to things of this life'...I agree with Fin&Feathers.

  20. I have been doing some research on HungerGames to see what is all the rage, I have not read the book or seen the movie....What I know is that as Christians we are indwelled with the HolySpirit...that separates us from the world as we are filled with Light...we are called to be Light in the darkness...the HungerGames are can read it and see it depicted in the movie(trailer was all that was necessary)....If we have a sense of 'discomfort' or 'unease' with something and Jesus lives within us, that discomfort is coming from HIM as a protection for us. If you desire to read a book filled with murder, intrigue, gore, romance, sex, love, sacrifice and redemption....I know a book that will keep you safe from harm, will make the devil sick and bless you in the process...that book is the Bible...we are living in Revelation...Christ is returning soon, filter EVERYTHING through God's word or you may fall prey to the schemes of this dark blessed!!

  21. I am going to be honest: I had issues with this (The Hunger Games) book. I "liked" it but couldn't quite get past the notion that peers were killing each other (I realize they had little choice). There was just something troubling about it. Still... I am going to read books two and three, will rent the movie and probably at some point write a rambling blog post about the series as a whole.


  22. I am a highschool science teacher at a christian school. I first heard of these books from my students (about the time the movie hit the theatre) who were absoutely crazy about them. One girl in particular was really crazed about them. She talked about it like it was real and the characters were real. WHen I asked her what it was all about, she just bubbled over and took great delight to tell me that is was about kids that were forced by the government to kill eachother. She was such a sweet girl but suddenly turned into this blood thirsty lover of death! I was very alarmed but was sure that it must portray good over evil very clearly, like the heroine would rally the contestants together and put a stop to the games, or be some moral leader of some kind and cause an uprising. But I couldn't get rid of that sick, disturbed feeling that I got as I listened to their conversations, especially since every one centered around some gruesome act of violence where. And it only confirmed my fears when I went to see the movie. I appreciated that they didn't show the terrible fear and agony of the littlest children as they were murdered by others, but just some screams and splatters of blood. But what alarmed me most is that there was never a clear implication of what was right and wrong. Yes our consciences instantly tell us that children killing children is wrong, but as you immerse yourself in the world and culture of this movie, you find your mind experiencing a major ethical dilemma and questioning your innermost instincts of right and wrong. At least for me, I kept wondering, "ok when is the hero going to step up and speak out or put a stop to the violence"? THere didn't seem to be a right answer. ONly gray area. No clear right or wrong. This feeling was portrayed at the very beginning when Katniss and her friend Gale are talking about the games and Gale attempts to take a stand against them wondering aloud how they could stop them. Katniss only laughs at him like he just told a cute little joke! What's up with that? ANd she's supposed to be the heroine? What does that tell you about the underlying theme of the movie? Could it be that evil can't be destroyed so we might as well play their little game and get along the best we can? THe movie almost forces you to compromise what you know is moral and right in order to keep Katniss as the heroine in your mind instead of just another "tribute" that took lives in order to preserve her own.
    After saying that, I will say that I enjoyed the movie, a lot, for its action and entertaining qualities. So much so that I thought about it for days afterward. But instead of leaving me with a feeling of resolve to stand up to injustice and abuse against children in our present-day society (as one "christian" reviewer said it should), I actaully felt like going out and training to kill someone if I had to (if you would allow me to be honest). Not too Christ-like I know. I can't imagine what it would do to the minds of thousands of teenagers who are both reading the books and watching the movies! I can't believe that a society so plagued with school violence and mass masacres of innocent children by fellow students as we are would actually applaud these books!

    These books are dangerous for our young people in that the moral situations they portray redefine what is "the right thing to do" by glorifying becoming a voctor by going along with the corrupt system in stead of standing against it. Nowhere in any Bible story, did a child of God accomplish something good by partaking in a heathen practice or ritual simply because there was no way out. When you are a child of God, He makes a way out! There is not gray area with God. These books are dangerous for the development of moral judgement in our young people


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