Banned Books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

So, it basically doesn’t surprise me at all that this book has been challenged since it hit the shelves. I mean, you can look here, and here, and here for examples. I mean, come on. Violence? Death? Gruesome murder and the fact that to survive you must kill everyone around you? And all this involving teenagers? It’s bound to ruffle more than a few feathers! For those you you who haven’t gotten around to cracking the cover on THE BEST BOOK/SERIES TO HIT THE SHELVES IN WHAT FEELS LIKE FOREVER, here is a Goodreads summary for you:

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, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, 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 will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

This book is basically an extended (and very, very, very good version) of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, and I think makes people uncomfortable because it kind of forces those reading it to face the truth: we may not be as far from Panem, and the world of the Hunger Games, as we like to think they are. We, as a people (here I’m speaking largely to those citizens of the developed countries), are entirely too focused on the way we look, are much to willing to ignore poverty as long as we are satisfied, and are not above using the media and military to remind us of the ‘greatness’ of our various countries, along with the ‘horribleness’ of countries that aren’t our own. These are difficult facts to face, especially when they are drawn out to such horrifying conclusions within the course of the book.

HOWEVER, I think that this book has a lot of merit for so, so many reasons (as most banned books do) – and that goes beyond the fact that I found Peeta to be SUCH a hunka-hunka-burning man-crush. First of all, Katniss is a fantastic female heroine for the YA female readers of today. Yes, more and more fantastic female heroines are flooding the market, and that’s great. But one more never hurt. Not only does Katniss not need saving, she saves more people herself than could ever save her. She volunteers to take her little sister’s place in the Hunger Games. She saves Peeta’s life after he tries to sacrifice himself for her. She (eventually through the series) ends up saving the minds and hopes of a broken group of people. Long story short, she’s totally kick ass.

Secondly, I also think this book has a really key message lying at its foundation: hope. Hope that things don’t always have to remain the way that they are. Hope that, with enough faith and power of belief, single people can move mountains, and lead a group of people to bring down entire mountain ranges. In a time of things like this and this, it’s kind of an awesome hope to have! I also think that it’s important for the YA audience of this book to be taking in that message of positive proactive change, and of personal responsibility, as I think it’s becoming all to easy for people (and I think of a lot of my past students when I say this) to point out all the things going wrong without any active steps to keep those things from happening anymore. But Katniss isn’t a sit-down kind of girl. And it requires bravery, intelligence, and most of all a sense of self-sacrifice. None of which, I don’t think, are bad qualities to possess.

Well, folks, there you have it! My first review in celebration of Banned Books Week. Don’t forget to stop by every day this week for another look at some of my own personal favorite banned books! Hope that whatever your reading, it’s being as good to you as you are to it!

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