BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins 

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I will use only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019).

BANNED BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of The Hunger Games. However, if you haven’t, let me enlighten you about this thrilling series. In the future dystopian country of Panem, the land is divided into thirteen districts ruled over by the Capitol, with each district being chiefly responsible for a certain national resource. Once a year, there is a lottery where district children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are “reaped” to participate in the Hunger Games: a national contest of survival where there can only be one winner. Every other tribute child dies, while the district of the winner gets extra rations–with the winner and their family being cared for (in comparative luxury) for the rest of their lives. The contest was created as punishment and reminder to the districts to never rise against the Capitol again. The story mainly follows Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her little sister as the female tribute (when the younger Everdeen’s name is pulled via lottery). 

I’ve adored Greek mythology ever since I was a child, and the plot of the young tributes being sacrificed to the Capitol reminded me strongly of the young Athenian tributes being sacrificed to the Minotaur in Crete. I became even more curious about the books after learning they were on the Banned Books list. Some of the reasons listed include Anti-ethic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic references, and in 2014 “inserted religious views” was added to that list –coincidently the same year that anti-government protesters in Thailand used the book’s symbolism to show sympathy with people oppressed by their own governments; seven people (possibly more) were arrested because of the incident.

As far as the objections to the book: some are valid, though I’d argue that they are necessary to the plot. The charge of being anti-ethic makes no sense to me: the book focuses on ethics in particular. Perhaps its the anti-authoritarian themes that are objectionable to those in charge, especially to school age children they wish to be obedient. Anti-family likewise makes no sense; Katniss’s family (as well as some others) is somewhat broken, but they are still family who care for each other. Katniss sacrifices herself to save her sister. How much more pro-family could she possibly be?

The charges of insensitivity and offensive language I’m honestly not sure of. I haven’t read the book in awhile, but I remember the language being fairly tame. Again, I believe it’s probably a case of objection to the book’s themes of rebellion and some situations that would frighten younger readers; however, the book was written for young adult audiences. And I have absolutely no idea where the charge of “occult/Satanic references” came from. There’s really no discussion about religion. Politics and survival are the prevailing issues throughout the book.

The author herself has said she wrote the books to expand upon the “the just-war debate” and explore the question of the mortality of war. She wanted to spark political and ethical discussions. Since the book focuses on children paying the price of war–particularly on the almost gladiatorial combat of the tributes, I would say she’s met her goal. 

In fact, I would argue that this book ranks along with other political scifi classics like Orwell’s 1984–coincidentally another banned book from the same list.  For a thought-provoking dystopian novel aimed at young adults, check out The Hunger Games.

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Next Friday, I’ll also post on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my work for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

*sources: Hunger Games (Meaghan Merritt) | CMLIT 130: Banned Books (psu.edu), Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” – The Banned Books Project (cmu.edu), Banned: The Hunger Games – The City Voice, Suzanne Collins Talks About ‘The Hunger Games,’ the Books and the Movies – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

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