A Parent’s Guide to The Hunger Games

Over at Tinsel, I’ve put together a brief primer on “The Hunger Games,” the wildly popular book series about post-apocalyptic America that the tween and teen set is devouring. The movie adaptation of the first book opens in a week.

What’s it about?

The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic future America. The Capitol, run by President Snow, brutally rules what’s left of the former country. There are 12 Districts (a 13th having been destroyed by the Capitol for rebellion). The Capitol is rich and foppish while the districts are poor and often starving.

Spunky Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, roughly comparable to Tennessee or Kentucky. It’s a coal mining district where all the men and many of the women are forced to work in the mines. Katniss violates the law by breaking into forbidden territory and poaching game by bow and arrow with her friend Gale. She is beginning to think Gale might love her and is not sure how she feels about that.

Every year, the Capitol drafts two “tributes” from each District as a show of power. These tributes are forced to fight to the death. They enter an acres-large, high-tech arena with many special effects traps and obstacles. The fight takes several days and is televised around the country. The Capitol loves the spectacle and watches it with enthusiasm. The districts are forced to watch and are conflicted as they hate the games, but hope for the success of their own tribute.

The last tribute alive wins, earning fortune for himself or herself and some better standards of living for their district.

Katniss becomes a tribute by volunteering in the place of her younger sister, Primrose. The other tribute is a boy named Peeta, the baker’s son.

Most of the book is the fight between Katniss and Peeta and the rest of the tributes. One important character is Rue, a little girl who reminds Katniss of her sister Primrose and who Katniss tries and fails to protect. Rue sings the tune of the mockingjay, which is the three note whistle you hear in the commercials and a symbol of innocence and beauty.

Because the Hunger Games are as much about fame as fighting, the tributes are interviewed and discussed over TV. In his interview, Peeta professes his love for Katniss and their love story, which is only partly real, becomes the talk of the games. It also becomes a love triangle in Katniss’s heart between Gale and Peeta.

Click through for more on the themes, tone, and suitability of the series.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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