Violence in the Hunger Games Trilogy

Don't worry, no spoilers if you haven't read the books--I won't actually be discussing the story in this post!

The Absolute Write forums and the blogosphere are all abuzz with reactions to Mockingjay, the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. One common thread to all the reviews is the discussion of the amount of violence, especially in Mockingjay, and whether they are appropriate for a YA audience. Today, I'm going to dish out my opinions on appropriateness, for what it's worth.

Firstly, I read a lot of YA and know firsthand that the YA genre has a pretty wide age spread. Some publishers say YA is meant for ages 13-18 or 19, but I personally know 11- and 12-year-olds that read YA--and some readers in their 30s and 40s too. And the target age does not just encompass reading level, it's also about the emotional level, which varies for each individual (yes, even the ones in their 30s and 40s).

For example, I am a fan of John Marsden's Tomorrow When the War Began series. Like the Hunger Games (HG from here on), it features teen protagonists forced into what amounts to geurilla warfare. And as much as I admire how well written John Marsden's books are, I don't recommend them to everyone because of some of the dark events.

The same has turned out to be true for me with HG. Do I think these books are appropriate for my 12-year-old niece, whose mother barely lets her watch G-rated movies? Absolutely not--even though she wants to write books and the HG trilogy are wonderful examples of how to create a well-rounded world and characters, without resorting to the purple prose so often found in fantasy and speculative fiction. But when she's older, yes, I will recommend them to her.

What about my 14-year-old niece, whose mom is a lot more permissive about things like books and movies, or the 13-year-old nephew? Yes, with the caveat that these books give an opportunity to have some discussions about the cycle of war and the repercussions of it.

The HG books, with the completion of the trilogy, for me become about finding YOUR line in the sand and where to draw it. That is definitely a worthwhile discussion to have with your kids, in my opinion.

One post that raised the question of violence, she said the line that was crossed for her was the lasting psychological damage some of the characters were left with. I thought that was one of the most realistic parts (that's a big part of rehabilitating child soldiers in places like Africa) It's a case of not being true to the characters and the story, if everything became fluffy kittens and puppies after all the hardships and trauma.


Kara said...

I love the HG trilogy. I didn't think the violence was too graphic, but rather a realistic portrayal of what violence can do to young people. Great post!

Katie Ashley said...

I must be really jaded b/c I never thought the HG books were that violent or graphic. Some of the later Harry Potter's could go that way too I guess. Compared to what they see on television, hear on the radio, etc, I don't see how it would be bad for 13yrs and up. I think of classics like Lord of the Flies and the violence in it.

Man, is it an awesome trilogy tho!! Great post

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I agree with both of you, that the violence was in context. It was meant to emphasize the escalating horrors when "an eye for an eye" is taken to its extreme.

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