Hunger Games: my view

There’s been so much hoopla about The Hunger Games. Some of our kids’ friends have read the books and are talking about seeing the movie. Our kids are understandably intrigued. OK, more than intrigued. They’ve listened avidly and pored over newspaper articles and want to know what the excitement is about.

John and I try to make wise choices with what we allow our kids to read and see. We aren’t exceedingly conservative: our 13 year old kids have seen the Bourne movies, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  I’ve even made an ill-informed book purchase or two for teens that they’ve brought to me with eyebrows raised, and which I immediately tossed into the trash.  But we’ve opted to skip most pop culture things like Twilight and Harry Potter.

Side story/confession:  last year John and I went to the movie theater without having picked a movie to see.  After viewing the offerings, we impulsively bought tickets to the most recent Harry Potter movie, curious to see what the hoopla was about. We lasted 6 minutes before we walked out of the theater, stomachs churning, asking for our money back.

There are times when I’m sure we’re too lax and have scarred our kids’ impressionable minds with too many gun fights and car chases. Other times I fear we’re inciting rebellion by being too restrictive. But we are doing our human best to make wise choices.

When investigating The Hunger Games, I got a bad vibe right from the start. The premise of kids fighting other kids to the death was immediately repulsive to me. Why did so many folks seemed to love the books? I spoke with my son-in-law Ben and our 20-yr-old son Jared after they each read the first book in the series, along with several other folks whom I respect. They all agreed that it was compelling and well written, and that there was nobility in the way that some characters responded to the terrible happenings in the book. But several of the folks I trusted the most felt that the violence was unnecessarily detailed and sickly creative.

Just today I read this post from my friend Carrien describing the character of Katniss.   This post on another website also has a great discussion going.   After a lot of reading and talking, John and I ended up feeling peaceful about not letting our kids under 18 read these books or watch the movie. (The ones affected are 17, 16, 14, 14, and 13.) Our 17 year old son will be 18 soon, and goes to college in the fall.  That’s soon enough for him to read the books, if he wishes.  But we’d rather not have the books in our house right now, especially with so many young teens wildly interested.

I’ve thought of carving out some time to read the books myself.  If I do, and end up feeling OK about the content, maybe we will consider letting kids younger than 18 read the books. Maybe. But for now we are content to listen to the viewpoint of folks we trust, and to steer young teens in other directions.  Their lives will not be over if they don’t get to read these books for a few years.

Do I think Hunger Games books are the worst books ever, or that they will lead our kids on a murder spree? Most emphatically not.  I know that the author intended the books partially as a commentary on evil, and the need to speak out and take a stand against it. But I know there are better things out there to read in the early teen years, better books to remember, better books to mull over and be influenced by their whole lives.

What we read as children has a powerful effect on us. I still remember characters from books I adored. My favorites were headstrong impulsive types like Kit and Caddie and Laura and Jo, girls who struggled but ended up being true and honorable and strong in the end.  I think that part of their success came from the fact that  they lived in worlds where beauty and good did still exist, where friends and/or family came alongside them in their struggles.

I also read The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank– stories of  people struggling to maintain humanity and love and faith in the midst of terrible evil.  I’ve begun reading The Hiding Place with one of my girls, and the others will have read both books by high school graduation as well.

We’ve talked frankly with our teens about The Hunger Games, explaining our concerns with the book at this point in their lives.  After this discussion, one of the girls asked me why the author would write a story like this for kids.  We talked about some of the reasons. Some of the kids ended up being OK with our choice.  Others weren’t thrilled.

John and I understand that other parents have made different decisions about these books.  That’s fine.  We respect the right of each family to make choices that  take their own children into consideration.

One of our own considerations was that we have many teens at different developmental stages with different life experiences that are similar chronological ages.  Some might be ready.  Some are definitely not.  A blanket ‘no’ felt more fair to us than selective approval for a few kids.

We’re also aware that our kids will eventually have the freedom and the right to read what they want.  We’re fine with that too.  But before they get that freedom we want our younger kids to first get to the place that our grown kids are:  a place of mature discernment, bolstered and nurtured by many years of reading good stuff.  Speaking of good stuff, here’s one great guide that has come to my mind over and over as we’ve thought through this choice.  It’s from Philippians 4:8:

” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Yeah. That.

That’s what we want for our kids.  And we trust that God who knows our hearts will redeem our well-intentioned choices, both right and wrong, for His glory in their lives.

~~

Reading the thoughts of others really helped clarify John’s and my choice on this matter.  And we know there are good parents who have thought this thing through and come up with a decision different than ours.  I’d love to hear some respectful thoughts on both sides of this issue. How old are your kids? Will you let them read the books and/or watch this movie?  Why or why not?

My take on the Hunger Games after reading the series

Why Hunger Games is Flawed by Trevin Wax

 

My take on other parenting issues

{ 110 Comments }

  1. tia bennett says:

    My daughter who is 16 and husband read them. They both enjoyed them and had some good talks about them too. After my daughter read the 3 rd book, she said it was “disturbing” and didn’t care for it.
    I personally didn’t like the premise of the books and wasn’t going to read them or allow them to. My husband is a reader and can read books quickly, so he usually reads the books before our kids do and gives approval or not.
    Talking about the issues together and processing books together is helpful for us.
    I respect your decision and know how hard it is to say “no” to seemingly “good” books and movies. Parenting sure isn’t easy on any level :)
    BTW: Your new grandbaby is beautiful!

  2. I’m the mom of a baby girl, so I’m obviously not thinking of reading Hunger Games as a bedtime story to her! But I did read the trilogy and really liked it. It is very dark, and definitely not appropriate for young kids. I think depending on temperament, and if she wanted to and was willing to sit and talk with me about what she read, I would let my daughter read the books probably around 12. But then I was reading things like Michael Chricton in the fourth grade, so I’m a bit lenient about that kind of thing. Watching the movie in the theater would be another thing though- I would wait until she was older for that.

    I think the books make a very powerful commentary about what it means to live in luxury while others live in poverty, about taking joy or entertainment in others’ suffering, and about being strong and loyal to family and friends. I also personally loved that the books feature a strong female heroine. But they are definitely dark, and somewhat graphic in descriptions, so I don’t think there’s a wrong answer here about when and whether to let kids read them.

    • My husband has read the series and based on that I have not, I agree that it has a very powerful commentary on many important social topics however I do not need to subject myself to these lessons that I already understand very well. I think that they are probably of great value to some people esp. those that need a stronger example to get the point across. I’m actually glad that my husband is reading at all.

      That said, not only are all children different but all adults are different as well, what is upsetting to me is not what bothers my husband, what my son is sensitive about is not what bothers my daughter even though she is younger and really knowing your kids and what they are not only sensitive to but what influences they need in their lives is critical to making good parenting decisions for them.

      I agree with Cara that there isn’t a wrong answer here in general, there are too many variables to have an across the board answer. Will my children read them, probably not, Harry Potter is fine with me once they are at least 10 or eleven but they would have to proceed at a pace that keeps the increasing maturity of the books with their own maturity as well. and Twilight just REALLY bugs me and I wouldn’t want one of my girls reading it until she was old enough to recognize the mature decisions that Bella makes from a very teenage and immature frame of mind.

      I’m always so glad to see parents making informed and thoughtful decisions about what they allow their children to be exposed to, thanks for sharing Mary.

    • All you parents are one day going to realize that hiding your children under rocks and not letting them experience what life is is going to back fire on you. Your kids will get a little freedom when they are finally out of your houses and go off the deep end into things like drugs and sex. Not letting your teenagers see the Hunger Games is ridiculous. They are not little kids. Treat them like the adults they will soon become. Stop being a bunch of communists; controlling every aspect of their lives or they will soon hate you for it. I see it everyday.

  3. My kids are too young for this to be an active debate right now in our household, but one thing I will say is that the most popular stories right now (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, even Twilight) all focus in very powerful, moving ways on the value of redemptive, loving sacrifice. In Katniss’s case, it is even substitutionary sacrifice. I find it really striking that our culture has such a hunger right now for stories about the nature of good and evil, stories that may not TALK about morality overtly, but that raise very compelling ethical questions and focus centrally on the transformative, redemptive power of love.

    • Excellent point, Bea. I love all three series (though I don’t recommend walking into a Harry Potter movie without having first read the books).

      • Mary, I think that you had wanted to allow your kids to read the books, you would have read at least the first one yourself by now. The opinions of others are well and good, but it’s your judgment that matters most. I don’t disagree with your decision, you know your family, but I feel skeptical that you were ever seriously considering okaying the books.

  4. I’ve read them, but there’s no way my two sons will be reading them until they’re much much much older. I went home to visit my family recently and found my 14 year old brother reading this series. I told my parents that I didn’t think it was a good choice. They were just happy to have found something he was interested in reading, but I agree with you, there’s so much out that much more worth the read and so much better for teenage minds.

  5. thanks so much for this post… i was a teacher for 3rd graders for years and didn’t allow Harry Potter in my classroom library of several hundred books… i figured that, if parents wanted them reading that series, they’d get it for them…i didn’t want to “introduce” the plethora of various themes (many that i do not support or agree with myself) in my little “home” of a classroom… i don’t have kids who are old enough to read books like Harry, the Hunger Games or things of that sort… my kids are more interested in “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” and “Peekaboo Baby” :) thankfully, i’m really happy about this b/c i am not ready to have the challenge of what they should not read… :)
    i agreew with your feelings and stance… when they’re 18, a world of “adult” freedom is opened to them… they can read what they want… as a teenager, i can remember reading books that weren’t the best…sexual themes, violence…not what i should have been “feeding” my developing brain with at that time. and, while i don’t hold a book as a reason for decisions, i’m wondering if some of my choices in life, especially in those impressionable and crazy teenage years, would have been better if i hadn’t some books… when you read and get engrossed in characters, somehow, your brain and psyche think it’s “ok” to do things that, in hindsight, were not what i should have done…
    the world is full of media messages and themes that we should shield our kids from – books, music, movies, TV shows, etc. …especially until they’re at the age where they are SOLID in their beliefs… i’m already at the point where i want to keep my kids in a bubble, safe from what is all around us! :) cheers to you for researching and making a wise decision, even if it’s just wise for your family and the kids don’t necessarily like the decision. :) as they grow up and have children, they will understand why mom and dad said what they said (gosh, if i had a quarter for all of the times i think about this as a momma, i’d be rich :) ) when the time comes for me and my husband to have these types of discussions with our kids, i will think about you… :)

  6. YES! That is the scripture verse we use whenever deciding what we should allow our children to watch and I’m with you on that. Although people might get a bit legalistic in interpreting that verse by saying, “This just tells us what we are to THINK about, not watch or listen to.” The fact is, we think about whatever we ingest visually.

  7. With my husband being the middle school director of our church I’m the person in the family who reads (or researches) the latest book/movie choices so we know what the kids are being fed by the culture since many of them do not have Christian parents or parents in general that care about what is going into their minds.

    When I read Twilight, I read the first book and thought it was ok. I tried to get into the next book and just couldn’t. After the first 100 pages of the teenage drama I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to watch one of the movies, but I just couldn’t take the teen drama. If I had a teen daughter I don’t think I would let her read them until the late teens (thank goodness she’s only 6!)

    I really liked the Hunger Game books. Maybe I’m have watched too many violent things to not be effected to the violence. I looked at it in the way how our society could go this way because we do not value life. Again, I don’t think I would let my young teen read it. I think I would make them wait until about 16 or so. I have a friend who has let her 10 year old daughter read the books and are taking her to the movie. There is no way that I would let my 9 year old son read the book. There were a few suggestive parts.

    We all have to make the right choices about what we allow our kids to watch, play and read. It’s a very personal decision. I know since we have a boy (9) and a girl (6) they aren’t into the same things and the age and gender gap makes it easy to make decisions for each individual. If my kids were closer in age or came from unique backgrounds, my opinion and choices for them might be completely different.

    Great post that got me to thinking!

  8. My husband read them and recommended them to me, with the proviso that I should read them when I was feeling strong. I delayed for several months and then read them – they are well-written and very compelling, but very violent, so I quite understand your banning them in your family.
    We did decide to let our 13yr old son read them in the end, as he is quite a mature reader. He found the 3rd book quite disturbing though. I would think twice about letting him see the movie unless it has been severely sanitised – there’s something much worse about violence played out visually than in print, where the moral and character tends to come through more strongly.

  9. I did read the Hunger Games, but I can’t really say I enjoyed them. I found the violence disturbing. I won’t be seeing the movies.

    If you haven’t read Harry Potter, and are counting it out based solely on the movies, you might reconsider. The movies (the few which I saw) have been much darker than the books, in my opinion. Having said that, the books do become darker as the series progresses.

    I completely agree with your guide from Philippians. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (13th Article of Faith)

  10. I have an almost 18 yo daughter and a 15 yo son who are both interested in The Hunger Games. Especially my daughter, who is a young filmmaker. We also do not “do” Harry Potter or Twilight. It is tempting to just say “no” automatically, honestly, to Hunger Games, but this discussion prompts me to take the time to read the first book and make an informed decision. Sometimes we have missed out on a really good book or flic because I’ve jumped to conclusions too quickly. So, thanks for the Kindle, kids…I”ll be reading the Hunger Games, I guess!

  11. My daddy’s theory was to let me read anything I wanted to, and what I was too young for, I wouldn’t finish. I read all kinds of stuff, and much of it I went back and reread years later, with a different perspective and understanding. With our own kids, I read everything they read, before they read it, and then we talked, sometimes intensively and over a period of weeks. I totally understand that each parent has to make those choices, and what works for one family may not work for another.

  12. I think this is why so many books have historically been banned from schools and libraries. There seems to be a portion of the population that doesn’t want kids to think about the possibility of something unpleasant. And that is exactly what these books will make you do. I think they teach a good message: that you don’t have to stand back and be humiliated and abused by those in a place of authority. You can fight back and win against those that will continually try to hurt you.

    Now, are they a bit violent. Sure. Graphically so? I don’t recall vivid descriptions of blood and gore. Do I think you should you let really young kids read them? No. But if a 16 year old can’t read a book and say that kind of violence has a place in the context of this book but it’s not OK for my everyday life, then I think that’s a problem.

    My son is only 7 and he won’t be reading these books quite yet. But, as he gets older, I intend to give him lots of latitude in what he’s allowed to read. I want him to grow up to be a person who thinks for himself. I will tell him what I believe, but I will encourage him to consider all of the sides and make up his own mind. I will always be there to discuss it with him, but I don’t want to force him to accept my beliefs. And I think that will make him a stronger person in the long run.

    • That about sums up my feelings on the subject as well.

      • I have a 15 y/o and a 7 y/o. I would let them both read them. I believe it sends a strong message about the government and power. I have read them both. I do not take my kids to see the movie unless they first read a book. I am an unschooler and I have taken many a hit for my latitude with my children. I have also just today received compliments on my 7 y/o’s manners, politeness and helpfulness from strangers at the park and at the swimming pool. I do not believe in sheltering my children from everything that may cause them pause. I have not finished the last book, I am reading it now. We are avid readers and I have read 52 books since christmas. We do not have cable t.v. reading is our entertainment and education. My son will probably not be interested in them, he likes fantasy with dragons and silly stuff like super fudge. But we have all the harry potters on the shelf, all the limeny snicketts, all the twilight, eragon, lord of the rings, and many many more free for the reading of who ever chooses.

        • I totally agree with all 3 of you ladies. I didn’t know anything about the books until my daughter had read them (13 with her Middle School Book Club). She has read all the Harry Potters and Twilight series as have I. We have also watched the movies. I truly believe that she is mature and open enough to read these things and talk about them. Our discussions often turn into debate about the good, bad, and ugly of the books. We also discuss the social injustices and how ugly hatred and violence can be. My children (9,14,16) are great kids whom teachers actually request to have in their classes because they are well read and able to form opinions, not to mention back those opinions up. They all maintain 85-98% averages in the majority of their classes and are polite, respectful kids. I respect Mary’s opinion but think we all need to make choices for our households that we can live with.

  13. I read all 3 series. Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games. I really enjoyed all 3 of them, but I’m 29, not a teenager anymore.

    My son is just a baby right now, but I would not let him read any of those books before 16 or so. Especially Twilight and Hunger Games. For me, they’re young adult books. Deaths, vampires, love triangles, violence. Movies with those would be rated PG-16, so are the books.

  14. My 14 year old girl and I read all 3 books and loved them. My 12 year old son doesn’t do well with violence so they are not for him and he asked us to tell him about them. We did and he chose not to read them. My daughter reads all kinds of books from the Hunger Games to the entire Christy Miller series she just loves to read. I had no problem with the books as long as we talked about them. My husband read them as well and the writing is good just what is best on an individual basis for each child.

  15. I try to pre-read for my kids, which is getting difficult as they get older. There are so many good books out there that it makes sense to steer them in that direction first. When my oldest wanted to read Harry Potter she was 9 or 10, and I said no. Not because the first book was a problem, but because if she read the first I knew she would want to keep going and it gets pretty dark after the 3rd book. I wanted to be sure that she was old enough to get the underlying message (which is a good one), not just be swept up in the descriptions and surface story. I wanted to be sure she could think about it after. Not all kids can do that. Just because the can read at that level, it doesn’t mean they can distill a message. Now that she is older, she has read them and gets what it is about. I am glad she waited. As for the Hunger Games, I read it with my book club. I thought as an adult it brought up great things about what we as a society consider entertainment, and we had a great discussion about it. But my kids won’t be reading them until they are older.

  16. I’m not a mom, just a 23 year old grad student… The books were absolutely hard to put down… but the violence was SICKENING. I felt it was way too graphic from the first book in, but the third one especially I almost couldn’t make it through.
    I’m super not-pro-censorship, and I love Harry Potter and would recommend it for most kids with parental approval. Even Twilight, I think is basically garbage but I wouldn’t tell someone not to read it. But these I REALLY wanted to tell parents not to let their kids read. Too graphic. Not necessary. I read Wendell Berry for a week afterwards to cleanse my palate…

  17. I read all three of the series you mentioned. I LOVED the Harry Potter books and really felt that the kids that started reading the books when JK Rowling first published grew with the books. I found the Twilight series annoying. I was actually pretty creeped out about it. I LOVED the two Hunger Games books and thought the third was okay. I didnt think that everything that happened in the third needed to happen to help the story. When my son shows an interest (that’ll be a while as he is only 17 months), we will probably read them together as my parents read chapter books with me.

    Like the previous poster I am not a teenager. I am 32, a newish mom, and active duty military. I am also a voracious reader and my parents didnt censor my reading for the most part.

  18. This is a little off-topic, but I think your post and some of the replies raise an interesting question about how the size of a family influences upbringing. While I certainly believe in monitoring what younger children read, it would never occur to me, short of outright pornography, to limit what a 17 year old wanted to read. I have been a voracious reader since a young age myself, and my parents stopped prechecking what I read around middle school. However, my sister was only a year younger (and not a reader anyway), so there was never any question of fairness or unsuitable books falling into a young child’s hands. (Like the posters above, I am now an adult, and I plan to follow roughly the same timeline with book restriction that my parents did for me). Anyway, just a random observation, since I never thought about it in terms of the other children in the house before.

    • Yes, a large family does make limit-setting more complicated. We often have to think hard especially about movie choices. (As a previous commenter mentioned, kids often are bored by books that are too ‘old’ for them, but that’s not the case with movies.)

      Sometimes it is easier just to keep something out of the house entirely to avoid wrangling with kids who feel slighted just because they have a slightly later birthday. And really, is there a point at which violence is actually beneficial? (I am actually making myself squirm here, since lately John and I have been watching ’24′ after kids go to bed at night. It is a TV series with plenty of violence.)

      But back to the issue of censoring 17yo’s. Our 17 hasn’t really expressed an interest in the books, which made it a non-issue in this case for us. If he had been very interested, I think we might have allowed it, possibly, since he is mature and sensible.

      However, then we’re back to the slippery slope. One of our 14 year old kids actually has as much reasoning power and discernment as our 16yo daughter. I’m sure he could handle it. And ironically he is the one VERY most interested in the books, which leaves me sad saying no. But wow, if we OK’d it for that mature, thoughtful 14yo, it’d be really unfair to tell the other 14 yo and the 13yo that they would still have to wait. So, yes, in our case, it is vastly easier to just say, ‘not in this house right now’, even if that is not ‘fair’ to older kids.

      But as I said before, it is perfectly possible to have a good life without reading these types boundary-pushing books. So we will go forward keeping that truth in mind, and following our instincts about what is right for our family as a whole, even if sometimes that does limit some choices as individuals.

      • Katy-Anne says:

        You know, I believe parenting is an individual thing, and so I really don’t agree that you can’t say no to one and yes to another. You absolutely can, because all kids are individuals, not little clones of each other.

        I don’t agree with violence whatsoever, but my husband doesn’t have a problem with it. I’m not going to be big on pre-reading and pre-checking stuff, but I will do some especially if I have concerns. But I don’t think that I’d be able to sit there and tell a 17 year old what they can and can’t read. If I haven’t raised them to be discerning by then, that’s MY fault.

        But I come from a different background and a different culture. I see parents here who still order around their 18 and 19 year old kids, still punishing them, still placing limits on them, still giving them curfews when their child is an ADULT! An adult should be making all those decisions for themselves. By the time I was 15, I didn’t have to ask permission to go somewhere. I just had to tell my parents where I was going, and have a plan for transportation. Sometimes, that plan was them, if they were free to take me and wanted to, sometimes that plan was a friend, sometimes that plan was the bus. Whatever I read after about that age was my business too. My parents allowed me to listen to music that they didn’t like after about that age also because they wanted me to learn to be discerning and make decisions for myself. When I left when I was 17, I was able to make informed decisions on my own.

  19. I have to agree with a couple of the earlier posters about Harry Potter – the final movie is not a good place to start with this really wonderful story. I have read that Harry Potter books, as a general rule, are not appropriate for children younger than Harry is in them – in the first book he is 10, second he is 11 and so on, up to the seventh book where he is 17. This, of course, makes no provison for the level of emotional maturity of the reader but could be useful as a guide.

    What I am about to write here may cause problems and, if it does, I will certainly appreciate your choice to not publish it though I would be keen for your thoughts, and for the thoughts of other readers. I will preface it by saying that I am not a believer in any organised religion. I have dabbled but it just wasn’t for me. Anyway, my question is that while The Hunger Games and Harry Potter may be violent, are they any more violent than the Bible itself? This book contains many passages that refer quite specifically to acts of violence, including references in the Old Testament’s Book of Numbers to capturing the women and children and putting the males to death and The Book of Joshua where whole populations were put ‘under the ban’. Numbers 25:4 has God ordering beheadings and Numbers 31 has young boys and women who have had sex being slaughtered. Within the New Testament, Revelation 9.15 states that one third of the population will die and Matthew 10:21 states that children will rise above their parents and kill them. These are just examples – there are more.

    I know that one cannot believe in God without also believing in Satan so surely you cannot deny that there IS evil in the world, and that this evil is perpetrated in a number of different ways and sometimes by children. Obviously I do not know you or your family personally and I have nothing but respect for your choices with regards to your children’s reading material, but considering your religious beliefs I find the “it’s too violent” argument a bit confusing.

    • ditto.

    • Hi again Mary

      I see that you have chosen not to reply to my question, which is fine. I am disappointed, though, as I really am trying to understand your position. The reason I couldn’t stick with religion is that is all so hypocritical to me. The Bible that you share with your children and encourage them to read contains no less than 1312 individual references to all manner of cruelties and revolting behaviour which is illegal today, including murder of men, women and children, animal sacrifice, rape, starvation, cannibalism, mutilations and incest, with many of these actions either committed or ordered by God himself.

      Whatever themes, concepts or text may be in The Hunger Games (which I have not read) or any of your other banned books, I simply cannot believe that any of it is as brutal as what happened during the Crusades. I can emphatically assure you that the Harry Potter series does not include any descriptions of women being gang-raped and then cut into 12 pieces (Judges 19:25-29), of inflicting leprosy upon a man and all his descendents (2 Kings 5:27) or of women boiling their children and then eating them (2 Kings 6:29). I’m afraid that even reading Philippians 4:8 a dozen times a day couldn’t possibly cleanse me of the mental imagery of those passages.

      • Hi Millie,
        I got a quarrelsome vibe from your first comment and steered clear because I was concerned you wanted to argue, not listen. But maybe my concern was unfounded. I certainly don’t want to ignore honest questioning.

        I don’t claim to understand everything in the Bible. But in some cases, the descriptions you mention were perverse acts that the people themselves were choosing. In other cases, God pronounced judgement on folks as a way to deal with extreme sin. In most cases God did several things first.
        – He warned and gave them time to mend their ways.
        – He gave innocent people a way to escape, and often saved (redeemed) one or more folks from the evil culture.
        Only after those things happened did He let the punishment fall on the people.

        I do want to apologize to you on behalf of Christians who treated you poorly and perhaps contributed to your alienation from organized religion. Though Christian faith gives me great hope for my future and a DESIRE to live in a God-honoring way here on this earth, it does NOT free me from weakness and outright wrong-doing in the here and now. I wrestle daily to do right, and so does every other Christian, which means that plenty of times we’re going to mess up. We are going to treat people foolishly and unkindly, and discredit the very God we long to serve.

        I’m sorry if this type of thing has happened to you. Sometimes ‘religion’ stinks. God, however, has loved each of us with an everlasting love, and longs to draw each of us to Himself. I don’t expect that these few words of mine will change your stance, but I wish you every good thing as you walk in this world, and I hope that someone, somewhere, someday will be able to demonstrate God’s love to you in a way that will let you have faith, not in ‘religion’ but in the Saviour who loves each of us fallen folks more than we deserve.
        Blessings,
        Mary

        • Hey Mary

          I certainly have no desire to argue with you or any other Christian (or Muslim, or Buddhist, or Jew, or or or…) about your beliefs – I absolutely respect your right to have them. I have made my choices with regards to religion and I am very comfortable with them, aware that this leaves me in a position where I must, respectfully, agree to disagree. I do, however, still ask questions because while I do not believe I do try to understand as religion plays too large a part in the world for me to be ignorant about it just because I do not partake in it personally. Having said that, I am glad that you recognized my question as genuine because I really am curious. I know literally nothing about how and why the examples I listed happened. I chose them to illustrate that the Bible is a violent book. The context and reasoning behind it is irrelevant – the fact that it is there, written so gruesomely and in the quantity that it is, is why I was asking about it.

          I do really enjoy your blog and love reading about what you and your family is up to. I wish you all every health and happiness, especially as you welcome members of the next generation.

          Cheers
          Millie x

    • My view on the difference between the Bible and The Hunger Games is, the Bible is not graphic in such amazing detail. It doesn’t dwell on the violence, it just states simply what happened.

      Also, I’m not sure I would actually read some of those passages in the Bible to my kids till they were a little older.

      That’s a good question though!

  20. First – I think walking in to the final Harry Potter movie after reading none of the books – I would have done the same thing!

    But on to the current subject – I’m avoiding the Hunger Games books too. I have a friend who teaches at a religious school and all the teachers have read and passed around the Twilight series and went on and on about them. And are now doing the same thing with the hunger games and I’m wondering why. Not the kind of thing I want my kids’ teachers focusing on!

    I don’t know why Harry Potter is different for me. I guess I’ve always liked magic and imagination. While I haven’t read the other 2 series, it seems like they go a little farther than that. My kids are allowed to read Harry Potter depending on age. The younger ones (6-7) have only read the 1st and 2nd. Older (9) has read on a bit more. None have been allowed to finish the series yet.

    Last point – I think letting kids read a book is way different than watching a movie, because in a book they are partly limited by their imagination and so things that may be really scary in a movie, are not so much.

  21. One of the things my husband and I were struck by when we listened to the first book was one thing that was glaringly absent. Neither of us could recollect one mention of God. In a book that is all about deliverance, right and wrong, power and might, weak and the strong to not mention God seemed strange to us. Yes, we are Christians. But we read many secular books and rarely have we ever seen a book where God is not mentioned but seemingly ignored. We chose not to go further in the series. Just my two cents.
    Lucy

    • I noticed the same thing about the series, although I did read all three books. In the first book, when I read about Katniss wondering what little Rue (I think it was Rue) could ever accomplish with a sling shot against boys and girls twice her size I immediately thought of David and Goliath. I thought, these people obviously do not know about God or the BIble or Katniss would have at least thought of young David killing the mighty Goliath with a single stone and sling. I think it is safe to say that the majority of people living today have at least HEARD of David and Goliath in some way. Maybe God wasn’t being ignored in the series just sadly forgotten.
      While reading the series I thought how it is truly possible that the world we live in could become like “Panem” in the “not so distant future” because the more time that passes the further the world gets from the God of the Bible. Just think, there are already people who say it is perfectly acceptable to murder an unborn and sometimes just born child. Also, there are some people today who think it is perfectly acceptable to euthanize (murder) elderly people simply because they are old. So how much does the world really value life today? God forbid it ever gets to the point of murdering for entertainment, but thats very well the direction the world is going. In fact, if my history is correct, people (not God fearing people) DID watch people die for entertainment in the collaseum in Rome for one.
      So maybe another message of the Hunger Games is a warning of what the world may become WITHOUT God. Maybe?

  22. This is definitely a series that a parent should read first and then decide. You know your kids best is one reason, and the other is that this is a series that no amount of reading reviews really can tell you what you will think of it. It is extremely thought-provoking and full of social and character issues. On the surface it sounds SO horrible, right? Kids killing kids? Yet there is a history there and a reason for it. And I didn’t find the violence too graphic at all – maybe I’m desensitized somewhat, but she doesn’t usually get into a lot of gore, no matter how bad the situation. (Although, one’s imagination fills in a lot – and if you’ve got an imaginative kid who will react easily to “fill in the blank” then they should probably skip it.)

    I read the whole series, loved it, and let my 13 y.o. daughter read as well, she also found them compelling. We even read #1 together as a family. We will probably go see the movie.

    Daughter and I were actually talking about this book and this issue on the way home from her writer’s group today – why some people don’t like the books and why I did and what I thought about them. The social issues, the issues of character, what would we as Christians do if we were in a similar situation, etc.

    Honestly, there are some books that are just trash and you know it. This one I think people should give a chance and decide for themselves (adults). Reviews only convey so much info and can’t tell you the whole story. (Pardon the pun.)

    • I also meant to say – if you do decide to try them, and you don’t know anyone with a physical copy to borrow, try getting an e-copy to borrow. You probably won’t be able to check any of them out from the library for months to come, and if you don’t want to spend money your best bet is to get someone to lend it to you via Nook or Kindle.

      • For what it’s worth, or if your 17 yo wants to read it and gets approval, but you’d rather keep the books from falling into younger hands – the series is available on Lendle, so you wouldn’t have to spend a dime. (It’s constantly recommended to me, since they’re so popular that there are lots of copies available to borrow, but I never even knew the plot until recently.)

        Re Harry Potter – anyone who goes to see the latter half of the movies without reading the books first is totally SOL. I can have trouble following every detail when it’s been a few years since I read the corresponding book – they just got so long and intricate that they had to cut plot for the films – there definitely stopped being time for set-up or exposition. I’ve always been a reader but was never big on fantasy (Narnia and LOTR did nothing for me, in book or on film), so I didn’t try the series until after grad school when I was out of the country and out of books. So I was convinced to give it a try, since there were early books available, and…LOVED it. I’d definitely let my kids read them (and after book two or three, there’s no point in seeing the movie without reading the book first, but I like that rule of thumb), but then again my parents were always very hands-off with what I read. I mean, my mom knew what I was reading, because bookstores were big mother-daughter quality-time excursions, but she was all for my love of reading and there weren’t maturity or behavioral concerns.

        I did shock myself by coming across a popular children’s series I wouldn’t want my kids near (targeted to early elementary age). I’m not sure if I was more offended by the awful grammar that kids that age will internalize as correct/appropriate (speaking as someone who must have missed grammar-specific lessons in school but learned from reading when something sounded “right” or “wrong”) or if it was the main character’s awful, bratty attitude and language. From the character the kid is supposed to like, not a character for whom those traits are supposed to be perceived as negatives. Bleh. I’m not sure I’d forbid my hypothetical second grader from trying them (apparently they’re hugely popular with seven year olds, and I’d rather books not be secretly read), but we’d have to have a lot of talks about grammar and all the reasons that character probably isn’t someone they’d want to be friends with. Let alone emulate. Off-topic, but this made me remember how taken aback I was at my own reaction! That said, my niece apparently read some (along with many many other books, many non-fiction, so there’s balance), and she’s still the same polite, grammatically correct little girl!

  23. When my first son was 12 and we were homeschooling, we visiting the library every week. I did not tell him what to read and what not to read. He was very interested in the Goosbumps series, and though I loathe stories and movies that have anything to do with ghosts and ghouls, I let him read them. I believed that children generally will stop reading something that they can’t handle, whether it is a book or a conversation. Well, my son read his way through the entire horror section in the Children’s library. He saved Edgar Allen Poe for last. Once he read Poe’s stories, he was done. The next year, he moved on to comic books and Shakespeare.

    It reminded me of when I was an older teen and young adult and I read everything I could get my hands on about the Vietnam war. I watched all the movies, and found books written from various perspectives. I took an honors class in college about war. I read the one about the nurses in Vietnam, and the one about Black soldiers in Vietnam (wow!), and finally I found one by a Vietnamese woman called “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places.” There was a lot in these books that was hard to handle, but I needed them for some reason. Once I read this last book, I was done. I didn’t need war movies and books anymore.

    With my second batch of kids, it is a whole different story. For one thing, our culture is a lot different now. I know every generation says that, but it is so easy now to publish your own stuff, and to sell crap and raunch, because there are all these people who will sell whatever anyone will buy. And there is a whole generation of kids and young adults growing up with so little attention and so few boundaries. I hate the shows that celebrate people hurting themselves as a kind of sport, and the comedians who make fun of anyone for the sake of trying to see how offensive they can be. But, I also have a sense that there is good literature being made, with really thoughtful stories that can help teens find some little bit of understanding of this crazy fear-based culture we live in. Stories that can empower them. Stories with characters they can believe in. I think The Hunger Games are that kind of literature for my 17-yr-old daughter. Something she needed to read the way I needed to read about war. Disturbing, yes, but this world is disturbing, and she has to navigate it.

    On the other hand, but middle schoolers (13, 13, and 11) all have trauma in their backgrounds, and are not all that steady and strong in their sense of this world being a safe place, or their ability to be powerful in a way that helps themselves and others. Of course they want to read thsee books, and they have friends who are allowed to read anything and see anything. But, they are starting to trust that we have their best interests in mind when we hold boundaries for them. I pretty much go by my intuition on thsese things. I ask people who have read them, I consult Common Sense Media, and I read reviews. And when I say no, I make sure I have some really great literature and movies waiting for them to take in. There is so much out there. And I want my kids reading good writing, powerful stories, moving scenes, with strong and open-hearted characters.

  24. We’ve not even heard of them until all the current hoopla. We believe in shunning all appearances of evil, and for us that means the vampire stuff, Harry, and anything to do with killing. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch police shows, but I can’t do graphic and we don’t let our kids watch anything like this and thankfully they don’t ask to read anything like this. Our kids are 14, 11, 11, 7, 6, 5…and like you, only our oldest is homegrown, they all come from different points of life and different maturity levels.

  25. Elisabeth says:

    This is an interesting conversation. I’ve been intrigued and perplexed by how many people whom I respect, and with whom I share many values, have been very taken with the Hunger Games. I haven’t read the books because the premise of the story is entirely unappealing to me. I don’t have any reason to think they’re bad or harmful – I just have no desire to spend my limited discretionary time reading something that sounds so unappealing! I have always had a low tolerance for violence, particularly in movies. The images and tones of voice my own mind conjures up when I’m reading tend to be much softer than the way the same scene is portrayed on screen.

    I’m the oldest of ten children, and grew up in a household where our reading was not censored or closely monitored, although my mother encouraged us to read “wholesome” literature. We had a vast library (fiction and non-fiction) in the home, and access to school and public libraries. My parents spent countless evenings reading to us, everything from classic children’s books to Shakespeare, vast collections of poetry, the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy, CS Lewis’s space trilogy, and other similar books, which are not generally considered children’s literature. I remember having all of these read to me before the age of 12, by which time I had also independently read the complete works of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Arthur Conan Doyle, alongside many other more classic children’s literature.

    I have always appreciated my parents’ general attitude about literature – if it’s worth reading, it’s worthwhile at almost any age. Some of the things my mother tried to get me to read at a young age were beyond me, and there were definitely things that went over my head. But I’ve delighted in returning time and again to many of the books I read as a child, often finding them as satisfying now as I did then.

    I try to transfer this philosophy to my own choices about media. There are definitely things which are beyond young readers’ emotional maturity or understanding of the world, but as a general rule, I believe the things that are the most worthwhile are generally not the ones that would need to be monitored or censored.

    And yes, when it comes down to it, the verse in Philippians is a great guide!

    • Elisabeth, it’s been a while since I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but as memory serves, that series was very violent, with large-scale killing. The violence in The Hunger Games is certainly more intimate and psychologically intense (this is effectively teen sacrifice by the government, a very good representation of the Minotaur myth), but nothing close to the scale of deaths depicted in LOTR. Just to give some perspective.

  26. When I first heard about the Hunger Games, the idea of the book was a complete turnoff. I felt like the author had most likely set up the story to allow for a gratuitous amount of violence to draw in the masses. I mentioned them to my husband who decided he wanted to read the first book. Since it was in the house, I picked it up and began to read it out of curiosity. Much to my surprise, I found it much more plausible than I had originally imagined. The political reasons for the actual Hunger Games were plausible. I was intrigued by Katniss’ methods of surviving her daily life by knowing which plants were edible, how to hunt, how to barter, etc. Her character (in the first book) seems very self-less and courageous. And as our freedoms in the US seem to be disappearing, and as I’ve wondered how I might feed my family if we encountered a national economic crisis, I found the Hunger Games in some ways informative. I liked the first book for those reasons. The 2nd and 3rd books did not have the same appeal and I found them fairly disappointing. My oldest child is 9 and I don’t think I’d want him to read them until 14 or so, but we do allow our children to read/watch things like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, mainly because the plots deal so heavily with good triumphing over evil and love being the most important force in existence, as well as encouraging bravery, courage, friendship, loyalty, etc.

  27. I read an interesting commentary on the novels today, actually. The author commented that one of the themes or concepts in the book is that our society has become desensitised to violence, other people’s pain (physical/emotional), and so on. She said that so much passes for entertainment these days such as the Kardashian marriage/divorce, when in actual fact these are actual people’s lives and real sorrow and pain. With the amount of social media these days including things like blogs, I think, we read about real people but in a narrative kind of way, responding accordingly. It seems ok to be rude online when you never would be in real life.

    The author suggested that the Hunger Games was alluding to this. Violence as entertainment, suffering as entertainment and so on.

    I would say that if a child is not old enough to realise this and make this connection they should not be reading the books. A young of immature child could never see beyond the casual violence to the messages portayed. Not worth it, in my opinion.

    Personally, I would probably allow a fifteen year old to read the books, but no younger. Everything you read becomes a part of you. Because of that, I would probably not allow Harry Potter or Twilight. I just don’t see the appeal for those who love Jesus.

    Valerie

  28. Deborah J says:

    I’ve read all 3 books, and just saw the movie today, here in Australia.
    I enjoyed the books as a dystopian version of the future…a warning if you will. The writing was compelling and I absolutely wanted to read the second one after I had read the first. The book was recommended to me by my adult daughter (30) who is a librarian, with experience in young adult fiction.
    My 17 year old can take it or leave it.

    It does have a moral core, characters who take a stand and are not perfect, and try to right wrongs. Reluctant hero’s. By the time you get to the 3rd book it also has a warning about power, and how that can even corrupt the good. Shades of grey if you will.
    I would let a mature, balanced, well read 13 year old read it…as long as someone could debrief it with them.
    The movie is well done, with slight changes in the plot. It is definately less violent than the books. Graphic, but less detail.
    You can see they intend to film the sequels.

  29. Traveller says:

    Quite a few commenters have already expressed my feelings more articulately that I feel capable of right now. :) I am and always have been a voracious reader and my natural inclination is to stay far away from dictating children’s reading choices. I feel very passionate about this. However, I do believe it is important to provide easy access to “good” literature as well as to discuss what my children are reading with them. To be honest, the books I consider “junk” are poorly written, formulaic ones, or books in which you can tell they were written with a particular purpose/lesson rather than a “real” story. (I’m thinking of the Sweet Valley High books that were very popular when I was in elementary school – GAG!)

    It is interesting that you refer to Little Women and Little House on the Prairie series (which I of course devoured as a child and have read multiple times over the years). Reading as a adult, I can pick up on lots of values and ideas about race, gender, etc that are very much of the time but not really MY values. All of this went completely over my head as a child. My take away from this experience is not to ban these books in my household. I do think reading classics contributes to cultural and English literacy as all writing/artistic compositions are intertextual. What I do, is make sure I discuss my reactions to particular elements in stories when I read with my children so that they learn you can (should always!!) read with a critical perspective and still enjoy and learn from what makes these books such great stories.

    I did read the first Hunger Games book but it didn’t really catch my imagination. Too much death and I wasn’t really attracted to Katniss as a protagonist – perhaps her characterization reflects her traumatic experiences too accurately? Not enough redeeming personality traits for me.

    ** I do think if you have kids with a traumatic background to consider, it changes the situation from apples to oranges. **

  30. Kate in NY says:

    I am quite liberal about letting my kids (16, 13, 13 and 9) choose their reading material – a bit stricter about what they view on TV or at the movies, but still fairly permissive. Sometimes I regret this – they have knowledge of issues and situations far beyond their ages. On the other hand, they have many interesting, thoughtful opinions and viewpoints about the good and the bad in the world, and their insights sometimes astonish me. I also trust them – they are smart, good kids (if a bit “cheeky” and precocious at times).

    To be honest, I have a bigger problem with some of the “children’s tv” that my youngest watches on channels like Disney or Nick Jr. than I do with the more mature content that my older kids come into contact with. At least books and movies like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are, in my opinion, good literature that challenge the intellect and the character. Some of these tv shows (“Shake it Up” or “iCarly,” for example) seem completely vapid and insipid – the adults are either absent or idiotic, the humor is so caustic and mean-spirited – ugh! And yet, my youngest watched and read all of the Harry Potter books/movies, and I consider those evenings we spent together doing so some of the most wonderful of my parenting years – I would choose that over mindless fluff any day!

  31. I’m not religious, I’m not a mother, and I don’t agree with you on a lot of these points. But I absolutely respect and defend your right to raise your kids the way you wish as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else.

  32. Hello, have been reading the blog for awhile and love to hear what you have to say as I am an expectant mother. It’s ironic that this was posted today, as I finished the first book today. My younger sisters-in-law (13, 14, 15) have been reading these books voraciously and I wanted to be able to engage them in the themes of the book beyond the plot.

    I would just encourage you to read the book. While I think each parent needs to decide what’s best for their children, I think it can be a very powerful thing for Christian families to observe and engage in important questions about the media.

    I think for my kids, with this type of book, I’d want to read it first and perhaps set an age limit, depending on who wanted to read it, and then talk to my kids about what their impressions of the book were, what messages the author presents and how it relates to what we believe as Christians.

    • Maggie, I did just this morning purchase the book to read on my computer. We’ll see if actually reading it makes us feel any better about it… And yes, I agree that discussing life issues with kids is crucial in helping them learn discernment.

      Thanks for writing!

  33. You use the passage of Phil. 4:8 as the reasoning or goal of what you want for your kids and yet you start this article with the comment that we have let our children watch the Bourne series and Pirates of the Carribean. Seriously? Murder for hire, massive amounts of violence, sex outside of wedlock, drunkenness, course talk, dirty jokes, talk of sex with mermaids, immodesty. Your stance is laughable.
    If you prefer your children don’t see the movie, fine. But to use God’s principles for one movie and then not for others is only hypocrisy.
    Better to have never written this article and kept your preferences to yourself because obviously this choice has nothing to do with principles.

    • As any loving parent does, we strive to make right choices for our kids. There is a constant tension between what they wish we would allow and what we feel comfortable allowing. Sometimes we stray toward being too permissive, and sometimes we may be too restrictive.

      I’m guessing that most parents find it challenging to walk that line, and if they don’t they’re probably giving their kids zero direction in life. I mentioned Bourne movies not as a point of pride, but to begin the discussion of the difficulty of finding a reasonable line. I am the first to admit we don’t always get it right. In fact, in the very next sentence, I mentioned making mistakes regarding book choices.

      Thankfully I do not have to be a perfect parent to be a much-loved child of God, AND a person still honestly striving for ‘whatsoever is good, think on these things…’ Each day is a chance for more decision-making. We will keep on doing our best in the midst of all the pressure of the world, sometimes getting it right, sometimes not, but always loving our kids to the best of our ability.

      Thanks for writing.

    • I think this comment could have been written in a much more tactful way. The goal here is to have a discussion that will help us all, not to attack.

      Sometimes a parent will have a bad feeling about one book and not another, even though you could argue both contain violence, etc. This does not mean that parent is a hypocrite, or lacks principles, or is even laughable. It means they are trying to protect their children from something harmful, while still allowing them as much freedom as possible.

    • I think this is overly harsh. //Any// media has flaws, in message or content. It’s up to anyone wanting to follow Phil 4:8 to use their discernment, which is clearly what Mary and John are trying to do.

  34. I completely disagree with the choice to censor books, but it’s great that you are discussing it with your kids and explaining your position. I love that some of the kids continue to challenge the decision, too. That might be the most important lesson here– your kids are learning to think for themselves and expand their worlds, whether they actually read those books or not. It’s hard to be the opposition force in a family where you’re supposed to “buckle down”, obey, and abide peacefully. I guess it’s also hard to let kids out of the safe nest, but they’re tougher and sturdier than they look.

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Our daughter is 13 and a more avid reader than even me, and we let her read The Hunger Games last year. I read them after she did and it has produced the most interesting conversations between us. I’ll admit that I rarely censor books unless I’m certain they’re not appropriate, but we’ve also taught our daughter to stop reading if there is anything in a book that she knows we would find questionable. So far she has done well with this rule, and fortunately I’ve been able to keep up with her reading appetite and we haven’t had any problems.

    I am one who thinks the redemptive theme in books like Harry Potter teaches a powerful lesson to young adults, and I’ve encouraged my teenager to read them. I’m convinced there is more good than bad in both HP and The Hunger Games, and I’m so thankful for the conversations they’ve brought into our home.

  36. Parents have the responsibility to show and discuss with their children what they find not appropriate. It’s called sharing your values. Children need to understand your values, so that they can begin to understand what you are coming from and hopefully share your values and not that of mainstream media and the world.

    Mary, thank you for sharing your point of view and thinking. This quote is beautiful: Thankfully I do not have to be a perfect parent to be a much-loved child of God, AND a person still honestly striving for ‘whatsoever is good, think on these things…’ Each day is a chance for more decision-making. We will keep on doing our best in the midst of all the pressure of the world, sometimes getting it right, sometimes not, but always loving our kids to the best of our ability.

  37. Hi Mary! I read your blog yesterday with interest as I was going to the movie with a friend last night. I hadn’t read the books as I did not think they’d appeal to me. I’m very picky about my dystopian novels and the little bit I heard, the most I was convinced I would like it.

    I have to admit, I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie. Was it violent? Yes. And that was hard to watch, especially considering it was violence against children. I realized while watching it though, that this was a necessary theme in the telling of the story. It invoked tremendous emotion and I had to fight back tears. The story moved me in having deeper concern for the poor and the world’s children. I stopped to think about how many people are living this life right now. No, they are not being forced into a death match but they are violently exploited in an attempt to invoke fear. Am I from the wealthy class, sitting back and watching their pain? I walked away convicted that these hands aren’t doing enough.

    I understand your concern, and I don’t think I’d let my kids read it anytime in the near future. As I sat and watched these kids at the theater and their love for this movie, as I listened to the places where they cheered…..my heart grew sad. I wondered if they strong themes truly resonated with them, or if they saw it more as an adventure novel where we root for the good guy.

    • As you can see, my staying up until 3am to watch The Hunger Games has affected my writing and proofreading abilities. Sorry about that. :)

  38. Mary, I’m praying for you as you answer these difficult questions. Please don’t regret posting this blog topic. It is very apparent that many of your replies come from people with a variety of backgrounds believers and non believers. Sometimes we over think these things. After the upbringing I had where my parents didn’t have a clue what I was reading, didn’t censor anything I read or watched and even gave me reading material that was inappropriate, I will be implementing a different stand in my home. I do believe some things are good for discussion but honestly I think it’s a poor excuse to say that using fictional characters to teach us about fairness, honesty, trials, standing up for our selves etc. There should be a line drawn between fantasy and reality. Some things we read purely for entertainment while other things should be read for inspiration and encouragement. I’ve chosen to steer clear of many of these types of books for two reasons. 1. The following to me seems ridiculous. The complete obsession with these characters and their lives seems to become something that people think is real. Honestly, I find it disturbing that “older” women delight so much in the twilight series. I garuntee you if adult men did the same thing they would be chastised for being so interested in a teen girls life and with the young men running around with their shirts off. The standard is different. 2. I see a huge up swing in all this magic for teens and witch craft etc. I don’t want my kids involved in this. I also feel like the teen obsession with romance is unacceptable. No one is telling these girls that it’s fake. Their moms read romances with them. Is it any wonder that men feel like they can’t measure up to these fictional nights in shining armor? How are they to compete with these fictional characters who are always hot and in shape, romantic and waiting around to satisfy his wife’s every want, need and desire! They aren’t REAL men! We women set ourselves up to be dissatisfied with our relationships and marriages when we are saturating our minds with what we don’t think we have. I’ve found even Christian romance books to be just as bad, because these men are represented as every young Christian women’s dream come true. Is it important to be careful of what we read? YES! Is it different for each family? YES. I think the scripture you quoted is very encouraging. What is wrong with delighting in something good? I’ve seen the damage that can be done by there not being censoring done on these topics…it’s very sad to see teen girls selling out for romance and young men fighting fictional battles as if they were real.
    Some people may not understand also that some of these themes are truly disturbing for young people who come from violent backgrounds. Especially adopted children. Some of these kids have seen and experienced things in which the rest of us could never imagine! These types of books like the HG may hit a little to close to home, where they came from places where they were running for their lives FOR REAL!

  39. Hi Suzy. I’m just responding to the last part of your post. I think you’re right for the potential for “too close to home” trauma, because I agree with Heather (commenter #26) that the books feel very plausible (in the future). I think that they were intended to be read that way. In this series, an oppressive government limits the food supply to outlying regions, where most of the productive work is done, in an effort to keep these people in check. Yes, the story is fictional, but the use of food as a tactical weapon is very real, both by governments against their own people and by militants to block the delivery of aid in the event of a real famine.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine#State-sponsored_famine
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine#Africa

    I love The Hunger Games series, but I’m the first to admit that they’re not pretty books and I wouldn’t want someone younger than 12 or 13 reading them. To me, “young adult” means teens and up. But they are good books and that is partly because of their plausibility. So yes, I agree with you that they could be traumatic for even a teen who had suffered violence or food scarcity, and in that situation I would consider restricting these books, or at least would have lots of discussions with them while they read it.

  40. I’m, probably, a lot less conservative than you, but I haven’t jumped on the hunger games bandwagon. I tend not to jump on popular culture. I DO like Harry Potter because it’s an escape for me. I don’t have kids myself, but I’m close with people who do, plus I’m a pacifist, Episcopalian, and about to get my 3rd degree in education.

    I do agree with one of my best friends, JCP, who has chosen not to let her children watch the movies or read the books – Hunger Games and Harry Potter (her kids are younger, 11, 8 (almost 9), 5, 3, and 2 weeks on Saturday), and I would never bring them into her house. I watched Twilight 1 because my niece Jyoti was into the books. Her mom had read the books along with her so they could talk about things that came up. I’m not a big fan of twilight though. Ramona Quimby — that’s who I’ve exposed JCP’s kids too. I love Ramona. Henry Huggins too! The 11 year old- I believe, and JCP would agree with me – is ready for the Phantom Tollbooth. They’ve read James and the Giant Peach, and there are other Roald Dahl books I intend to get for them too. I try to be careful about what I share with JCP and her kids, to honor what she wants her kids exposed to. Thankfully, while on the outside we appear very different in our beliefs, our views on things actually intersect, but we come to the intersection from different angles. Neither of us like the whole princess thing and I never ever buy her girls d1sney princess stuff. I am also strict with them about turning things into guns and other objects of violence when they are around me. JCP doesn’t mind that I do that.

    Kids are hard to raise, and being as close as I am to JCP’s family as I am I understand that better and better each day. I do my best to be a good influence on them, and I know that JCP appreciates it. They know that I will always love them, and be there to hug and console and talk to them in difficult moments. I think that’s what matters most, at least I hope so.

  41. I’m so glad I read your post today. DS12 handed my a book order form with “Hunger Games” listed.I told him “no” and why. He informed me that I didn’t need to not let him read the book or see the movie just because some other mom doesn’t want her kids to see/read it! Of course, I responded that he didn’t need to read/see it just because his friends were!
    We’ll do a bit more research to determine what happens. But my gut reaction is that I don’t need him exposed to more violence.

  42. Just tossing in my 2 cents worth. I’m an avid reader and have read all the Harry Potter books (didn’t care for the last one). I’ve read all the Hunger Game series and can truthfully say I thought the first one was very well written, had lots of thought provoking instances and I did enjoy reading it. The second book was ok but I didn’t think it was quiet as well written as the first one but again had lots of examples of life choices that had to be made and the results of some choices. The third book I didn’t care for at all. I thought the writer lost focus of what she was writing and wasn’t sure how she wanted to conclude the series. It did bring up corruption in government, how power can change people and how early life decisions can affect your life later on. Would I let younger children read them? Probably not until early teens and only then with discussions while reading the books.

  43. The premise of these stories is so sad and disturbing that they don’t appeal to me. The movies were originally supposed to have an R rating but after much lobbying for the PG13 to reach more people that is what they got. I read to about page 18 or so and couldn’t stomach anymore but I hate the situation of child soldiers (which is what the author claims to have based her book off of). Doesn’t matter to me, no good reason to voluntarily watch children killing children.
    Yet the ‘BULLY’ movie which should be watched by all teenagers and parents alike gets an R rating because of a couple of words in it. There is a petition out there that everyone who wants to see this movie downgraded to a PG13 needs to sign. The movie (a true story) was intended for teenagers but because of the R rating even those kids in high school can’t watch.

    • laurah, I hadn’t heard that Suzanne Collins was inspired by the plight of child soldiers. I read in interviews that she cited two sources of inspiration for the first Hunger Games book: 1) the Greek myth of the king of the city of Crete sending Athenian children to “battle” (be killed by) the minotaur that had killed his son (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theseus#Theseus_and_the_Minotaur); and 2) she said she was channel surfing between news coverage of the war in Iraq and a reality game show, and the two “began to blur in this very unsettling way.” Our reality show culture and subsequent desensitization to the pain of others is a major theme in this first book.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunger_Games

    • Melanie E. says:

      Re ratings: Not in America. The rating was always PG-13 here. They did have to cut 7 seconds at the last minute to get it to the equivalent rating in Britain however, to satisfy *their* ratings board.

  44. No desire for the Hunger Games and at this point in their lives my children do not either. This discussion makes me think of my reading choices at the age of 12. I devoured most of the V C Andrew books and shortly after become quite promiscuous. I know the books left me with a desire to experience that which I was reading. Desires fulfilled and choices regretted. Innocence can not be returned. Only redeemed.
    I wish my parents had filtered and taken a more active role in discussing. Kudos and much respect to you.

  45. I read it first, and perhaps I was over-thinking as I read it, but I thought it made a very important statement about where our voyeuristic culture (Survivor, American Idol, etc.) might be headed. I’m not sure if that was the author’s intention, but I detected a strong voice of condemnation from her regarding gratuitous violence and our strange delight in watching others get hurt, embarrassed, angry, etc.

    I let my 13 and 14-year-olds read it, curious if they would get the same impression, and they did too. It led to some really good discussions. My 13-year-old said it actually made him realize how dangerous violent video games can be to our minds. I thought that was a great take-away!

    But parenting is one big casserole of hard decisions, flying by the seat of our pants while we pray for wisdom…we’re all in that same boat!

    Much love to you, Mary!

  46. I haven’t read the books but did go see the movie tonight and absolutely loved it. I will definitey be reading the books as soon as possible. I saw so many great qualities in Katniss and so much meaning in the story itself. Even without reading the books yet, it doesn’t seem like the typical teen “fluff” that you often see in a lot of books. I really think this book could have the potential to be of great discussion in the classroom. (I’m sure most of us read “Lord of the Flies” in school and discussed/disected all aspects of the story. Disturbing, yes, but still very thought-provoking about society.)

    Obviously each parent needs to decide for themselves what they will allow their kids to read/watch and each person’s family and circumstances are different. I grew up in a very strong Christian household and my books/reading material was not censored. I know there were times where I read things far above my years. Probably due in part to my parents not knowing enough about some of the books I read but also partially because I was a “good” kid. I believe being exposed to a lot of different authors and reading material helped cultivate my creativity and love for reading and writing. By reading things that I was genuinely interested in, I think it kept me challenged and kept me reading and learning. I was also able to find my nitch genre and discover what I really liked and disliked in a book. Some books I thought I’d love, I didn’t and vice versa. In no way do I feel like any of the books I read were harmful to me.

    My husband’s fondest memories growing up are from his father reading novels to him (or chapter books) every night before bed. Some of these books were far above him but it gave them the opportunity to read together and discuss. Today he is one of the most avid readers I know. Without a doubt, reading with our kids will be a big part of the family tradition we carry on.

    I am very impressed that you have decided to download the book to read. I think it’s great to find out more about it and even if you decide it’s still not right for your family, you are making a more informed decision. The bottom line is that every parent will make the decision they think is best for their family and what works for some might not work for others. I always love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing with us!

  47. NO books were censored in my home – and I suffered deeply for it. My mother believed in reading anything/everything – and having it on display in our home. I was reading soft-porn by the time I was 14 – and looking for harder porn soon after. I also read classics, religious books, books of violence, poetry… basically anything you can think of…it is FOREVER in my mind. Though *saved* and healing – I am forever imprinted with what was in my young head. IF we seriously think children should read such books – it does not surprise me, as man’s humanity to man is played out everyday in how we mistreat each other, have warped the simplest pleasures – pitted race against race and abort every other baby. God will not be mocked forever – and we will answer for having exposed our children to that which should be reserved for the mature (if even then…)

    There are MANY books that you *could* download – and make an *informed choice* about, but WHY? There is so much better to fill our minds/heads, hearts with! (Oh, and I am female – and a Christian. :) )

    God bless you, Mary

  48. I thought some of the commenters might be interested in the opinion of a movie critic and fan of the Hunger Games book series – that it is not appropriate reading or watching material for under age 12 or 13, and why. (I agree with her!)
    http://ideas.time.com/2012/03/22/why-im-not-taking-my-8-year-old-to-the-hunger-games/?iid=op-main-lede?xid=gonewsedit

  49. Jennifer says:

    My DH and I went to the movie last night. We thought it was very disturbing that there were 8 and 10 year olds were in line to see it

  50. When I heard what the books were about I told my son (the oldest, only one that I figured would be interested) that I didn’t want him reading the books. He informed me that he had already read them all at school. Ugh! My 11 year old dd had several friends over this past week and they had all read the book and were anxiously awaiting the movie. I have told my dd she is not to read the books.

    So my oldest read them, claims they are fine, he is fine, etc and is begging to see the movie. But I won’t let him. it is one thing to read about such horrible and graphic things – but another thing entirely to SEE it happening. Those images will be burned in their brains for a long time. Kids these days deal with enough violence in their lives with school shootings, video games, even television commercials! They do not need to see this movie that pits teen against teen. Horrible! I can’t believe anyone even thought up the whole idea. ugh! Glad I am not the only one not letting my kids go.

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  1. [...] takes on these books/movie.  I’ve dithered a bit too.  On the one hand, I have support for this stance  regarding the  series.  I respect this mom and her views and she has much parenting wisdom.  I [...]

  2. [...] Thanks for visiting!A couple people asked if I finished reading the Hunger Games series and if my original thoughts had changed. To be honest, if the first book in the series had been a stand-alone book, I’d [...]