The phenomena of The Hunger Games, a trilogy of teen novels, written by Suzanne Collins, is worth a comment or two. I read the books, having heard about them from a nephew of mine. I decided to read them to see what it was all about. It is difficult to describe my reaction to these books. I would imagine that one’s reaction would vary, depending on one’s station in life. For a teenager, the appeal would simply be rooting for an underdog facing unbelievable challenges. For an adult with children, the horror of violence-as-entertainment comes to the fore. Collins is definitely deconstructing our violence-saturated culture. She does so through three rather violent books. However, as we all know, violence can be depicted in different ways. In these volumes, the horror of violence is front and center.
I must issue a warning at this point to any parents of teenagers: if you are at all prone to nightmares about your teens, do not read these books. It will certainly give you nightmares. I am not prone to nightmares at all (I rarely dream at all, actually, at least not so that I could remember what I dream), and I could not sleep the first night I read these. Collins is a superb writer. These are page turners. Whether you would read them or not, I would say that these books could have a very beneficial effect on our culture. If any are discouraged from glorying in violence, she will have more than enough compensation for her labors. If any teenagers are discouraged from becoming violent, again a noble purpose is served.
The only critique that I would offer is that she has no real basis for avoiding violence. They are not Christian novels in any obvious way. I could not even detect hints or Christian symbolism. So she offers us no “why” as to avoiding violence. What she does do is depict violence is such horrific colors that you feel like you never want to “enjoy” a violent movie again (at least, not a movie that glories in violence). And some passages will move you to tears, especially the scenes concerning Rue. Rue is a 12 year old girl, forced to participate in the hunger games. She is the embodiment of innocence. She is precisely the person who should not be victimized by a system that glories in violence, and yet so often, the Rue’s of this world are precisely those that get victimized in just such a fashion. Read and weep. But, as Christians, our anger should be focused on the cause of this kind of violence, and on the solution. Sin is what causes violence, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only solution.