Banned Books: The Hunger Games

This week is Banned Books Week, and we’re celebrating by showcasing various books which have been censored for a variety of reasons. Celebrate this week by picking up one of these books and reading.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is on the American Library Association banned books list for this year.  Many of the books that are on that list I just snort in derision over.  Most are pretty ridiculous, and have been written about by some of us here are at Care2.  There is everything from gay penguins to classics to Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.

The Hunger Games is different.  First let me be clear that I never think a book should be banned and laugh that Fahrenheit 451 is about banned books and the dangers of banning, yet still remains on the banned book list.  Art is life.

Art follows life in the case of the Hunger Games.  Collins creates a futuristic world that is not far off in coming and could well happen.  After a horrific accident that sent everyone underground (nuclear war?), sectors began to emerge above ground.  Life began again.  Each “sector” of geography that sustains human life is responsible for a specific set of skills and technologies that aid the central government lead a hedonistic life.  Life is not necessarily good within each sector, however.

The protagonist, a 16-year-old girl named Katniss, has to survive a set of ever-changing rules in a race to survive.  Names are drawn by lottery, and when Katniss’ little sister gets called, Katniss trades places with her and becomes the competitor for her sector along with a boy named Peeta. The reward?  Everyone in her sector would have enough food and medicine for a year, or until the next Games.

Peeta and Katniss undergo many adventures and conflicts throughout the competition, and both end up champions, much to the Government’s dismay.  Usually there is only one winner.  But Peeta and Katniss refuse to kill each other, and are so popular among the “viewers” that they are allowed to live.  The government does not like being upstaged, so creates a situation that leads to the next book in the series, Catching Fire.

It is alarmingly real in many ways.  I thought this piece of fiction that remarks on social psychology, economics and politics was banned because it is too real.

I was wrong. Instead, it is because it contains sexually explicit material, it is unsuited to the age group and it has violence.

Except it doesn’t.  There is nothing of a sexually explicit nature in the book.  There is violence, but it is situation specific, and I think many people underestimate teenagers.  The Hunger Games is also similar to 1984 and Animal Farm in its social commentary, and might be worth a discussion in any number of classes.

And here is another question, which seems especially pertinent here: what happens when the movie becomes freely available?  A blockbuster is being made about this book even as you read this.  The Harry Potter movies are phenomena, and many more movies have been made from banned books, many earning Oscars (The Color PurpleTo Kill A Mockingbird)) and attract Big Name Celebrities.  Movies are just as accessible as books, and I am firm believer that you get more out of a book than a movie anyway.  Except, when a book is banned, you don’t have a trained teacher leading a discussion about a book that could change your life.

Does anyone else think this is weird?

Related Stories:

Banned Books Week: 5 of Your Favorites

“And Tango Makes Three” Tops List of Banned Books

Banned Books: Catholic League Attacks “His Dark Materials” Trilogy


Photo credit: goodncrazy


Ian D.
Ian D.5 years ago

Just who ARE these narrow-minded nincompoops who decide which books should be banned? Just what credentials or qualifications do they have to justify this censorship?

Ruadha S.
Ruadha S5 years ago

Long, long ago--when I was in school, the only books I recall being actually banned were a few hard-core porn, they atill got passed around wrapped in brown paper. I think most of us read them BECAUSE they were banned.
Everything else was dissected in class, which was a sure way to take the fun out. About 20 years ago (or more) there was a pitched battle between certain parents and the schoolboard about banning things like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Those parents thought their little innocents shouldn't have to discus such themes. I thought the point of the teacher was to make them discus.
I remember a letter to the editor (daily paper) from a woman who was outraged that her 8th grader was being "made" to read poetry like "Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
(hit Wikipedia if you don't know old Lizzie.)

I tossed back my mmediate response--which was "why aren't you outraged that your EIGTH GRADE STUDENT can't read anything more complicated??"

Anne F.
Anne F5 years ago

Hope there will be new post for 2012 Banned Books Week: I'll be wearing a pin that states I read banned books!

Dale Overall

Limiting access to or banning books of course makes the readership even wider because people do not like having their access blocked to reading material and will be even more curious, with the "I really have to read this!" attitude as information is power. Information that is difficult to access or is totally blocked becomes a Quest for many.

Some wanted to ban such books as Catcher In The Rye and many others from younger people. Those with the maturity to process the information will be able discuss and learn from what is being offered.

Nicole Pauline Sedkowski
Nicole Sedkowski5 years ago

Thank you for this excellent article.

Nicole Pauline Sedkowski
Nicole Sedkowski5 years ago

Thank you for this excellent article.

Ernest R.
Ernest R5 years ago

@ Tatiana V.. “In which age are we living?” A good question. We are living in an age of corporate control that has become more obvious than even the days of Western business enslaving blacks from Africa, Indonesians, Indians [both kinds]. Every country will be a corporate and religion dominated third world country on a poisoned planet and the question will be “What to do with huge masses of people no longer needed, even as slaves?”

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

This is ridiculous! As youve mentioned there's no explicit se in the books and even if there were, so what? From what I hear most teens and pre-teens are having sex anyway . II think showing kids that sex can excist in a loving relationship can be good for them, maybe they'll think twice about having it with someone they don't care for. Also, kids are having to deal with other aspects in the book in their real lives, like bullying and violence so why not intamacy and love.

Carmen H.
Past Member 5 years ago

I haven't ever read the Hunger Games Books, but from what I can see, it seems like an appropriate book, because let's face it...all of us, whether we're 6 or 78, we're going to be exposed to a lot of things that happen in this world that might be inappropriate for younger people, but they're still getting exposed to it by other means what's the point of banning a book, and then of course the movies...everyone's going to be watching it at some stage, whether it be at the movie theater or as a rented out's just up to guardians and parents to explain some things to the younger viewers, even though the explaining has to be done at a much younger age than it was about 15 years ago...

Robyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

I chose not to buy The Hunger Games for my (then) ten year old daughter as I thought the themes were a little too mature for her. But at fourteen I think she is ready to read book with adult themes now. But to ban it altogether, that is just downright stupid. Who decides what books are banned and what exactly are their credentuals.