The Hunger Games book series is simply a brilliant and thought-provoking read, for parents, teens and young adults. But, I would caution parents of children under the age of 12 to read the books with their preteens or allow them to wait until a more appropriate age so they can get the full understanding of hope the author is trying to convey without getting wiped out by the trauma. The author, Suzanne Collins, of the book series has said in interviews that it is about the consequences of war - something her father as a veteran didn't shield from his children.
Spoiler alert! From here throughout the rest of the article I will be discussing the books in The Hunger Games series. There will be spoilers. So, if you haven't read the books you may want to stop here.
The series is the coming-of-age story of Katniss Everdeen who has the extraordinary gifts of never-faltering resilience and solid determination, not to mention her archer abilities. She is set in Panem, the dystopic nation that exists where the United States was generations ago. Her district in this totalitarian world of extreme poverty and sadness is one of the poorest. She transcends that to unknowingly become a symbol of hope for for the rebels, her people against the Capital. Later in the series she takes on the persona of the rebel symbol and is used as a marketing ploy for the resistance. But at the height of the series, in an act that is seen as vile and traitorous, she actually becomes the hope her people needed.The First Book: The Hunger Games
Katniss has lost her father and her mother's depression leaves her unable to take care of Katniss and her younger sister Prim. Therefore, it is up to Katniss to provide for her family when there are no jobs, no money and very little food. She does so by poaching on the lands of the almighty Capitol, who rules the all of the districts with an iron fist.
Then the unthinkable happens and Katniss is made a player in the Hungry Games where children from all of the districts are chosen each year to fight to the death for the entertainment of the people of the Capital. Reality entertainment television for the elite.
The story plays out showing the intricacies of the current government while Katniss is just trying to survive. I won't spoil the ending of the first book but to say Katniss is in the second. I will say that Collins doesn't pull any punches, children die. You will be astonished at the apathy of the capitol and deep empathy your teen will feel for these children. It is very relative for them.
Did I mention the romantic triangle between Gayle, Peeta and Katniss? No? Probably because it's there in the background the entire time and plays its part seamlessly. It is not the main theme of the book, like the Twilight series. But your teen will bring it up.The Second Book: Catching Fire
Katniss and one other is lead through the districts so that the capital can show off their winners for the games. Then it's time for the next Hunger Games and through a twist of fate, Katniss is again one of the players. Lots of action, violence and downright scary parts in this book as well.
The one scene in the book that really got to me was the dinner at the Capital where there was so much good food that there was a bathroom with golden toilets set up so you could go empty your stomach and eat again. All the while the people in the districts starve. And this was normal to the elite of the Capitol, which is devoid of humanity. Its people simply do not understand why they are doing anything wrong.The Third Book: Mockingjay
This book is more about the war against the capital with political intrigue and large scale destruction. The loss of some of the characters that Katniss was close to will give your teen pause. Katniss realizes she is unable to keep those she loves safe and how even those on your side can be tainted and apathetic to the world's greatest resource, our children. She saves her people from an ongoing fate worse than destruction. Her reward? A semi-normal life. I found this to be gratifying. Some teens and young adults I've talked to didn't quite understand why and wanted more. But the point is when war is over, you appreciate what everyday life means to you. Some who walked beside Katniss weren't as lucky. Katniss had a few other worries in the end, but I'll let you read the books to find those out.