The Hunger Games are Coming

Welcome, Better Mom readers! Glad you’re joining me today. A great place to start is with my 29 Days to Great Sex. Or you can browse 17 ways to keep your physical life exciting, even with kids! Or you can just read my column below.

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. And–gasp!–sometimes I actually write about stuff other than sex. I know lately I’ve been preoccupied with The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, but here’s this week’s column for something different:

Recently I broke one of my cardinal rules. I read novels in the middle of the week.

I created that rule when my children were small. After trips to the library to cart home truckloads of Berenstain Bears books, I’d sometimes stick a book in there for me. But I have a sickness. When I start reading a novel, I can’t put it down until I’ve finished it. Unfortunately, that means ignoring my children and telling them to get their own cereal for lunch. After several episodes of this, I decided I could really only be trusted with novels on vacation.

However, as anyone with teenagers knows, on March 23 The Hunger Games is opening in theatres. And before my kids see the movie (they bought tickets over a week ago), I thought I should read the books.

I hesitated because the plot sounds so horrific. A tyrannical society is run by the “Capitol”, a version of ancient Rome where the citizens enjoy massive leisure while the slaves do all the work. And in order to keep the slaves in line, each of the twelve slave districts has to produce two teenagers to compete in the annual “Hunger Games”, a gladiatorial like fight to the death contest.

It sounded so brutal I thought there was no way I could enjoy it. But my children, who are far more squeamish than I am, kept saying, “it’s not as gross as you think.” And so I read them. And they were right.

It is not that the books are not disturbing; they are. And after I see the movie, I’m sure Rue’s 4-note song will haunt me. But these books give a realistic depiction of the inner conflicts warring within each of us.

That’s why I think these are more profoundly true than other teenage books-turned-movies. Harry Potter is classic good vs. evil, but while it’s entertaining, I don’t find it as deep. And I have always been uncomfortable with the Twilight series, because it portrays love as obsessive and secretive. A girl who uses Twilight as her measure for what true love is will either be profoundly disappointed, or will end up in a bad relationship and hang on, thinking, “the fact that no one understands our love is proof of how real it is.” That’s dangerous.

The Hunger Games, on the other hand, present complex human dilemmas. Katniss, the main character, has to rely on herself because she’s been betrayed by adults–not just the evil adults who run the government, but even her mother who gave in to depression, leaving Katniss responsible for the family. What do you do when you’re in a hopeless situation? How do you keep going and not give in to despair? For many teens, let down by parents or stuck in impossible situations simply because of their age, these are questions they wrestle with.

The third book, though, was actually my favourite because it seemed ripped right from the front pages of the newspapers. When the rebels start to fight The Capitol, you slowly realize that the rebels are tyrannical, too, just in a different way. It’s like the poor Poles during World War II: who do you root for—the Soviets or the Nazis? Or what about Egypt? Who should we have rooted for? The military dictator or the Muslim Brotherhood? As Shakespeare said, “A plague on both your houses”.

Sometimes the solution to our problems can’t come from government, and it can’t come from waiting for someone else to save the day. You have to war within yourself to figure out what is right, and live up to your morals, even when the tide is turning against you.

Of course, one can see the movie and read the book just for the riproaring fun of it. Nic, one of my daughter’s 14-year-old friends, complained, in the middle of the first book, “Enough with all the kissing. Get back to killing people.” That’s a perfectly legitimate sentiment. But to me, the series accurately depicted the heart issues of life. And it’s a rare author who achieves that.

Don’t miss a Reality Check! Sign up to receive it FREE in your inbox every week!


  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one with “the sickness”! LOL When my kids were little, I had to read only non-fiction because it didn’t suck me in like novels do. Now that they’re teens (and I don’t homeschool) I can read so much, and I love it.
    LisaZ recently posted…Why I’m a Stay-at-Home-Mom (Still)–Part TwoMy Profile

  2. I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one with the “sickness”.

    Funny, I didn’t catch the whole ancient Rome similarities. I saw it as what could easily happen in the future of our own nation.

    I have only read the first book, and just now starting the 2nd book. The first book I wasn’t too happy with, but maybe I need to re-read it?

    Have a great day!
    Angela Childress recently posted…A Master Knitter at your Fingertips – Arenda HolladayMy Profile

    • Angela, the first book has the most fast-paced plot, but the third is the most politically relevant. So it’s a tough call. I don’t know that they’re everybody’s cup of tea, just that I do think they’re a good read for young people, and they portray interesting moral dilemmas in a very complex way, and it’s good for kids to sometimes grapple with these bigger issues. But they may just not be your type of book! :)

    • Ancient Rome and modern America are not all that different.
      Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy recently posted…Menu Plan Monday: Inspired by my BookmarksMy Profile

  3. Guilty as charged, lol! I haven’t read a good book in ages, because I have the same issue. If I get into it, watch out! NOTHING will get done around the house!
    Stacey recently posted…It’s Gorgeous Outside!My Profile

  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the series for many reasons!!! i think you captured the message so well! my daughter is in 6th grade and has read the entire series 8 times. we went to the midnight premier last night, and i have to say, they did an awesome job on it. not only did they tell the surface story, but they really included the undertones of rebellion and discord. it was definitely worth some sleep deprivation. 😉

    • I’m jealous! My kids have tickets but I don’t. I’ll probably see it in a few weeks. The kids will want to go again anyway.

  5. My husband and I go tomorrow – can’t wait! I insisted on buying and reading the books before I’d allow our 10-year-old daughter to read them (and I was hooked). Now I’m doing the same with the movie (no selfish motivation whatsoever ;)).
    E. Tyler Rowan recently posted…There is more than one PathMy Profile

  6. I haven’t read a new book in ages, but I tend to re-read and re-read books that I love. Fyodor Dostoevsky is my favorite author (I have all of his books and his short stories!), and I’m a Laura Ingalls Wilder nerd. I also love Robert Graves’ “I, Claudius,” and “Claudius the God,” and I’ve read “Pride and Prejudice” more times than I can count….. The list goes on. But it’s really hard for me to get into a new contemporary book, because I grew up reading “Peter Pan in the Kensington Gardens,” not “Twilight” – I’m more accustomed to the old-style literature.

    Maybe I should try reading it, though. I grew up only playing classical music, but more recently I discovered that contemporary-ish stuff is fun too!
    Jen recently posted…Baby, I need your lovingMy Profile

  7. I finally gave in to the hype and bought the first one this morning–around 12 hours ago. Even with a 2 hour excursion this afternoon and periodic breaks to take care of my daughter, I finished it half an hour ago. I bought the second one and then asked my husband to hide my kindle from me! (We have guests coming tomorrow; tonight I have to sleep, and tomorrow I have to prepare for them before I get sucked in again.)

    Needless to say, I loved the book and I really, really, really want to go ask my husband where my kindle is so I can keep going with the series! I hadn’t thought through the deeper issues of the book yet; for me, that usually comes quickly only if it’s very overt. Otherwise, things tend to bubble up to the surface in the hours and days after I finish the story.
    Deborah recently posted…A River ExcursionMy Profile

  8. I just went out and bought the first book! I can’t believe my teens have not even talked about this (to me, anyway) yet and it’s such a big deal. I’m going to give it to my son for his birthday today, in hopes that I’ll be able to read it too. Thanks for the recommendation!
    LisaZ recently posted…Why I’m a Stay-at-Home-Mom (Still)–Part TwoMy Profile

  9. So now I owe my daughter an apology for being so hard on her when she bought the books last Thanksgiving weekend and proceeded to devour them in 2 days!

    She reacted so strongly to the series that I figured I’d better stay away. But based on your review, I’ve got to give them a try.

    (In June, when the school year is over and grades are turned in!)
    Cheri Gregory recently posted…Recharge Your Marriage: The PURSE-onality ChallengeMy Profile

    • Yes, Cheri, wait until the summer! And it’s not like they were my favourite books or anything. Nothing can touch Austen. It’s just that I thought they raised complex moral issues in an interesting way that most teenage books don’t, and I was impressed by that.

  10. I wasn’t sure I would like the books as the plot seemed pretty disturbing. But I have to say I loved them and read all three in 2 days. I too have the sickness and always have. I read till I can’t anymore. I loved the Harry Potter movies but have never read the books. Sad I know. I didn’t get the whole Twilight thing for a long time and only read the books and saw all the movies right before Breaking Dawn Part 1 came out in Theaters. But I love them too. The books that is. The movies are ok but I loved the books.
    Shana Putnam recently posted…What A DayMy Profile

  11. I suffer from the same compulsion to read a good book from cover to cover uninterupted. Dinner? Who cares, Katniss is storming the Capitol! 😉 I posted my review of the movie and a tutorial on making Hunger Games shirts (yes, I am that big of a dork ;-).

  12. Yes, I rushed through the Hunger Games series, too! Looking forward to the movie. I had some problems w/the worldview being so bleak; I actually thought Twilight had a more hopeful plotline going on in its own way.

    I just commented on the article in Christianity today, called “Jesus in the Hunger Games”–

    I think this article missed the point, trying to attribute Christian motivations/characterizations where Collins probably didn’t intend them. I felt that Collins could’ve injected more hope into the dystopian world, since even in the worst of situations, many people miraculously survive (more than the series reflected). Anyway, you can read my comment there, but there are some spoilers in it!

    Loving these posts, glad that as Christians we can discuss things in books our kids are reading! I did love the series, but think we need to see what Collins’ overall worldview was projecting.
    Heather Day Gilbert recently posted…New Twitter Hashtag–#ChristficMy Profile

    • Heather, I agree with you absolutely that Collins was not trying to have a Christ figure in the books at all, or any kind of Christian worldview.

      But I actually LIKED the fact that there wasn’t really any hope–or any emotional healing for those who had suffered. I thought that was really rather realistic. Because without Christ, how can you really receive healing for something that traumatic?

      I guess what I’m saying is that I found them very realistic, and what I said to the girls afterwards was that I was glad she didn’t sugar coat things or have an overly happy ending. (It was a satisfying ending, but not really a happy one). Because that’s what life without Christ is like. Even when we triumph in the human realm, our hearts still won’t be healed without God. You know?

      • I actually do think there’s hope though. Katniss was able to survive the death of there father and emotional death of her mother. She stood tall, took care of her sister and kept going. She had hope that she would win the Games and she did. I don’t think that necessarily attributes to healing and hope with God, but she did have hope and so does the series. The ending isn’t necessarily happy (which I think SO many moviegoers will hate), but I also don’t think it lacks hope. I want to say so much more, but I want to keep my opinions to myself for the sake of those who want to read the series and haven’t yet.

        When I saw that you were writing on The Hunger Games I was a little worried that I would find a post about how terrible they were, so I was pleasantly surprised to find your point of view so honest and refreshing.

        One of the things my mom and I talked about after watching the movies (we’ve read the books each a few times) was that it not only has a solid historical basis (Ancient Rome for sure) and a potential for future happenings, there are people around the world today who are victimized by their government or the rebels fighting for them. While it may not be happening here in the US (or Canada for you), it is happening in many different ways in other places.

        Great perspective!
        Sally @ A Blessed Existence recently posted…The Hunger Games: A film reviewMy Profile

  13. I’m leaving RIGHT NOW to go see the movie! Both kids are home from college and I am going to pick my husband up from work. May the odds be ever in your favor!

  14. I have that same “sickness” as many have stated on here. If I have things I need to get done I cannot pick up a book. I will spend hours even late into the night reading if I love the book. I have read the HP books and really liked them a lot more than I thought I would (I felt for many years that I wasn’t supposed to read them or let my kids read them. I know that is still controversial and I judge no one either way they choose. I think it has to be however God leads you.) I love the Twilight books. The movies are OK but not as good as the books. When the HG movie started getting publicity I thought I would like to read the books before the movie since I know the book is always better and gives you more information than you can ever get from the movie. I read the first one in about a day and a half and was hooked. I am re-reading them now because of all the information you gain throughout the second and third books. My two younger kids are reading the second one right now (they are 5th and 7th graders). We saw the movie today and loved it. They did a great job. Of course some things were changed but they kept it true to the book a lot more than some others have done. I think these books have a lot of conversational content for parents and children. I love to use things like that to connect with my kids and get down to the root of what God wants us to do and act in contrast to what our “flesh” desires to do. Thanks so much for giving us your input on the books. I can’t wait to hear how you liked the movie!
    Terri Harr recently posted…Team Novel Teen Blog Tour: Halflings by Heather BurchMy Profile

  15. I’m glad that this movie is taking over the Twilight series in the publicity at least- very tired of that series! I’ve never even heard of the hunger games until this movie- hopefully this is more appropriate than the other teen series dealing with either witchcraft or other creepy devilish things.
    Nicole recently posted…Back in the BusinessMy Profile

  16. I think your review was great. Like some of the others who have posted before me, I read the books considering our own nation. I like how you looked at it from the ancient Rome perspective. I am currently in the process of reading the third book, while going to grad school and still living my daily life with my family, church, and work. My husband and I saw the movie tonight, and I thought that it did a fairly decent job of staying in line with the first book. I am eager to see the next two. There is definitely a lot of symbolism in the books as well as the movie. Overall, I think these books are a good, easy read.

  17. As a (homeschooling 😉 mom to a 9-year-old boy, 7-year-old girl, and my little guy who’s 2, they’re not ready for this stuff. So here’s my question: should I read it & see the movie? The review is interesting, though after reading it I probably wouldn’t go on my own. This seems different from the Twilight series & Harry Potter, so I’m curious if I should get in on this one.

    • Naomi, honestly, I’d wait until your oldest is 12, and then enjoy the books at the same time he does and see it with him. That way you get to share the excitement! You can always watch it on DVD at home later.

      • Or maybe 13…. :)

        • Concerned mom says:

          I’ve only read the first book, and can agree that the author is very talented. I could hardly put it down. However, my concern is that it is children who are ten and eleven years old that are the ones who are reading these books. The ideas in them are quite mature- Affection for the sake of popularity, breast augmentation without consent, drunken leadership, in addition to extreme amounts of violence. Is this what we want to encourage our pre-teens in? Is it how we are to be entertained? Are these the role models we want for them? It’s not the books, but the age of the audience that is devouring them, that is my concern.

          • I would agree. My daughters were 14 and 17 when they read it, and I think that’s appropriate. A friend with an 11-year-old daughter asked what I thought, and I advised waiting until at least 13. I just find the story of Rue very disturbing, and I think for someone younger, that would be hard.

  18. Interesting commentary on The Hunger Games, Sheila. I read it because my husband and married daughter loved the series and wanted to see the movie. I saw it last night and, thankfully, it was not as disturbing visually as it was in my mind’s eye during my reading. I, like you, was so disturbed but kept reading. It was very engaging. The main characters self sacrifice was what kept me going. I’ll be starting the next book soon. Now that my children are grown I’m allowed to read during the week:)

    I think you’ll enjoy the movie. They did a great job incorporating what was important in the story.
    Bonnie Anderson recently posted…The Force is With MeMy Profile

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.


  1. […] The Hunger Games Are Coming – For those of you who are curious as to the content of this movie, Sheila gives her perspective on the series she read. Like This? Share it: Pin ItEmailPrintMoreDiggLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this post. This entry was posted in Blog Love, Christian Marriage, Growing Strong Marriages, Happy Hour and tagged Blog, God, Intimate relationship, marriage, relationship. Bookmark the permalink. ← Hello, The Sea Is Calling […]

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge