It’s now the tail end of Banned Books Week, and when perusing the list of prohibited titles, you may be surprised to find that The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is among the top fifteen.
The Hunger Games quickly became popular after it was published in 2008. The trilogy was “catching fire” when it was brought to the big screen in 2012 with Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. It has since become one of the most widely beloved YA series. However, the trials of Katniss Everdeen and her struggle against the Capital’s control is not just a dystopian, adventurous, sci-fi with a strong female lead. It is a trilogy that questions the influence of a corrupt political power and an imbalanced distribution of wealth and safety, not to mention the emphasis on rebellion. Could this be part of the reason why The Hunger Games continually falls under the umbrella of dangerous books?
In 2016, The Hunger Games took the number five spot on the American Library Association most challenged books list. The reason for this stated: “They were banned due to insensitivity, offensive language, violence, anti-family, anti-ethic and occult/satanic.” In 2014, the novel was also banned for reasons of inserted religious perspective. However, throughout the trilogy, a religious stance is never once mentioned by Katniss or any other character. The dominant belief throughout—the one in which Katniss dares to fight back—is that of loyalty to Panem and the suppression of the districts.
Another important factor in the novels is “the nature of celebrity,” as clearly depicted in Bustle Magazine:
Celebrity has always been an important part of The Hunger Games. In the first installment, Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes are transformed into glamorous idols before entering the Games’ slaughter, in an effort to glorify their actions for the Capitol’s benefit.
Collins most definitely knew what she was doing when crafting a riveting trilogy of novels based on a system of oppression and the need for an uprising. She interwove themes of not only war, violence, poverty and love (apparently, the ingredients for a banned book), but also added the reality of celebrity influence. Whomever holds the attention of the public has the highest odds of things going in their favor.
Today, The Hunger Games is listed first on the Goodreads “YA Dystopia Novels” list, and beat Twilight for the number one spot in “Young Adult Romance.” Yet, despite its unquestionable popularity, the series is still met with stark opposition. Grouped among titles such as Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, Collins’ series ranks twelfth out of the ALA’s list of 100 “Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010-2019.”