Although The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins, has had many critiques due to its use of intense themes — such as murder, death, starvation, and abuse of power— in a books that are directed for kids as young as twelve years old, it is a fantastic learning tool for tween and teens.
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The United States is one of the richest countries in the world, and although 13.7 percent of our residents live in poverty, many tweens and teens grow up in wealthy households. Some of them are spoiled and don’t recognize how fortunate they are.
Panem (which used to be known as North America) is where The Hunger Games novels take place. Each year, all children from the Districts between the ages of 12 and 18 are in the running to be selected as tributes in a battle to the death called The Hunger Games.
At age 16 the novel’s protagonist Katniss Everdeen and her classmate Peeta Mellark are chosen to participate in the 74th games. The story takes us through Katniss’s journey as she struggles to make difficult choices, such as starvation against possible death, and life verses love. Reading the novel through Katniss’s eyes is likely to make teens, whose toughest monthly decision is to decide whether to buy popcorn or candy at the movies, more appreciative of the lives that they live.
Katniss and Peeta are characters that you can’t not love. Their caring natures makes you root for them, and in turn despise the system that dictates them and the rest of Panem’s residents who live in the districts. This gives teens the opportunity to relate what’s going on in the story to their own lives and might make them think twice about bullying others who don’t have all of the money they do.
The Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins, was released in May 2020, right when police brutality was brewing up and the Black Lives Matter movement resurfaced the United States. In the novel, one of the main characters, Lucy Gray Baird, was elected to participate in The 10th Hunger Games. Throughout the story she has to fight for her right to live, just like African Americans in today’s have to. Women, African Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community have to enter their own Hunger Games when they leave their homes sometimes. Women have to worry about being sexually harassed when wearing shorts or a bathing suit, African American’s have to fear being attacked by the police, and members of the LBTQ community can’t hold hands in public without having to worry about hate crimes. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was not only a great way for African Americans to find something to connect to during the movement, but also helpful for Caucasian Americans to get a better understanding of what African Americans feel like on a daily basis.
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Despite what critiques say, The Hunger Games books, by Suzanne Collins, are extremely educational and should be read by teens all around the world. Books are able to make people empathize in a way that a story on the news never could — if the author is really talented, that is. And Suzanne Collins is about as good as they get.