What Age Is Appropriate to Read The Hunger Games?

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Ten-year old AJ is begging to read The Hunger Games trilogy. AJ’s pestering brings up a good question – at what age is The Hunger Games series appropriate for kids?

While I’m not one for censorship, I am aware that certain subjects are way over kids’ heads. In this case, the difficult political concepts and violence would be a stretch for most kids that aren’t high-school age.

About The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games books describe a post-apocalyptic dystopian world (think utopia gone wrong) in a totalitarian country. 12 districts are ruled by District 1, The Capitol. Each year, the Capitol selects one boy and girl between ages 12 – 18 from each district for it’s version of reality TV – a violent game whose televised players fight to the death, The Hunger Games.

Remember reading Lord of the Flies? Pretty violent, right? But the violence served a purpose. Same thing with The Hunger Games. The violence is part of the point of the book.

If you haven’t read the books, Suzanne Collins’ writing will completely hook you – they’re amazing and I highly recommend them. Apparently she got the idea one evening while watching television. (Go figure.) Huffington Post reviewer, Greg Garrett, remarks on the reality TV comparison, “The spectacle of kids killing kids is only slightly more awful than the spectacle of Snooki with a kid.” Well-said!

Adults, these books are great entertainment. Don’t be put off by the YA category. YA is fun to read!

As far as the movie goes, the early reviews are very positive. I’m pretty impressed by the virtual Capitol tour here. Watch The Official Trailer for more about the movie. But you’ll read the book before you go, won’t you? (You should.)

what age to read the hunger games

Back to my question . . . What Age Should Kids Read The Hunger Games Books?

I know that AJ could read the book and mostly comprehend it. And I like that she wants to read books – yeah! But I have my doubts she is ready for these books because . . .

1) it’s such a great series, I’d hate for her to read it too early and miss the message.

2) the violence might interfere with her understanding of the allegorical meaning.

(P.S. There’s no sex in these books except in the third book when Finnik’s sex slave history is mentioned.)

what age to read the Hunger Games?

What Do You Think?

My librarian friend, Amy, said she thinks kids should be, “at least middle-school age. Even then I get kids who like the action of the first book but don’t like the third book. I think they don’t really understand it.”

Common Sense Media says age 12.

A twitter follower of mine, Sara Ryan,” said, “Depends on maturity not age. Has your child read The Giver. I compared the two a lot when we read Hunger Games.”

Author friend, Susan Kaye Quinn, “My guideline has been that these are teen books – i.e. 13+. Now each parent has to judge for themselves, but there’s not just a lot of violence, there’s some pretty disturbing consequences of war in Book #3. Which are perfectly ok for teens, not so much for little kids. As much as I love the books, I waited until my son was 13 and in Jr. High before I handed them to him. (He probably would have been fine with them in 6th grade, but I’m conservative when it comes to this stuff). My 8 you is clamoring for the books, but he knows that Mom’s not going to bend on that.”

I loved your thoughtful Facebook comments.

  • Katie Hanacek Overbye: “My kids are wayyy too young for them (6 & 2) – but I’m not.” (I agree – these are great books for adults to read!)
  • Kylel Ford Rogers: “I think 14 and up. There were intense but every kid is different.”
  • Jill Titon Hymer: “My daughter read them all and she is in fifth grade. Her school librarian and teachers were promoting the book so we felt it must be okay. I read it along with her (actually finished them all first because I was so addicted). She did fine reading them, but every child is different. I kept talking to her about them and even though they are intense, a fifth grader sees it differently than an adult and doesn’t even get some of the stuff she reads in the book.”
  • Julie Roberts Towe: “I read them first to see if they would be okay for my 10yo. She already reads similar books. I thought it might be too graphic. But she said she had read worse in Ranger’s Apprentice and similar books. She is reading Catching Fire now, but finds it monotonous. Neither of us love the Hunger Games series, but for different reasons. So, it really does depend on the child.”
  • Chocolate Muffin Tree: My husband just made the comment to me (he teaches middle school) Kids are reading these books yet the movie version of the books they are not allowed to watch!

Tricia of Helping Moms Connect writes, “I read all three of the books and have a daughter who is a pretty advanced reader for the age of 10. She’s read Harry Potter but I will not let her anywhere near Twilight. The Hunger Games falls somewhere in the middle. I’m considering letting her read The Hunger Games trilogy once she turns 11.” Her opinion garnered 99 very passionate comments.

Time movie reviewer, Christopher J. Ferguson, says he’s taking his 8-year old to the movie. Not exactly answering the book question though.

So Will I Let AJ Read The Books?

Maybe, if I read it with her – either to her or match her chapter for chapter and then discuss. She may decide that she wants to wait on the books, who knows? I so strongly believe in teaching her to make thoughtful decisions on what she wants to put into her head, I may have to tell her to wait which I don’t think is book banning. We’ll see. Perhaps we’ll try a chapter this summer and see how it goes. (Maybe I’ll even use this Teacher’s Guide to the Hunger Games books from Scholastic.)

What Do You Think?

What Age Works for You?

READ: Books like Hunger Games, Self-Censor Instead of Banning Books

UPDATE: I did read these books with my daughter and she really enjoyed them, however we had to stop and talk frequently just to explain some of the more difficult concepts. She reread the books again on her own a year later and I imagine got more out of them the 2nd time through.

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  1. What an interesting discussion! Realized it happened a while ago, but so glad I found this! My 11.5-year-old read the first book recently, after her classmates and teachers began discussing it at school. Now my 9.5-year-old, who is an avid reader, is clamoring to read it as well. These comments are helping a lot as I mull over my decision, and I’m realizing that either decision I make will probably be ok in the long run 🙂

  2. I was introduced to The Hunger Games when my English teacher read it to us in the 5th grade. I know she censored some choice words when reading to us, because you could tell by the look on her face, but at that time nobody thought it was beyond the mental capacity of us 5th graders. (or too graphic for us, either, I guess)
    At first I was really opposed to it and I didn’t want to read it when our teacher gave us the choice of The Hunger Games or Cryptid Hunter (by Roland Smith; a very good but much less mature book). I went home and complained to my parents that they were reading us this gross evil murderous crap and they were mad too (haha). But the teacher read it anyways. And everyone fell in love with it.
    Looking back I could see how it could have went over most of my class’s heads, but it didn’t. Maybe because the teacher read it to us and there was more time to reflect on what happened. I know I always understood the political side of things in the book. And then in the 6th grade, when Catching Fire and Mockingjay were in the English teacher’s libraries, there was a waiting list for them. Sometimes it was pages long, because everyone loved The Hunger Games. (on a sidenote- I don’t understand why everyone says Catching Fire is boring? I read it in two days because I couldn’t put it down)
    The Hunger Games doesn’t teach any bad moral lessons and manages to have an enthralling romance with maybe five or six kisses in the entire trilogy and not even an almost-sex scene.
    It’s understandable for parents to freak out when they hear that it’s about a bunch of kids murdering each other, but relax, parents, it’s really not what you think. (I’m 17, by the way, so you know it’s not a 12-year-old writing this)