I've actually just finished reading the series with my daughter (16). We couldn't put the books down, they are very compelling, almost like Nancy Drew used to be where you just HAVE to keep reading to find out what happens. The best thing was we were reading them together, and talked about it along the way. What happens in the books is terrible, frightening, horrible. It is a commentary on reality tv, the immorality of our society, the awefulness of war, and more.
One of the reasons it’s important for me to write about war is I really think that the concept of war, the specifics of war, the nature of war, the ethical ambiguities of war are introduced too late to children. I think they can hear them, understand them, know about them, at a much younger age without being scared to death by the stories. It’s not comfortable for us to talk about, so we generally don’t talk about these issues with our kids. But I feel that if the whole concept of war were introduced to kids at an earlier age, we would have better dialogues going on about it, and we would have a fuller understanding......author Suzanne CollinsRead this interview with the author.
Well, the thing is, whatever I write...I want the protagonist to be the age of the viewing audience.She says she's written books for the audience the age of her protagonist--who is 16. They really are Young Adult books (which I think is mature 14 and up, 16 is better). There is a bit of sensuality in it and by the end, a consummation (written very disgusiedly, but still, I knew what was happening). The realities of the hunger games is dreadful, awful--it's torture and cruelty. There is no religion, so there isn't a religious morality, and in fact, one could discuss with teens, just what is the moral code in this book?
Theseus and the Minotaur is the classical setup for where The Hunger Games begins, you know, with the tale of Minos in Crete….My best advise is to read the books with your teens and discuss it with them as you all read it. (They are a fast read, parents.) I have always had the rule that if there is going to be a movie and if we're going to see it, then we're going to read the books first.
And also, if there's a questionable book, we're going to read it together. Good can come from we parents discussing even "bad" books with our children. Our children do have to be prepared to enter the world, and reading what is popular will ALWAYS be a temptation, and it isn't a bad idea to get their moral compasses set now, get their skept-o-meters ready, by reading the book together, and parents saying things along the way like, "That character acted inhumanely or immorally or cruelly when she..." or "This character was truly noble when he did..." etc. Our kids need this kind of guidance from us while we still have them with us.
So read the books together. I think that as soon as you begin Hunger Games, you will see why people can't put them down. Oh! But the ending was a HUGE disappointment to both my daughter and I. After reading desperately through 3 books, awaiting an outcome, it just sort of went flat. So yes, the books were compelling reading, but the content plus the ending didn't make the books rise into the level of CLASSIC book (like all of the good books you can think of, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc.) I don't think Hunger Games will stand the test of time.
Conclusion: Read Hunger Games together. Wait until kids are old enough. I know, two hard things. But someone has to do the hard things.