The Hunger Game Series for Reluctant Teens

By Brent Vasicek on October 20, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

Talk about building excitement and anticipation. I waited and waited for my pre-ordered copy of Mockingjay. It did not disappoint. I devoured this book within two days after receiving it. Yes, it was that good! 

I have found this series more engaging than . . . Dare I say it? I must because it is true! . . . more engaging than Harry Potter. Students in 5th grade and up love this series, too. Especially, those boys who are reluctant readers or those girls who long for a strong female role model.


Suzanne Collins does a terrific job in concluding The Hunger Games series with Mockingjay. It has the perfect balance of intrigue, action, tension, and thoughtfulness. In a way the series is all about trust and discovering what you truly believe. What teenager can't connect to those things on some level? This book had me engaged the entire time, as the end of each chapter is masterfully written to keep the reader hooked. The twist and the explanations at the end of the book were satisfying. No Scooby-Doo formulaic endings, and no "it was all just a dream" stuff, either. Just quality writing with an original story line. Definitely two thumbs up!

I will warn you that with the first book in the series, I had to make a blind-faith investment of about 75 pages before I was truly into it. The second book, Catching Fire, was easy to jump into, as was the third.

Hunger GamesCatching fire

Thoughts on Classroom Applications

For you reading teachers, this series could spark so many good discussions. I am left with many ethical questions about trust. Whom do you trust, and how do you know when to trust them? Is it okay to lie under certain circumstances? At what point is fighting for a cause not worth the death and destruction? Do the ends always justify the means? How many people truly live with integrity? In what situations does/should social class matter?

Some of my 7th grade alumni, The Integrity Bros, enjoyed doing The Hunger Games as a book club during our monthly Integrity meetings.

Even if you are not a reading teacher, you can find creative ways to incorporate The Hunger Games into your classroom. For you technology gurus, why not have your students develop a trailer for the book like this one posted on YouTube? If you are the home ec teacher, you could suggest that students create a cake that captures the essence of The Games after reading the book. Check out some impressive examples that would make even the Cake Boss salivate. Find more food-related lesson ideas posted by a fellow teacher on TeacherShare.

Since our society seems to be enamored with reality television, this is the perfect series to get a reluctant reader hooked on reading. After all, it only takes one book to prove that reading can be an enjoyable activity. One of the first books that turned me into a reader was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I bet many teens will be able to claim The Hunger Games series as the one that proved reading is not just a subject in school, but a gift of a lifetime. And, who knows, they may be inspired to read some of the dystopian novels on this booklist.

What other books turn kids onto reading, in your experience? Has anyone else read this book? If so, comment below and give us your review.

Satisfied reader,

Brent Vasicek

PS: For those of you who enjoy doing Webcasts and are looking for a November idea, Scholastic just put up a sign-up page for The First Thanksgiving Webcast. You might want to check it out.



Tracee, Thanks for the comment. Check out The Maze Runner. It has a similar theme. Brent

I agree 100%. My high school students absolutely LOVE this series. I think you are right that teachers/parents must use discretion with younger students. On the other hand, there are several colleges who have added The Hunger Games to their curriculum. The popularity is widespread and the teaching moments are endless for all ages.

I liked how you brought up the Machiavelli connection (ends justifying means) and the social class discussion points. This is a great way to incorporate parts of Machiavelli's "The Prince" into high school & college-level discussions. Teachers can also use the novel to discuss/study/make connections to modern-day propaganda techniques, the Holocaust, and the use of symbolism in literary works.

It's a wonderful and brilliant series!

I also loved the Hunger Games series. Eight to ten students, grades 6 - 11, read my copy of Mockingjay before I even had a chance to read it! My seventh graders love The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. Although both books have male main characters, just as many girls as boys continue reading the rest of the two series.

Rick Riordan also is a writer for 39 Clues. It is one of the newer mysteries that kids have been turned onto. Thanks for the comments.


Have you tried the Maze Runner? My 7th graders loved this last year. I had a group of six read it for a literature circle book. The discussions never hit a low spot. The second in this series, The Scorch Trials, just came out.

Yes! I did read The Maze Runner. I liked it. Not quite as much as The Hunger Games, but still a great read. Thanks for alerting me to The Scorch Trials! Keep this list of books growing, Brent

I know my students are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the book orders, as the three book set of the Hunger Games series is in it!

For the last three years, my eighth grade classroom has been really hooked on James Patterson's Maximum Ride series. These are fast moving books, full of danger and adventure, and the short chapters give the students a feeling of accomplishment ("Miss, I read 10 chapters last night!"). What is even neater is to hear the students excitedly recommending these books to each other---or encouraging each other to "hurry up" and finish reading the book so they could check it out next!

I love it when they pressure each other to read more! One of the best things to see as a teacher. Thank you for sharing. ~Brent

I loved this series! However for fourth graders this is too much.

I am doing 39 clues with my students. We are on Book 1. My students have investigation journals. We have world maps up to keep track of where we "travel". It makes my students really think and when they were given clue one they researched using different resources for it. In Book 2 they mention a TON of famous people so we will do a powerpt on the person of their choice. Well they will do their own with a partner I should say! I love books.

When I was younger I LOVED The Westing Game. I loved the mystery and trying to make predictions. So I try to bring this love to my students.

Dana, I agree. Hunger Games is too far above a fourth grader's head. I bought the 39 Clues series and so far have read book one. I like the PowerPoint idea. Brent

Great post and these comments are full of great suggestions. The Hunger Games has been a huge hit at our house and The Westing Game is a close second! We also have torn through The Uglies series, too.

Glad to hear confirmation on the quality of these reads. Thank you! Brent

Do you feel like Hunger Games may be too violent for elementary school? Some parts were hard for me to read as an adult.

I would say use your own discretion. It really depends on your demographic. I would say in a conservative population, save it for 7th and 8th graders. In a less conservative area maybe 5th and 6th graders. Although, I think you get more connections from the book if you are at least 6th grade. Thanks for bringing up that point! Brent

Your welcome, and I know what you mean about the Christmas list growing!

I have read a lot of great YA books, and have to say the "Hunger Games" is one of my favorite series., and until recently, had not found another book of its kind... that was until I "Principle Destiny" by David A. Cleinman which I liked equally as well. I just really enjoy the conflict that both books possess.

I will have to check that one out. Thanks for the suggestion. The Christmas list keeps growing. Brent

I think the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld is another one of the greats. Some of my reluctant readers were scared because of the thickness of Uglies, but as soon as they started reading it, they couldn't stop. I don't know that this series is as good as the Hunger Games trilogy (because that has to be my ultimate favorite!), but I think Westerfeld, like Collins, put his stories together like a piece of artwork.

You're right; It only takes one book to show students what a gift reading can be. I know these two series were definitely the ones to show many of my students this gift.


I have not read the Uglies, but you are the second person to give it such a positive review. I have it on my list of must reads for my next period of downtime. Thanks for the suggestion. Brent


I've found that my 5th graders LOVE LOVE LOVE to read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It's a classic story about a little boy, Milo, who lives a dull life, until one day he finds a tollbooth, a car, and a coin in the middle of his bedroom. He decides to accept the adventure and finds himself in a world in a war between a kingdom of numbers and a kingdom of words. Milo meets intriguing characters such as the Spelling Bee (a giant bumblebee who spells everything), the Dodecahedron, and the Mathemagician. I use this book as a read-aloud in my classroom. It is a great way to spark interest in grammar and more complex mathematical equations. I usually have several students (mostly boys, surprisingly) who can't wait for me to finish reading it to the class so they can read it again on their own. I have a student reading it right now for his Monthly Book Report, and my heart just smiles watching him giggle to himself as he turns the pages.

As for a kid-catcher series, the BONE series by Jeff Smith is a wonderful way to get boys to love reading (some of my girls love them too). I introduce these at the beginning of the school year to those boys that tell me they "hate reading." In just a few weeks time, there is a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board for students waiting to read the next book in the series. While these are graphic novels, the vocabulary is quite difficult, and it's a great way for me to work on decoding skills with some of my reluctant readers.

I just purchased The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart and Ellis this past weekend. I was reading through The Westing Game for myself at school and had a student ask me what it was about and begged me to let her read it first because it sounded so interesting. There isn't anything much better than that...

Leah, Wow. More great suggestions! Thank you! Brent

Although I love the Hunger Games series and recommend it to my reluctant readers all the time, I have to disagree with your point that Katniss is a strong female role model.

Katniss has no clue who she is or what she wants, and she lets others make decisions for her all the time. I thought her character would round out in Mockingjay, but was disappointed when she maintained her old MO of being scared, shocked, dependent on the men in her life, and unable to find her own voice - right up through the epilogue! She really disappointed me.

Allison, You do make some valid points. Her loyalty to her family and her district, her perseverance throughout the games, and her courage to fight some tough battles are what I feel make her strong. Yes, she has a highly emotional component and sometimes lets that be her guide more than she should. But anyone under the age of 25 might have the same struggles. The poor girl never had a chance to go through the normal stages of development because she was forced to grow up before her time. Regardless, it is a GREAT topic for debate in a book talk. Thank you for sharing your opinion.


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