This weekend, Americans will finally find out whether the newest young-adult-book-turned-movie lives up to the fanfare. Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy attained vast popularity before the movie, and the addition of young, sexy Hollywood has only increased the mania.

Without having seen the movie, it's difficult to know how Hollywood treats the trilogy's gruesome violence—to put it lightly. Collins spares no detail in her description of the cold-blooded killing the central characters, all children, are forced into and at times enjoy. The trilogy is set in Panem, a nation that arose from the ashes of North America. Twelve districts are ruled by the all-powerful Capitol. Every year, as punishment for a rebellion, each district must send one boy and one girl to the Capitol for the Hunger Games—a fight to the death, with only one teenager left standing. (Think the Roman Coliseum with futuristic technology.) One teenager, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, has volunteered for the 74th Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Prim. Also participating from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a boy who has loved Katniss from the moment he laid eyes on her.

What has drawn over 1 million Kindle readers alone to a story about teenagers killing each other, placing the first book on the New York Times bestseller list for over 100 consecutive weeks? And what place—if any—does the trilogy have on a Christian's bookshelf?

Some of the new dystopian novels (such as the popular Matched trilogy) are more about mind control and manipulation than about physical violence. But the Hunger Games is definitely about the latter. As Collins told the Times, "I don't write about adolescence. I write about war. For adolescents." In the interview, she insists, "If we wait too long [to talk to teens about violence], what kind of expectation can we have? We think we're sheltering them, but what we're doing is putting them at a disadvantage."

In a world where teenagers really do kill each other in cold blood, perhaps it's good that YA literature move away from lipstick and boys. American teens today face more real-life horror than many of us remember, including gang violence and bullying. Outside the United States, Joseph Kony isn't the only adult forcing children younger even than the tributes into armies. Child soldiers in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Burma fight for causes they don't understand but which can often be traced back to resources that fuel Western appetites.

Humans the world over are sold into sexual slavery around the world, their bodies used by others as a release for all kinds of emotions—lust, stress, rage. Children also work long hours in dangerous factories, producing goods that fill American superstores, but rarely enough money to feed themselves.

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We like The Hunger Games because we want to identify with the rebellion. If we look closely, though, we are often more likely to find ourselves, however unintentionally, siding with the Capitol. We turn a blind eye to suffering, allowing the rest of the world to meet our every need and desire, though it costs them their lives. We sit in air-conditioned luxury, practicing Twitter activism, while people around the world (and in our neighborhoods) starve.

The Hunger Games trilogy may be fiction, but the heart and soul behind the evil is not. Perhaps Collins is right, that the time for sheltering kids is over. Even the most graphic depiction will only skim the surface of what humankind can do to itself. Isn't that why humans need a Savior in the first place?

However, good fiction will not only point out depravity. It will also instill in readers hope, to possibly point out a better way. This trilogy's heroes embody more fully the kind of people we want to be.

Katniss is a complex character, sometimes savage and sometimes merciful, as she often acts out of a survival instinct. While no Christ figure, she is strong, brave, resourceful, and—despite initial appearances—loyal and loving. She protectively draws weak creatures to herself and fights viciously against those who seek harm. In the second book, it is pain caused to a loved one that convinces her to fight rather than run from the Capitol.

Most notably, Katniss fights to make sense of her world. She doesn't accept the status quo, either about herself or about the society that shapes her. Without doubt, the movie will increase her sex appeal and play up the rare sensual moment, though I hope Hollywood won't ruin her character. However, regardless of her shortcomings, the Katniss of the books gives us hope. We don't have to accept things the way they are.

Like all great literature—and as the writing improves and themes deepen, much of modern YA will be included in this category—dystopian novels give us a chance to reflect: Am I shallow, lazy, and oblivious like the average Capitol citizen? Am I controlling and manipulative like the officials? Or do I embody some of the virtues of the heroes? For all of us, we can probably see in ourselves a little of each.

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As we read dystopian tales like the Hunger Games trilogy, we can see more clearly our personal and corporate need for Jesus. We can (and should) fight injustice in our world, but life isn't a book. It rarely wraps up so neatly. Jesus is the only one who can heal the harm we do to each other. Until he comes to dismiss all forms of dystopia, real and fictional: May the odds—and a bit of grace—be ever in your favor.

Monica Selby is a freelance writer and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has written for Her.meneutics about antidepressants and dads. Connect with her at her blog (, on Facebook, or on Twitter.