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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Hungry for Hunger Games

When Nina made a post not too long ago requesting any titles we may have missed we had several people respond with the suggestion of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I wanted to take a minute to both address my feelings on the book as well as to offer an opportunity to its supporters for Mock Newbery consideration.

Nina and I have both read the book and seem to have similar feelings about it.  It seems as though everyone loved the book and thus wants it to be considered.  But I haven’t yet heard an argument for the book that explains why it might be distinguished and merit potential Newbery discussion.  Loving the book is not enough.  I also loved the book.  I couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait for the sequel.  But I also didn’t find the writing anywhere near as distinguished as the other books we’ve put on the shortlist or as many of the others we’ve been discussing.  Aside from the question of character development, which Nina has brought up, I just wonder if there’s something I am missing.

So I’m hoping that advocates for this book can take a moment or two and explain in the comments WHY you feel this book should be considered for our shortlist.  Not just because it is loved and will be loved by young people, but why is it distinguished.  Not just distinguished – but possible the most distinguished book for children from this publication year.  I’m open to your thoughts, but so far I just am not convinced.

Sharon McKellar About Sharon McKellar

Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at


  1. I can only talk against it. The best word I can use for this book is “awesome”; it’s stimulating and fascinating in just about every way. I thought at first that the plot might feel derivative, but instead, it just reflects some classic works. BUT–people keep saying how great the plot is, and I have to say… what plot? So much of it is just world-building, and after that, it’s like we’re watching the show ourselves; it’s just a bunch of deaths. As odd as it is to say this about such an exciting book, the plot is pretty flat. There’s basically no change in Katniss. And I think more explorations of the psychological effects on the players would have deepened the book a lot. We get hints of this, so we know it isn’t because Katniss doesn’t care about, say, Rue dying, or killing people herself. (I found Nina’s earlier comments and see that she has the same reaction I do about Katniss never having to be a cold-blooded killer, which is convenient for us, her fans.)

    I also initially had issues with the ending that made me discard it as a potential Newbery immediately–it lacks completeness–but when I reread the last few pages, it didn’t bother me as much as during my initial reading, when I was so focused on “what happens next”.

    It’s such a good book, and I’m glad so many people are reading it, but there are more distinguished books–books that I’d want to recommend to children and say “this is what excellent writing is”. (Not that many in my reading so far this year, though. I might be okay with an Honor here.)

  2. I don’t think it should be considered for any mock Newbery competitions for one simple reason: it’s a book written for teenagers, not for childen (as defined by the award criteria, “persons of ages up to and including age fourteen”). Thus, it would be more suited for a Printz Award, not a Newbery.

  3. Ben, can you be more specific about what age group you think it’s meant for? I would put it squarely in the 12-14 category, myself. It seems a little old for the Newbery, a little young for the Printz, and I wouldn’t give it to a ten-year-old, but I’m fine with it in the Newbery category. (Though as with After Tupac and D Foster, I’m sure there’d be huge outcry from certain sectors.)

  4. I’m with you actually, I love this book. It’s one of my favorites of the year, but it is not a book to win an award based solely on literary merit. BBYA Top Ten yes, Printz- not likely.

  5. Ben, there have been other books that straddled the fence on which award they should get. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The House of the Scorpion both garnered similar discussions the years they were eligible (and they were honored by both). And I remember Al Capone Does My Shirts getting the same kind of questioning when it was up for awards.

    As to Hunger Games, I don’t know. True, the writing isn’t as beautiful as some of the other books being talked about, but when put in the context of “is the writing distinguished for the purpose of the book?” I’d say yes. The writing is exceptional for the purpose of the book, but the purpose of the book is not literary. I’m just not sure.

  6. I’m still unclear about what “literary” means. When you create a compelling world, with a riveting plot and characters that readers strongly empathize with, why is that not considered “literary” or “distinguished?” Are we just talking about poetic language and metaphors and that sort of thing then? Is it then impossible for any flat out page turner to win this award?

  7. Okay, so I am blog stupid, but can someone tell me how to find Nina’s comments on Hunger Games? But in response to what was said here: 1. I don’t think the age thing is really an issue. I would tend to think of it for Printz, but I agree with Wendy: it is definitely in the 12-14 age group and thus eligible. 2. I did love this book. I think one of the things that makes it notable is Collins’ incredibly detailed and effective world-building. I disagree that Katniss doesn’t change, but she is an unreliable narrator, and as such, doesn’t always admit to us her changes. I can see people saying that it is just a page-turner and I did find a couple of errors, but I think science fiction is realistically a very hard genre to write in, and she has succeeded beautifully. Maybe I just loved it, and I haven’t read much this year, but I think it deserves discussion, and I think dismissing it as “just a good page-turner” is a disservice to both the book and the award.

  8. Nina Lindsay says:

    Amy, not blog stupid, it was buried in the October archives, titled *Matters of Apples and Oranges*, here I will insert a link in Sharon’s post above. Thanks!

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