The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games

Children's book review by Tracey Fortkamp

Ages 12 and older (young adult)

The NY Times bestselling novel about life in post-apocalyptic America

“Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. Let the games begin.”

In the not too distant future, North America has collapsed and Panem, a totalitarian state, has risen up from the ashes.

Centered around a wealthy and overindulgent Capitol surrounded by 12 Districts that are responsible for providing goods for the people in the Capitol, Panem imposes order through exploitation, imposed starvation and unchecked brutality. Needless to say things have gotten really bad for humanity.

To make matters worse, as punishment for an earlier rebellion, each year the Capitol hosts The Hunger Games.

The premise of the Games is simple, 2 children (ages 12-18) or Tributes from each District are chosen to compete in a cruel and inhuman competition where only one person will come out alive. The winner receives fame and fortune for themselves and notoriety for their District.

Mandatory viewing for all citizens of Panem as a gruesome reminder of what happens when you try to revolt against the Capitol, The Hunger Games is a gruesome take of today’s reality shows.

At the heart of this story is 16 year old Katniss who lives in District 12 and would do anything to help her family. When her sister’s name is chosen for the Games, Katniss decides to sacrifice herself and volunteers to take her sister’s place. The other tribute from her District is Peeta, the baker’s son.

The two are quickly whisked away to the Capitol with the other Tributes where they are primped, pampered and paraded around, as well as trained in a variety of survival skills.

Of course, Katniss thinks all of this is ridiculous since they are just being sent to their death in a fabricated arena complete with engineered animals, poisonous plants, ruthless competitors, and enough cameras so every gruesome moment is caught for public viewing.

Suzanne Collins (The Underland Chronicles) has created an imaginative and complex story full of exciting plot twists and compelling action that will keep readers up past their bedtime just to see what happens. Katniss is the perfect heroine, strong, independent and a bit awkward. Told from her perspective, the reader can’t help but be drawn into her plight and root for her success.

During the Games, Katniss and Peeta form an unlikely, even romantic, bond that they hope will pull in public support and help them to survive until the end. In fact, Peeta’s words, “I keep wishing I could think of a way to show the Capitol they don’t own me – that I am more than a piece in their games,” inspire Katniss to conceive the ultimate rebellion.

Full of pop culture references, The Hunger Games can also be seen as a commentary about our society’s obsession with reality television and celebrity, which adds to the timeliness of the story. Begging the question, “what happens if we choose entertainment over humanity?”

While sometimes violent, The Hunger Games is also full of compassionate moments and touching revelations. Collins leaves the reader guessing about the outcome of the Games until the very end and a tantalizing cliffhanger promises for an exciting sequel. The Hunger Games is a must read.

Webmaster's note: We also have a review of the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Read more of Tracey's reviews.

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