Reading the fantasy novel The Hunger Games
is like watching a reality TV show that has gone horribly wrong. The rules of the Hunger Games are viciously simple. In a futuristic world called Panem, the area formerly known as North America is divided into 12 districts. A mandatory lottery selects one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 to 18 and forces them to compete in a fight to the death - on live TV! The last child who manages to stay alive wins back his or her freedom.
"May the odds be ever in your favor!" - Effie Trinkett, Hunger Games escort for District 12
The annual hunger games were created by the government (“the Capitol”) as a way of punishing the citizens for rebelling 74 years earlier. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a coal-miner’s daughter from one of the poorest districts, listens in horror as she hears her younger sister's name (Primrose Everdeen) called in this year's lottery. She desperately volunteers to take her place instead. Katniss, along with the baker’s son from her district (Peeta Mellark) and their mentor and former Hunger Games winner, Haymitch Abernathy, are taken to a gladiator-like arena where Katniss and Peeta must outwit, outplay, and hopefully outlive the other teenage tributes. Katniss struggles not only in the arena, but with her love for two men: Gale, her best friend from home, and her new love interest (but game rival) Peeta.
"I'm very hard to catch. And if they can't catch me, they can't kill me. So don't count me out." ―Rue
My favorite character in The Hunger Games
is Rue from District 11 (although Katniss is a close second). One of the smallest and youngest competitors, Rue survives by using her tree-climbing skills she developed in the orchards back home. Katniss and Rue develop a sisterly bond during a tracker jacker attack that later leads to one of the most memorable scenes in the book (I won't spoil it here!).
While the dystopian future storyline may ring familiar (think The Running Man by Stephen King or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury), I was absolutely mesmerized with this story from page one. I’m not sure which was more disturbing - the violence the kids were compelled to commit just to survive, or the voyeuristic way the Hunger Games were televised like a sporting event for entertainment. Author Suzanne Collins tempers the violence with adventure, romance, and a touch of humor. I highly recommend this book along with the others in this sci-fi trilogy, Catching Fire (Book Two) and Mockingjay (Book Three).
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins has written for several children’s television shows and is the author of the popular fantasy / war series The Underland Chronicles. Read more about her at her website http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/.
If you're looking for more great science fiction / fantasy books for teens, try The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, or Gone by Michael Grant (click on links below).UPDATE on 4/14/12
: Finally saw the movie The Hunger Games
. Jennifer Lawrence is mesmerizing as Katniss Everdeen! Even though I had read the book, there were parts in the movie that still moved me to tears (like when Katniss takes her sister Prim's place in the reaping and when (SPOILER ALERT!) Rue dies. The movie was so good I'm going to see it again!