North America, sometime in the future. Environmental deterioration has lead to political upheaval, reorganization, a new country, and new laws.
Life in the Seam is difficult, and sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen does what she can to feed and protect her family, including volunteering to substitute for her sister in the annual Hunger Games. Each of the twelve districts of Panem, in what used to be called North America, must send one boy and one girl as tribute to the games. This televised show is no joke: Only one child can remain alive at the end.
Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch—this is the Capitol's way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. (p. 18)
District 12, Katniss's home, never wins. The mining area is too poor to muster up decent sponsors, and the principal trainer is almost always drunk. Still Katniss and Peeta Mellark must have hope that one of them will be only the second victor from their district in almost seventy-five years. Will either of them have what it takes to stay alive? And what will happen if they have to fight each other?
The Hunger Games deserves all the attention it has garnered. The post-disaster world that Katniss inhabits is easy to envision, and the plastic, show-business quality of the mortal games is reminiscent of what has passed for human entertainment from the gladiators to Survivor.
As in real life, the people who live in Panem are not easily classified, are not necessarily friend or foe. Along with Katniss, we must assess other people's words and deeds and decide who can be trusted. It is difficult to turn away from Katniss as she trains for the game, courts sponsors, and then attempts to find a path through the physical and mental demands of the arena. Players not only must kill or face death themselves but must remember to please the viewing audience, the Gamemakers, and any potential sponsor. With so much to keep your interest, you'll want to read the book in a single sitting.
The novel is wonderfully constructed, moving between action and description, between present and past. Although we are fairly sure of the ultimate outcome, we cannot predict how the players will reach that end and just how the Gamemakers will react to the way in which the victor wins the game.
The unabridged Audiobook (Scholastic Audio) was wonderfully read by Carolyn McCormick, whose pacing and inflections made the story come alive. Whether you read it in print or listen to the audio, I highly recommend this young adult futuristic novel to both teens and adults.
The Hunger Games has won several awards, including the Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice and a Horn Book Fanfare. For the full list and to learn more about Suzanne Collins, visit the author's website.
Published by Scholastic, 2008
Challenges: What's in a Name, Support Your Library, 999, 100+