The Hunger Games left me famished…wanting more!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; published by Scholastic Inc., New York, 2008; 374 pages.

Katniss Everdeen has stepped into her father’s role as provider and protector of her mother and sister, Prim.  His death in the coal mines of District 12 (formerly Appalachia) left them without any means of support.  To supplant the food she forges for and hunts in the woods outside the fence, the Everdeens trade tokens for provisions.  The tokens bear Katniss’ name in the annual drawing of representatives from the 12 districts that used to comprise the United States.  After a bloody uprising, the rich and powerful of the Capitol hold Hunger Games every year, in which a boy and girl are selected as tributes from each district to battle to the death.  The victor has his or her needs provided for by the government for life, while the victor then trains the subsequent contestants.  In an unlucky twist of fate, Katniss’ beloved sister is chosen.  Katniss volunteers to replace her in the games and her hunting partner, and potential love interest, Gale, vows to make sure Prim and their mother are cared for in her absence.  Peeta, the baker’s son, is the male tribute from her district; they train together and their coaches contrive a romance as their strategy to win.  As the games are televised, Katniss finds it relatively easy to play to the cameras and earn sponsors to help her.  She doesn’t find it easy to sort through her feelings for Peeta or to determine his motivations.  An unforeseen twist at the end of the games leaves a cliffhangers for readers who will be anxious to jump into the second book Catching Fire.

I could not put down this thriller.  What a great female protagonist!  Although I was horrified by the concept of teens fighting to the death, the battles and death scenes were handled with finesse and taste by Collins.  Undoubtedly, teens will relate to the subthemes of unchallenged authority, a disparate class system, and brains over brawn.

Collins has said that her inspiration, in part, came from the surreal blurring of the lines between reality TV and war coverage as she channel-surfed.  That would make a terrific theme for a booktalk or book club discussion starring this book.  Hopefully, with Collins writing the screenplay, the movie will inspire reluctant readers to pick up the book to learn more about these fascinating characters and their future world.

I was not surprised to learn that the book made YALSA’s “Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers” and the “Best Books for Young Adults” lists in 2009.  I imagine we’ll see it on their “Popular Paperbacks” list as well.

5P     5Q     Grade Level: 7-12+

Cover Art: Silver on black is certainly an attractive choice to lure teens to the book.  Adding the image of the mockingjay pin that the Mayor’s daughter, Madge, gave Katniss before the games, should pique curiosity; I know I had an “aha” moment in the book.  The cover seems to appeal to boys more than girls as it has a rather militaristic design; however, reading the back cover should lure girls to read since the protagonist is a strong female.

From Reading List: Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA) 2009

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