The Hunger Games

I found The Hunger Games through Amazon’s recommended reads when I was searching for books to recommend to people who liked Cory Doctrow’s Little Brother. I was nail-bitingly caught up in the book, and read it all in one afternoon. The Hunger Games is on several bestseller and awards lists including being a New York Times Bestseller, a USA Today Bestseller, a Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year: Children’s Fiction, a New York Times notable Children’s Book of 2008, an ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, an ALA Notable Children’s Book, #1 on Children’s Indie Next List, a Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice 2008, a Horn Book Fanfare, a Booklist Editor’s Choice, an LA Times Favorite Children’s Books 2008, a Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2008 for Teens and Kids, a Borders Best Books of 2008: Teens, and an Amazon Best Books of 2008: Top 100 Editors’ Pick and Top 10 Books – Teens (retrieved August 1st, 2009 from http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/the_hunger_games_69765.htm).

Author: Suzanne Collins
ISBN-10: 0439023483 ISBN-13: 9780439023481
City and Publisher: New York: Scholastic
Copyright Date: 2008
Author’s Website: http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/

Reader’s Annotation: In District 12, an impoverished mining town in the post-apocalyptic ruins of North America, sixteen year old Katniss takes care of feeding her mother and sister by poaching in the woods beyond the electrified fence which surrounds their district. Her survival skills are put to the test when she must participate as a tribute in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between twenty four teenagers.

Plot Summary: Panem is a world built on the ruins of North America. Twelve impoverished districts are ruled by the Capitol. As a reminder of its control after a quashed rebellion, the Capitol requires each to provide two teenagers a year for the Hunger Games – a televised fight to the death. The story follows the struggles of Katniss, a sixteen year old from District 12, as she weighs her survival against integrity in an unjust world.

Critical Evaluation: The Hunger Games is full of smart, strong teenage characters. It is a very dark book, where an unjust and cruel government brutally controls the lives of its citizens. Katniss believably struggles between the desire to keep herself and her family safe and the need to fight against their oppression. The plot, characters, and world make The Hunger Games a real page-turner. It is a book that will engage the mind, and leave it unsettled long after the last page.
The story does parallel a popular Japanese Manga and movie, Battle Royale. Battle Royale, however, is much more violent and the movie is particularly gratuitous with its gore.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 13 and up
Curriculum Ties: The Hunger Games would be a good tie in for students learning about totalitarianism, fascism, and various forms of government. It is an excellent fictional examination of how and why governments exert control over their populations. It also might be an interesting just for fun read for classes on the media.
Booktalking Ideas: The Hunger Games would be a good booktalk paired with Graceling. Ask the teens if they like reality shows and what they like about them. Then describe The Hunger Games‘ concept for a reality show where teens fight to the death.

Genre: Science Fiction
Themes and Influences from Other Genres: Adventure, Dystopian Novel

Challenge Issues:
For a book with such a brutal premise, The Hunger Games is not very violent. It is a book which depicts the brutal side of human nature, and parents may find it a little too dark for more delicate teens. Katniss is forced to participate in the Games, and does her best to act with kindness and decency despite her situation. Instead of glorifying violence, the book illuminates its tragedy.

About the Author: Suzanne Collins has worked as a television writer for shows such as Clarissa Explains it All and Clifford’s Puppy Days. She has also written a five book series, The Underland Chronicles, aimed at slightly younger readers. She lives in Connecticut with her family. (More details at http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/bio.htm)

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