The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 2008
Reading Level: Young Adult
I am not going to wait until the end of my scholarly review to tell you what I think of this book: it’s great, and to mangle a tired old cliché, nearly unputdownable. Collins has written a non-stop sci-fi tale that is light on sci-fi, stars a sixteen-year-old female protagonist, and stresses personal moral beliefs without preaching.
The place is Panem, site of the former United States, and consists of twelve districts and the Capitol. The time is the near future. Collins does not employ the five basic requisites of journalism—who, what, when, where, and why—because they aren’t relevant to the story.
What is relevant is the total subjugation of the people in the districts by the Capitol. There was a thirteenth district, but because the people dared to protest the meager distribution of “food”, the Capitol, in a show of Sci-Fi wizardry, obliterated the district and every human being living in it.
The Hunger Games. Held once a year, they are the ultimate tribute to the power, greatness, and largesse of the Capitol. Chosen by lottery, each district sends two teenagers as its representatives to the Games; twenty-four to start, one to win both personal fame and extra rations for his or her district.
The other twenty-three? They are all dead, either at the hands of the other contestants or by the Capitol’s tech- nological ability to alter the playing field environment.
Amazon and reviewers have revealed way too much of the story, which I believe should be the reader’s privilege. Katniss, however, the sixteen-year-old rep from District 12, bears mentioning. She is a strong-willed girl who refuses to give up her mind and soul to the monsters who run Panem. She is determined to retain her humanness, and she will do anything to keep it—including killing if necessary.
But isn’t that a dichotomy? How, exactly, does Katniss reconcile the notion of killing in order to retain her humanity?
I’m sorry to say this, but we the readers, don’t know. This is Book One of a trilogy, so I will have to read the second one: Catching Fire, published on September 1, 2009.
I'm glad that Collins chose a female as protagonist, making this more than a "boys' book." School Library Journal recommends The Hunger Games for Grades 7 and up—despite the graphic violence—but what do I know about twelve- and thirteen-year-old kids nowadays? Or what their parents allow them to read?
Rather, I give it two pinkie fingers up for adults.