Title: Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Plot Summary: The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian world where twelve districts border the Capitol where the rich and powerful live in plenty and the districts struggle daily with starvation. Every year the districts have to send one boy and one girl, picked by lots, to the Capitol to participate in the vicious Hunger Games: twenty-four teens enter a pre-determined landscape and only one returns home in glory. In the twelfth district, Katniss Everdeen puts her name into the Hunger Games lot multiple times to feed her mother and younger sister, their father having been killed in a coal mine explosion. She augments their food with hunted and gathered game from outside the district with her friend Gale, learning how to survive and live off the land. When her sister is chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, Katniss quickly volunteers herself instead. Peeta, a baker's son is chosen as the male tribute, a boy who saved Katniss in the past when her and her family were starving. Peeta and Katniss are swept to the Capitol for preparation and soon the Hunger Games begin, where only one can survive and Katniss cannot risk leaving her family alone, even if Peeta saved her life once.
Critical Evaluation: The writing style of the Hunger Games is brisk and blunt, especially through the narrative view of Katniss. She does not waste words describing the situation or her district but focuses on the important and overarching things, quite as she, as a hunter, views the areas outside of the district boundary. Similarly, the dialog within the novel is not flowery and, while plain, is brisk and could easily be made into script form. Katniss as narrator is a very strong character who is thrown into a life or death situation, which some readers would see as horrendous at her age, but which is her actual everyday situation, as living in District 12 is only a meal or two away from starvation. Katniss, a strong female lead character who does not fall in love with either of her costars (Gale or Peeta) and instead plays along with the star-crossed lovers image, is a refreshing change from the young adult novels where the female lead's only thought is romance. Katniss is a survivor, who may have moments of bleakness, but knows how to handle herself and protect others at the same time. She plans and thinks while simultaneously being headstrong and able to lose her temper, which is quite representative of many teens who can vary between very adult behavior and impulsive action.
Reader's Annotation: Struggling against a dark future, Katniss Everdeen leaps into the Hunger Games to protect her sister, joining in the battle to the death against teens twice her size and doubly well-fed, all to survive and return home to her family.
Information About the Author: Suzanne Collins began her writing career writing for children's television shows on Nickelodeon and Kids WB since 1991. Some of the titles that she wrote for are Clarissa Explains it All, Little Bear, Santa, Baby! and Clifford's Puppy Days.
Her first book series was Gregor the Overlander which was based off her ruminations on the setting of Alice in Wonderland. Read more about Collins at her website.
Genre: Science Fiction; Dystopia; Survival
Curriculum Ties N/A
- Katniss Everdeen is a survivor, hunting outside the poor District 12 to protect her family from starvation. At sixteen, she is talented and tough and caring. When her sister is nominated to join the Hunger Games, a horrific and cruel competition where tributes from all twelve districts fight to the death until only one teen is left standing, Katniss volunteers herself instead. She is flung into a world where teens fight teens with brutal efficiency.
Reading Level: 16+
- While the Hunger Games contains violence between teens, it is written in a sympathetic manner that shows the ridiculousness and horrific effects that violence does to people. Katniss does not glorify the ability to kill that she has and instead, like the narrator of Graceling, sees it as the ability to survive. It shows the importance of using your abilities and powers in a controlled fashion.
Why This Book?: School Library Journal Best Books of 2008
Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York: Scholastic Books.