Friday, October 22, 2010

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is the first book of a trilogy. My library has it tagged as Young Adult Fiction which means that everyone from about 14 on up reads it. It's pretty dark, though, for young adult fiction.

The setting is post-apocalyptic North America. The country is now called Panem and it is controlled by the people and government in the city called The Capitol. Everywhere else is separated into Districts. There were 13 Districts but after an attempted uprising, The Capitol destroyed District 13 and subdued all others.

Since the uprising, The Capitol has forced the Districts to celebrate a "holiday" called The Reaping. This is where all children between 12 and 18 have their names put into a pool (one for boys and one for girls). The children can add their names extra times in trade for food and fuel for their families during the year. This means poor kids are more likely to have their names drawn than the wealthy. The name of one girl and one boy is drawn from each district.

These children are sent to The Capitol and then to an Arena (newly built each year) where they fight all the other children drawn in The Reaping in what is called The Hunger Games. This is a fight to the death. The last one standing wins and The Capitol showers them, their family and their District with wealth, food and fuel for the next year. The winner and their family are given a house in the wealthy neighborhood of their district for life.

The Hunger Games is told by a girl named Katniss who has supported herself, her mother and sister with her hunting skills since her father was killed in a mining accident. She is from District 12 which is the poorest of the Districts and she comes from the poorest area of the District.

It was an interesting story and well written enough that I'm planning to read the other two books. It's pretty dark since it is about government mandated murder of children murdering children. It would be a good book to read with a tween or teen to spark discussions of government and different types of government.
Also, the idea that the people of The Capitol being glued to their television screens during "The Game" to catch every minute of the horror is pretty disturbing. To them, the children are just Tributes and somehow they have lost sight of the humanity of each child and the horrible fact that they must kill to survive as mandated by law. The people of the Districts watch hopefully for the Tributes from their District but really only watch because they are required by law. Anyone found in their house and not watching is put to death. It makes one wonder how such a power as The Capitol could truly be defeated and whether the people there could be made to see how inhuman they have been.

It only took me a little over a day to read the book. It's not long and, because it is young adult fiction, it is written with simpler vocabulary and syntax so it's a pretty fast read.

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