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ProductsMore About The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsOverviewKatniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 58.
- Review Date: 2008-11-03
- Reviewer: Staff
SignatureReviewed by Megan Whalen TurnerIf there really are only seven original plots in the world, it's odd that “boy meets girl” is always mentioned, and “society goes bad and attacks the good guy” never is. Yet we have Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, The House of the Scorpion—and now, following a long tradition of Brave New Worlds, The Hunger Games.Collins hasn't tied her future to a specific date, or weighted it down with too much finger wagging. Rather less 1984 and rather more Death Race 2000, hers is a gripping story set in a postapocalyptic world where a replacement for the United States demands a tribute from each of its territories: two children to be used as gladiators in a televised fight to the death.Katniss, from what was once Appalachia, offers to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, but after this ultimate sacrifice, she is entirely focused on survival at any cost. It is her teammate, Peeta, who recognizes the importance of holding on to one's humanity in such inhuman circumstances. It's a credit to Collins's skill at characterization that Katniss, like a new Theseus, is cold, calculating and still likable. She has the attributes to be a winner, where Peeta has the grace to be a good loser.It's no accident that these games are presented as pop culture. Every generation projects its fear: runaway science, communism, overpopulation, nuclear wars and, now, reality TV. The State of Panem—which needs to keep its tributaries subdued and its citizens complacent—may have created the Games, but mindless television is the real danger, the means by which society pacifies its citizens and punishes those who fail to conform. Will its connection to reality TV, ubiquitous today, date the book? It might, but for now, it makes this the right book at the right time.What happens if we choose entertainment over humanity? In Collins's world, we'll be obsessed with grooming, we'll talk funny, and all our sentences will end with the same rise as questions. When Katniss is sent to stylists to be made more telegenic before she competes, she stands naked in front of them, strangely unembarrassed. “They're so unlike people that I'm no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet,” she thinks. In order not to hate these creatures who are sending her to her death, she imagines them as pets. It isn't just the contestants who risk the loss of their humanity. It is all who watch.Katniss struggles to win not only the Games but the inherent contest for audience approval. Because this is the first book in a series, not everything is resolved, and what is left unanswered is the central question. Has she sacrificed too much? We know what she has given up to survive, but not whether the price was too high. Readers will wait eagerly to learn more.Megan Whalen Turner is the author of the Newbery Honor book The Thief and its sequels, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. The next book in the series will be published by Greenwillow in 2010.BookPage Reviews
One girl's brutal fight to the finish
Sometime in the future, a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen lives with her little sister and mother in North America in a place called District 12. People in District 12 are poor, and since her father's death in a coal-mining accident, Katniss has had to hunt game with a bow and arrow to supplement her family's meager supplies. District 12 is far from the Capitol city, Panem, a place Katniss never expects to visit.
But then comes the day of "reaping," when her beloved sister Prim is randomly chosen to represent District 12 in the annual Hunger Games. Immediately Katniss steps forward and volunteers to take her sister's place in the Games, which are held each year in the Capitol. The Hunger Games have elements in common with the Olympics (coaches, training and a spectacular opening ceremony) and with reality TV shows (constant cameras, obstacles, a manipulated environment in the arena).
But the purpose of these games is far more gruesome and terrifying. Of the 24 young people who compete, only one will survive. To win at the Hunger Games you must kill all your opponents, even if they have become your friends.
Suzanne Collins notes that the roots of her book date back to an early fascination with the myth of Theseus, when as punishment for past deeds, Athens had to send seven maidens and seven young men to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur. The message, she said, was clear to her even as a child: "Mess with us and we'll do something worse than kill you. We'll kill your children." But the story finally came to her with the experience of "channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage."
Young adults will be riveted by Collins' novel. (It kept this reviewer up until two a.m.) The Hunger Games combines elements of an intense survival adventure with a story of friendship and love. But the book is more than a page-turner with a strong, appealing heroine. The Hunger Games is a powerful and often disturbing story that is sure to spark intense discussion not just about Katniss Everdeen's worldbut about our own.
Deborah Hopkinson imagines the world of cowboys in her forthcoming picture book, Home on the Range.