The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I saw the very popular movie version of this novel before reading the book.  Although the library places The Hunger Games in the Young Adult collection, I definitely recommend it for adults as well as teens.  The story takes place in the future and includes science fiction elements, but its appeal is by no means only for sci-fi readers.  To me, it’s basically a story of physical and emotional survival against great odds.  If you saw and liked the movie, you’ll probably want to read the book, which gives the story in much fuller detail.  Reading the novel first would, I think, work out well, too!

The setting is the area which was once the United States.  Years before, much of the nation rebelled against the government, and one of the punishments for this rebellion is an annual event called the Hunger Games.  Each year, twenty-four young people from twelve to eighteen years old, chosen by lot, must compete, and only one of them can leave the arena alive.  One of these is a sixteen-year-old girl, Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a small coal-mining town in the area which we know as the Appalachians.  After her father’s death in a mining accident, she struggles to feed her depressed mother and her younger sister by hunting with her bow and arrows and by gathering woodland plants.

Imagine Katniss as she enters the Hunger Games.  This is a kill-or-be-killed situation, and the combatants are all teenagers or preteens, who, like her, did not choose to enter the Games.  The group includes a boy who, years before, threw her some bread when she and her family were almost starving—is she to repay this kindness by killing him?  How can she compete with a delightful twelve-year-old girl, the age of her younger sister, who trusts and helps her?  Can Katniss afford to be kind, knowing that her mother and sister are depending on her, the chief family breadwinner, to return?  In addition, she’s in a huge, wooded arena where hunger and thirst can be enemies as deadly as the largest and most vicious of the combatants.  Some hope may come from sponsors, who can pay for her to receive necessary supplies.  However, the Games are a form of reality show, in which everyone in the country can see Katniss’ every move and facial expression on huge television screens, and Katniss  is not comfortable with playing to an audience.

This is a fascinating tale, and I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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