The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Published 2008 by Scholastic, 384 pages

Genre: Young adult, dystopian futuristic. Not suitable for 15 and under in my opinion because of violence.

Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old living in America some time in the future when it has devolved into a cruel empire, loves her little sister more than anything. So when that little sister is chosen for the Hunger Games, Katniss doesn’t hesitate. She takes the sister’s place. She finds herself fighting 23 other teens to the death in a high-tech arena, for viewing pleasure in the ultimate reality show. Only one person can win, and that winner gets plenty of income for life, unlike everyone else in the conquered territories–who is starving or nearly starving.

That’s not the only reason for the Hunger Games. The 12 districts, or conquered territories, must each provide two children to the Hunger Games each year in order to be reminded that an attempted rebellion 74 years previously was a bad idea.

Katniss, who has fed her family by hunting in the woods, can shoot a bow and arrow with amazing precision. Others in the games may or may not have special talents. Her one friend in the games, Peeta, isn’t going to win. But it’s his plan to sacrifice himself so that she will, because he loves her, and has loved her secretly since they were five years old. But wait. There’s another boy who loves Katniss, too–her hunting buddy, Gale. What’s a ruthless female hunter (who never wants to get married) to do?

What do I think of this book? I had to put it down, and that was very hard. It’s really a page-turner. The characters were well drawn. Situations were original. But what really made this book for me was the believability of this dystopian world. I found it so believable because it’s clearly based on the Roman Empire.  Not only does the author use plenty of Roman names for minor characters, but there’s the contrast between the pampered and silly lives of the people who live in the capital and the toil of the slaves who don’t.  The government is ruthless, violent, and cruel, just like Rome was when it threw unpopular people to the lions for entertainment. Of course, this society has the reality TV show as a way of viewing its arena. Quite a comment on reality TV!

Katniss is a bold and memorable main character. Not a wimp like Bella in Twilight, but more like Harry Potter, facing insurmountable odds and not giving up. She’ll be with us for a long time, I think.

And the movie? I saw it this weekend. I liked it. And I wouldn’t take anyone to see it who’s under 15.

See what I thought of the two sequels to the book.

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