The New York Times
The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series #1)by Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. 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," a fight to the… See more details below
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. 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," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Reviewed by Megan Whalen Turner
If 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 societypacifies 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.Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr 7 Up
Suzanne Collins's first book (Scholastic, 2008) of a planned trilogy introduces an easy-to-imagine, cruel future society divided by wealth and obsessed with media and celebrity. The controlling Capitol broadcasts the Hunger Games, mandatory watching for all citizens of Panem. The annual event pits 24 Tributes-a girl and boy teen from each of the 12 Districts surrounding the Capitol-against one another in a desperate battle to the death. When 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her younger sister's place as District Twelve's girl Tribute, she is thrown into a media frenzy, complete with stylists and costumes, literally fighting for her life in the arena. Intense, graphic action, along with a touch of romance, makes this dystopic adventure a great choice for older reluctant readers. Although the plot mimics both Stephen King's The Long Walk (Penguin, 1999) and Running Man (Signet, 1999) as well as Koushon Takami's Battle Royale (Tokyopop, 2007), Collins creates a fascinating world and Katniss is a believably flawed and interesting character. Carolyn McCormick ably voices the action-packed sequences and Katniss's every fear and strength shines through, along with her doomed growing attraction to one of her fellow Tributes. This engrossing audiobook belongs in all public and school libraries.-Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI
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