There has been one book over any other that I have recommended to my friends, family, and acquaintances in the past year. The book is one that has captured the attention of the entire nation, selling over 2 million copies of each book in the trilogy, according to Scholastic Inc. (2011). It is a book about power versus innocence, love and loss, friendship and violence, civil war, survival, and the rebuilding a nation. While set in the future – a post-nuclear civilization built from the remains of the United States, it has chilling similarities to the present day.
The nation of Panem is divided into 12 Districts (the 13th District rumored to have been destroyed after a rebellion against the Capitol). Each district is known for its contribution to the overall sustainment of the country. Katniss, the main character, is from the poor coal-mining district 12. Poverty is a way of life within the district and in order to survive, Katniss has developed her hunting skills by regularly (and illegally) escaping the boundaries of the district and entering into the wild in search of food. She has the responsibility of keeping her mother and young sister alive.
The Capitol maintains control over the districts by hosting an annual lottery with the names of teenagers from 12 to 18 years old to be drawn for the ultimate, televised competition, the Hunger Games. This competition mirrors the current reality show Survivor in that the contestants – a boy and girl from each district – compete in the wilderness against the other districts’ tributes for the title of champion. Unlike Survivor, theirs is a battle to the death.
The poorer the child, the more likely his or her name has been entered multiple times into the lottery. In exchange for government assistance, the needy must sacrifice by adding their name. Because of this, it is no surprise that Katniss’ sister, Primrose, is chosen as a participant, or “tribute.” In an effort to protect her, Katniss decides to take her place in the competition and is joined by the gentle, but determined Peeta.
The novel is fast-paced and engaging. Katniss possesses intelligence, natural survival instincts, and enough compassion and humanity to feel remorse, regret, sorrow, and resentment at being forced to take human lives. While the novel is action-packed, it is also at times heart-wrenching. This is not just science fiction. It is not simply action-adventure. Or romance. Or suspense. It is all of these.
With the world’s current obsession with reality television and the glorification of immoral behavior for entertainment, The Hunger Games is a chilling reminder of what humanity could become if we don’t reevaluate and prioritize societal values.
If you haven’t read this series, do so immediately! You won’t regret it. If you already have, please post a comment and share your opinion.
Check out of the following website to read critical praise for and more information regarding this series:
Suzanne Collins discusses the classical inspiration behind the series:
Amateur trailer of the novel: