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 worldóbut about our own.
Deborah Hopkinson imagines the world of cowboys in her forthcoming picture book, Home on the Range. Copyright 2008 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Katniss volunteers to represent her district in the Hunger Games, a compulsory, government-sponsored reality-TV show from which only one of twenty-four teenage contestants will emerge alive. A fierce, resourceful competitor, Katniss also displays great compassion and vulnerability. The twists and turns are addictive in this compulsively readable blend of science fiction, romance, and social commentary. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #5
Survivor meets "The Lottery" as the author of the popular Underland Chronicles returns with what promises to be an even better series. The United States is no more, and the new Capitol, high in the Rocky Mountains, requires each district to send two teenagers, a boy and a girl, to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a reality show from which only one of the twenty-four participants will emerge victorious -- and alive. When her younger sister is chosen by lottery to represent their district, Katniss volunteers to go in her stead, while Peeta, who secretly harbors a crush on Katniss, is the boy selected to join her. A fierce, resourceful competitor who wins the respect of the other participants and the viewing public, Katniss also displays great compassion and vulnerability through her first-person narration. The plot is front and center here -- the twists and turns are addictive, particularly when the romantic subplot ups the ante -- yet the Capitol's oppression and exploitation of the districts always simmers just below the surface, waiting to be more fully explored in future volumes. Collins has written a compulsively readable blend of science fiction, survival story, unlikely romance, and social commentary. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2008 September #1
Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. She has to be; she's representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district. With clear inspiration from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and the Greek tale of Theseus, Collins has created a brilliantly imagined dystopia, where the Capitol is rich and the rest of the country is kept in abject poverty, where the poor battle to the death for the amusement of the rich. Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned trilogy, as good as The Giver and more exciting. However, poor copyediting in the first printing will distract careful readers--a crying shame. (Science fiction. 11 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2008 November/December
This is a gripping survival story set in what was once North America. At the center of this barbaric civilization is the Capitol where the rich idle away their hours while the residents of the surrounding districts endure hard labor to produce the resources needed. Sixteen-year-old Kat Everdeen lives where food is scarce, but she must feed herself, her little sister, and her mother. She hunts daily?an illegal activity but ignored by district officials as she sells them her catches. Kat takes a place in the annual Hunger Games with Peeta, who has loved Kat for years. Never before have district contestants chosen to join forces in this fight to the death, televised for all to see. While the nation of Panem watches 24 young people fight for their lives, Kat also fights against her feelings for Peeta. Survival has always been the most important thing in her life and no one is going to stand in her way. The games are so brutal and so real that it is impossible to stop reading until you know who wins the Hunger Games. Highly Recommended. Ruth Cox Clark, Associate Professor, Department of Library Science and Instructional Technology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina ¬¨ 2008 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Library Journal Express Reviews
In a far-future United States, a cruel Capitol keeps order by demanding an annual tribute for its Hunger Games, in which two contestants, a boy and a girl, are chosen by lottery from each of 12 districts to fight to the death in an event televised from an arena. Katniss Everdeen lives in what used to be Appalachia and is now called the Seam-a dirt-poor district without much hope of success in the games. Katniss volunteers in her sister's place and may just have the smarts to win. Then Peeta, the soft baker's son chosen from her same district, does something surprising. He declares his undying affection for Katniss just before they enter the arena. Is there room for friendship, loyalty, or even love when survival is on the line? Why It Is a Best: Collins's prose is merely serviceable, but she writes compelling characters and spins one terrific yarn. The premise is good to begin with, and the surprises keep coming. Why It Is for Us: In this fight to the death, the book's violence is cringe-worthy by even the most jaded standards. The exploitation of the desperate and impoverished for the entertainment of the wealthy and powerful is a theme reminiscent of Stephen King's The Long Walk or The Running Man. King himself makes the comparison in his Entertainment Weekly review of the book, saying "I couldn't stop reading."-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 November #1
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 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.[Page 58]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 7 Up-- In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 14 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collins's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like "Survivor" and "American Gladiator." Book one of a planned trilogy.--Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK[Page 176]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.