The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games - appeals to adults as well as teens

The Hunger Games – appeals to adults as well as teens

Told in a dystopian future in which the USA has been replaced with Panem, the Hunger Games is the story of a particularly nasty form of entertainment.  The 12 districts of Panem are ruled by the Capital, who have decided that in order to keep their subjects on their toes, each year one male and one female teen from each district must fight it out to the death in the Hunger Games – televised across the land for everyone’s entertainment.  This is very much Battle Royale territory, kill or be killed, with the eventual winner being hailed a hero and winning enough food for them and their family for life.

Katniss Everdeen is the girl from District 12. We follow her from the initial reaping (the selection process) through her pre-Games interview, publicity campaign and eventual entry into the arena.  Whilst in the arena, the competitor’s publicity teams can drum up sponsors for them, providing food, weapons and medical supplies when possible.  Alliances are formed and ultimately tested, with Katniss unsure who to trust and who just wants her dead.

As a child growing up in the 80s a lot of books I read were post-apocalyptic, dystopian survival stories stemming from the fear of atomic war.  This is reminiscent of these books and therefore appeals to me greatly.  When I told my boyfriend I was reading it, he remarked ‘oh, so you’re an emo now?’  Perhaps this is the sort of book that would appeal to a disaffected teen, but it’s not exclusive in that, there’s a much broader appeal.

Although this is aimed primarily at teenagers, I actually found it quite exciting (and I’m a little bit older than a teenager!) It’s gruesome subject matter but not sensationalised in its style, which perhaps makes it somewhat viler.  There’s a great sense of suspicion throughout and a real cynicism as to the media’s coverage of certain news events and the public’s morbid fascination with death and devastation.

Sample Text:

“I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.”
I bite my lip feeling inferior. While I’ve been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self. “Do you mean you won’t kill anyone?” I ask.
“No, when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,” says Peeta.
“But you’re not,” I say. “None of us are. That’s how the Games work.”

Further Reading:

If you like the savage children aspect you might like The Lord Of The Flies

If you like the idea of children in a dystopian future you might like Brother In The Land

If you like the characters and storyline you might like Catching Fire