Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2008.


This science fiction story is set in the future in North America. Panem is the name of the country that maintains control of the twelve districts in this country. Years ago the twelve districts were at war with the capital. They lost and part of the surrender deal is every year they have a televised show of a survival game. The capital chooses a boy and a girl from each district to fight to the death on live television. One victor is celebrated and their district is honored. Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place whose name was drawn in the lottery. Katniss' male counterpart is Peeta Mellark. The capital controls the games by altering the weather and introducing mutated animals that also try to kill the competitors.

Critical Analysis:

Katniss Everdeen is a strong female protagonist in this science fiction novel. She doubts herself as a heroine. She is a good hunter, but realizes she does not compare to the other careers that have trained for these games. She worries that she is not strong, but her friend Gale reminds her "Okay, listen to me, you're stronger than they are. You are. They just want a good show, that's all they want. You know how to hunt. Show them how good you are." Katniss is able to transform herself and defeat problems along the way. The majority of her characteristics are good. Katniss has been the provider and nurturer for her sister Prim at home since her father died when she was 11 years old. He taught her the skill of using an arrow which helps her in the hunger games and may be her side of evil.

The setting of the novel is in North America in the future. The world is believable, except when the Capital controls the weather. That part is difficult to believe. The capital also creates muttations of animals to attack the competitors in the games. The suspense builds when the 24 young people are transported to the cornucopia. It is ironic to use a symbol of plenty when the goal is to kill everyone and so many districts are suffering from starvation. Katniss encounters a few life and death situations. Rue actually saves her from the hornets nest. Katniss becomes an ally with Rue and this saves her from Thresh killing her in the cornucopia. The end of the novel becomes a beginning for a new quest because Katniss has angered the Capital by attempting a dual suicide and leaving them with no victor for the 74th games. The reader knows all is not well for Katniss and Peeta.

There are a few themes in this novel. The first theme I think about is survival. Katniss has no wealth or social power and is forced to play the game. She has to survive. She has promised Prim she would survive. She uses her skill of the bow and arrow to hunt for food and kill Cato. The next theme is friendship and love. Katniss has a strong love of her sister Prim. She voluntarily takes her place in the games. She is willing to die for her sister. She also develops a friendship with Rue while playing the games. Peeta has a love for Katniss that she has never known about until the games begin. The third theme could be the fear of government control. Government, or Big Brother, always knows what you are doing. The capital has rules that everyone must follow. Katniss and Peeta do not like the power that the Capital has, but they do not know how to change it yet.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Suzanne Collins has brought her imaginary world to life. One of the strengths that School Library Journal states is "Collins's characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds." A weakness for me is the ending, because the story really does not end here. It continues in the next book of the series.

Awards & Reviews:

Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of the Year 2008

New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2008

Cybil Winner in 2008

School Library Journals Best Books of 2008

Booklist Editor's Choice 2008

School Library Journal states " the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like 'Survivor' and 'American Gladiator'."

Stephen King finds a new YA novel as scarily addictive as his favorite arcade game. Sept 12, 2008


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