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The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
© Scholastic
Scholastic, 2010 (paperback)

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is set in the dystopic landscape of Panem, a post-apocalyptic nation culled from the ashes of North America sometime in an unspecified future. Panem is divided into 12 districts ruled by an autocratic state government from The Capital, located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, where the country's leaders annually reinforce their dominance over the districts with the Hunger Games. Like reality television for a post-apocalyptic age, the Hunger Games is a battle to the death between 24 youths, two boys and two girls from each district.

When Collins' novel opens, it is reaping day, the day upon which the "tributes" for the games are chosen at random in each District, and we find 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen hunting byeond the razor wire fences of her District 12 home. Such poaching is strictly illegal, but Katniss is good at it, and since the loss of her father in the coal mines, it is the only means by which she is able to support and feed her mother and younger sister, Prim. Rough hewn Katniss is a likable enoough protagonist who, while lacking perhaps in some social niceties, is honorable, tenacious, and - no surprise here - District 12's female tribute for this year's games.
With its youthful characters, straightforward plot and simple prose style, The Hunger Games is entertaining from the start, and becomes positively gripping when Katniss and Peeta, her male counterpart from District 12, land in The Capital. Collins expertly builds tension throughout the novel. We follow Katniss as she is pitted against hunger, thirst, wild animals, and a slew of nasty and downright dangerous teenagers who, more than anything, want to see her dead. Running parallel to the whole survival story is something of a love story shot through with an arrow of dramatic irony that I will refrain from spoiling here.

The Hunger Games, first in the series that includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay, is an engrossing page-turner, and with substantial thematic content surrounding politics, society, and morality, a story that I could recommend for teens and adults.

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