Collins, S. (2010). The Hunger Games. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Plot Summary: This is the first book in the hunger games trilogy, The story begins when Katniss volunteers as tribute to save her sister from having to fight in the hunger games. Every year two tributes one male and one female are chosen from each of the twelve districts to fight to the death for a televised audience. She and Peeta, the other tribute from her district, are sent to the capitol to train for the games. While there they are ranked based on how likely people think they are to survive and try to win favor from wealthy patrons who may decide to send the tributes aid when they are in the arena. When the fighting begins Katniss and Peeta separate but they are eventually reunited as the final two survivors of the games. Instead fighting each other to the death they decide they will eat poison berries and die together. At the last moment they are both saved and become the first pair to survive the hunger games. This makes them a hero to the people but dangerous in the eye of the political leaders who believe this rebellion will lead to revolution.
Critical Evaluation: The world of Panem is designed to resemble North America with each of the districts resembling a different region. This gives the setting a familiar feel despite how foreign the rest of the story is. The hunger games themselves are a show of how powerful the capitol is the people know this but are powerless. Many of the people throughout the districts are starving and they have no means of building a force that could stand against the capitol’s wealth and power. There was a rebellion once before and the hunger games “celebrate” the end of this fighting. This world has its own unique history and the books are very detailed in describing how Panem functions. The book provides descriptions that highlight the extreme differences between the opulent lifestyle of those who live in the capitol and those who live in the districts. The imaginative setting and variety of characters really bring the story to life.
Reader’s Annotation: When Katniss’s sister is chosen as tribute she volunteers to take her place to fight to death in the hunger games.
Author Information: Suzanne Collins is the author of the popular Hunger Games trilogy for young adults as well as The Overland Series for younger readers and two picture books. She was inspired to write The Hunger Games while channel surfing between reality television and actual war coverage. She previously wrote for children’s television including shows like Clarissa Explains it All.
Genre: Dystopian fantasy
Booktalk Ideas: 1) What parallels exist between our world and Panem?
2) How long do you think you could survive in the hunger games?
Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for ages 14-17 so it is firmly in the teen category. This also fits the interest level as younger readers may find the story too intense, though the trilogy is popular with older readers too.
Challenge Issues: The book is very violent and has been criticized by some for being too dark for teen readers. Despite this the series remains popular and the book has won several awards.
Why is it included?: This has been one of the most popular books for teens for several years now. The trilogy is also being made into movies that are also immensely popular among teens.