Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2008. Print.
Annotation: Reality television in a post-apocalyptic world has taken a violent turn. All under the age of 18, and wielding weapons of every kind, participants forcibly selected from their respective districts must fight to remain the lone survivor. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen has been chosen to represent District 12 and is pretty handy with a bow and arrow…but, will it be enough to keep her alive?
Justification for Nomination: By now, there may not be a person in the world who has not heard of The Hunger Games. Written by author Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is a cross between reality television and war, but a war fought by unusual participants. In a post-apocalyptic country called Panem, the Hunger Games are held each year in an outdoor arena, manipulated by Capitol “Gamemakers.” The Capitol of Panem is the highly advanced governing body, a cross between Alice in Wonderland and New York City, whose oddly dressed and eccentric citizens seem excited to see a slaughter. To explain, the Hunger Games are a punishment for a past uprising by the twelve Districts against the Capitol. Since the squelching of the uprising, every year one male and one female, ages 12 to 18, called “Tributes” are selected by drawing from each of the Districts, 24 in all. In an effort to honor and prevent the rebellion of the past, the Capitol masks the Hunger Games as a fight for honor and glory, broadcasting the event “live,” in all of its bloody splendor. Tributes are trained for weeks before being let loose in the arena to fend for themselves in a fight to the death. Whomever is last standing in the end is sure to find fame and glory, but not without a human cost.
Enter Katniss Everdeen, the one participant the Capitol never expected. Headstrong and incredibly adapt at hunting with a bow and arrow, Katniss ultimately takes her young sister’s place at the Reaping, when Prim’s name is chosen as a Tribute. The story of the Hunger Games is Katniss’s journey of survival. Survival is but second nature to her, but in the Hunger Games arena, hunting is defined not by satisfaction of hunger, but it is to exist. To live, Katniss must choose between surviving and humankind, but we watch as Katniss not only survives, but twists the plot in her favor, embarrassing the Capitol. Rousing unity between the Districts, the Capitol must deal with Katniss, but that is another story to be told.
The Hunger Games is an entertaining read, no doubt about that. In many ways, this book is a successful means of motivating teens to read. It is well-written, easy to read; a hard book to put down. It is a modern story, with themes that relate to the young reader’s need for excitement. While the subject of death matches between teens can be seen as disturbing, the narrative is at an appropriate psychic distance for young readers. The emotional detachment to the other contenders is, what I think, keeps the story from being overwhelmingly gruesome. While it is an entertaining story, it is also a story of a strong, young female heroine, who is quite capable against any foe. Katniss works through issues of finding herself, believing in her ability to achieve, and complete the quest. Through her fight, teens will relate to her rebellious and contagious spirit. They will also relate to the awkward relationship she shares with her mother, her responsibilities as an older sibling, her feelings as a young woman, and love relationships. Issues of humanity, freedom, political oppression, and democracy are also at play in The Hunger Games. It is a story that continues with books two and three, a good motivator for teens to keep reading.
Genre Category: Fiction/Violence/Survival.