Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Hunger Games

I just recently picked up a copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It wasn't too long ago that I first heard about it on the radio - Sarah from Sarah and Vinnie's Morning Show on Alice@97.3 sang its praises and mentioned that it was being made into a film. Not thrilled about this last bit, I was nevertheless intrigued by the storyline: years after North American civilization has fallen, a new country is formed where the United States once was. This country has a repressive regime, and in an effort to keep the population under its control, the Capitol holds an annual gladiatorial-type competition known as The Hunger Games.

In The Hunger Games, two tributes from each of the country's 12 districts are put in large arena with varied terrain. They must fight to the death, and the last tribute standing takes the prize. As is the case with many civilizations, the wealthy have a distinct advantage; each tribute secures sponsors who provide expensive gifts throughout the competition designed to aid in survival. Some of the richest districts can also afford to have "career" tributes: individuals who spend their early lives training specifically for the annual competition.

This book is the first in a trilogy with a 16-year-old female protagonist, Katniss. She comes from a struggling family in the starvation-laden District 12, where she illegally hunts daily in order to put food on the table for her younger sister and mother, who was widowed when her husband - Katniss' father - was killed in a mining accident.

This piece of young adult dystopian fiction serves as an important reminder of what can happen when repressive regimes gain control. Although we can shake our heads and say, "This scenario could never happen to us," the truth is, it has in the the past - and history tends to repeat itself. I found The Hunger Games to be a slightly predictable, but nonetheless engaging, story of survival in the face of injustice. I read the book in one sitting and am looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy.

As a history teacher, I loved the subtle parallels between this story and that of ancient Rome. Like The Giver by Lois Lowry, I feel certain that The Hunger Games should take its place among classics in the middle school English classroom. Again, although the story wasn't necessarily a surprising one full of unexpected twists, I still highly recommend it.

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