The Hunger Games Trilogy
Published: September 14, 2008
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction/Adventure
Katniss: District 12 female tribute and main character. The books are written from her perspective.
Gale: Katniss' hunting partner and long-time friend from District 12
Peeta: Male tribute from District 12
The Hunger Games is the title of the first book of The Hunger Games Trilogy that also includes Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. It’s set in a future North America, where all that remains is the one continent of Panem in a world of limited resources where no other continents exist for unknown reasons alluding to global warming/war/human destruction. Within the continent of Panem lie 13 districts, with the Capitol as the controlling district that keeps the other isolated districts in a state of oppression, poverty, and bone-grinding labor. Each district specializes in one trade, for instance Coal Mining in District 12. The Capitol, on the other hand, lives in a futuristic world of scientific development, extreme excesses and luxury.
The series is a first person narrative from the perspective of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, the chosen female “tribute” for the games from District 12. Each year, the Capitol chooses two “tributes” from each district (not including the Capitol) between the ages of 12-18, one male and one female, to fight to the death in an elaborate arena that is televised for the pleasure of the Capitol. Each district watches as their children are forced to fight to the death, where the one left standing may bring more prosperity to the winning District of the year, extra grain, extra rations, and district pride. The Hunger Games are the Capitol’s reminder to the districts that they are in charge, and pits the districts against one another as a reminder to never rebel, spawned from a failed uprising from the districts 74 years prior.
The Hunger Games Trilogy is hard to put down, it is a fast and extremely addictive read. The setting of Panem itself, and Katniss’s life in District 12 is fascinating. Katniss’s life in District 12, which includes illegally hunting with a bow and arrow for food to fight off starvation for her family, living in nature and knowing the land, edible plants, and being quick on her feet, is in direct contrast to the setting of the Capitol. The Capitol is completely urban city with incredible technology, and overabundance in every extreme. The Capitol is full of plastic surgery, outrageous fashions, and loves reality TV, including the yearly broadcast of The Hunger Games where kids are forced to fight for their lives, and not just fight, but murder their competitors. In this way, Suzanne Collins creates a dystopian future where not only has humanity completely ravaged Earth’s resources, but the current realities of our Pop Culture are amplified as well. Getting farther into the Trilogy, the reader (as well as Katniss, though her understanding of it might come later than the readers’) realizes that Katniss is really participating in something bigger than herself, and the characters that surround her are fighting for more than just life, food and security, but for a different way of living and relating to other people. The books are so exciting, and also about real issues regarding race, class, poverty and oppression, as well as people’s extreme obsession with voyeurism as showcased through television trends of today.
It helps that Katniss is a really distinct character, coming into her own. She is a girl that rarely trusts, that has exceptional hunting abilities and goes to extremes to help protect her family, but is equally brutal in trying to protect herself. She is so strong, and so stubborn, and a pleasure to read about. Katniss never seems to know why certain characters care about her, and her mistrust is in some ways justified because her life is no longer her own once she is in the Hunger Games. She recognizes that once the cameras are on, she is playing a part for a “reality” program where her likability is directly linked to her chances of survival, and relationships become strategies rather than natural occurrences, but sometimes her true self still slips out to the cameras and those are her best moments, but also the moments the leaders of the Capitol hate the most.
There is also romance in the book, where Katniss is caught between her feelings for her lifelong friend and hunting partner Gale, as well as her strategic alliance with the other District 12 tribute, Peeta. But Katniss is an incredibly strong female lead, and while she battles with her conflicting emotions for both guys, romance is not her top priority, instead she pushes her feelings away when she needs to; survival and loyalty are her focus.
Overall, I highly recommend the whole series. Once you start with The Hunger Games you’ll have trouble waiting to read the next two in the series, constantly wanting to know what happens next in the fast paced life of Katniss Everdeen. It’s an easy read, and entirely worthwhile.
For more information on Just Listen and the author, Sarah Dessen, visit these sites:
- Official Scholastic website, with a reading by Suzanne Collins
- Suzanne Collins' official website
- Read an excerpt from The Hunger Games
- The Hunger Games on YouTube
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