The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Series 1)
Suzanne Collins, 2008
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States.
Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games."
The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place. (From the publisher.)
• Education—M.F.A., New York University
• Currently—lives in Connecticut
Collins's career began in 1991 as a writer for children's television shows. She worked on several television shows for Nickelodeon, including Clarissa Explains It All, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, Little Bear, and Oswald. She was also the head writer for Scholastic Entertainment's Clifford's Puppy Days. She received a Writers Guild of America nomination in animation for co-writing the critically acclaimed Christmas special, Santa, Baby!
After meeting children's author James Proimos while working on the Kids' WB show Generation O!, Collins was inspired to write children's books herself. Her inspiration for Gregor the Overlander, the first book of the best selling series "The Underland Chronicles," came from Alice in Wonderland, when she was thinking about how one was more likely to fall down a manhole than a rabbit hole, and would find something other than a tea party.
Between 2003 and 2007 she wrote the five books of the "Underland Chronicles": Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, Gregor and the Marks of Secret, and Gregor and the Code of Claw. During that time, Collins also wrote a rhyming picture book illustrated by Mike Lester entitled When Charlie McButton Lost Power (2005).
In September 2008 Scholastic Press released the The Hunger Games, the first book of a new trilogy by Collins. The Hunger Games was partly inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Another inspiration was her father's career in the Air Force, which allowed her to better understand poverty, starvation, and the effects of war.
This was followed by the novel's 2009 sequel, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay in 2010. In just 14 months, 1.5 million copies of the first two "Hunger Games" books have been printed in North America alone. The Hunger Games has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for more than 60 weeks in a row. Collins was named one of Time magazine's most influential people of 2010.
Collins earned her M.F.A. from New York University in Dramatic Writing. She now lives in Connecticut with her husband, their two children, and 2 adopted feral kittens. (From Wikipedia.)
[B]rilliantly plotted and perfectly paced...a futuristic novel every bit as good and as allegorically rich as Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" books...the considerable strength of the novel comes in Collins's convincingly detailed world-building and her memorably complex and fascinating heroine. In fact, by not calling attention to itself, the text disappears in the way a good font does: nothing stands between Katniss and the reader, between Panem and America. This makes for an exhilarating narrative and a future we can fear and believe in, but it also allows us to see the similarities between Katniss's world and ours.
John Green - New York Times
This gripping tale explores ever-timely topics—violence-as-entertainment and rule-by-intimidation—and through Katniss holds out the possibility of change.
Mary Quattlebaum - Washington Post
Whereas Katniss kills with finesse, Collins writes with raw power...The Hunger Games and Catching Fire expose children to exactly the kind of violence we usually shield them from. But that just goes to show how much adults forget about what it's like to be a child. Kids are physical creatures, and they're not stupid. They know all about violence and power and raw emotions. What's really scary is when adults pretend that such things don't exist.
(Audio version.) Suzanne Collins's first book of a planned trilogy introduces an easy-to-imagine, cruel future society divided by wealth and obsessed with media and celebrity. The controlling Capitol broadcasts the Hunger Games, mandatory watching for all citizens of Panem. The annual event pits 24 Tributes-a girl and boy teen from each of the 12 Districts surrounding the Capitol-against one another in a desperate battle to the death. When 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her younger sister's place as District Twelve's girl Tribute, she is thrown into a media frenzy, complete with stylists and costumes, literally fighting for her life in the arena. Intense, graphic action, along with a touch of romance, makes this dystopic adventure a great choice for older reluctant readers. Although the plot mimics both Stephen King's The Long Walk (1999) and Running Man (1999) as well as Koushon Takami's Battle Royale (2007), Collins creates a fascinating world and Katniss is a believably flawed and interesting character. Carolyn McCormick ably voices the action-packed sequences and Katniss's every fear and strength shines through, along with her doomed growing attraction to one of her fellow Tributes. This engrossing audiobook belongs in all public and school libraries. —Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI
School Library Journal
This is an amazingly suspenseful story, combining the familiar ("Survivor"-type TV shows) with details of a horrific future. Once again, an author chooses a future in which some calamity has created a society cowed into submission by dictators, and manipulated and controlled through technology. The Hunger Games are this future culture's way of entertaining and frightening the people, all at once. Young people are chosen by lot as participants in the games. Once chosen, the "contestants" scheme for the others' deaths—real deaths—because that is the only way to survive: to be the last person standing. The people follow the "action" via camera, with strategy and suffering presented as entertainment (sort of like the action in the Roman Empire's Coliseum, I suppose). The heroine is 16-year-old Katniss, a skilled hunter and survivor managing to keep her mother and younger sister alive in their repressive society. When Katniss's younger sister, who is not very strong, draws the lot, Katniss takes her place, willing to die for her family. In a masterstroke of strategic planning, Katniss teams up with another contestant, a boy she has known in her village, to ensure their survival. The "games" themselves are nonstop action: physical, mental, emotional. Readers will be absorbed in the action, identifying with Katniss and frightened by this view of a possible future. —Claire Rosser
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen cannot believe it when her younger sister Prim is chosen as the female tribute from their district at the Reaping. In this futuristic society, each district is required to send two tributes to the Games in the Capitol where they must fight to the death while the whole country watches on live television. To protect her sister, Katniss volunteers to take her place, knowing that she will probably never again return home. Twenty-four young people are dropped off in a remote area and must fight for survival against the harsh conditions and each other. Only one is allowed to live. Katniss and Peeta, the other tribute from District 12, form an uneasy alliance that blossoms into romance amid the brutality and deprivation of the Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta try to rebel against the Gamemakers but discover that they must play the game to its end. Collins moves up a level from the "Gregor the Overlander" books in this gripping story that is the first of a new trilogy. Themes of government control, "big brother," and personal independence are explored amidst a thrilling adventure that will appeal to science fiction, survival, and adventure readers. The suspense of this powerful novel will keep the reader glued to the page long after bedtime. —Deborah L. Dubois
(Starred review.) What happens if we choose entertainment over humanity? In Collins's world, we'll be obsessed with grooming, we'll talk funny, and all our sentences will end with the same rise as questions. When Katniss is sent to stylists to be made more telegenic before she competes, she stands naked in front of them, strangely unembarrassed. "They're so unlike people that I'm no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet," she thinks. In order not to hate these creatures who are sending her to her death, she imagines them as pets. It isn't just the contestants who risk the loss of their humanity. It is all who watch. —Megan Whalen Turner
Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. She has to be; she's representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district. With clear inspiration from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and the Greek tale of Theseus, Collins has created a brilliantly imagined dystopia, where the Capitol is rich and the rest of the country is kept in abject poverty, where the poor battle to the death for the amusement of the rich. Impressive world-building, breathtaking action and clear philosophical concerns make this volume, the beginning of a planned trilogy, as good as The Giver and more exciting. (11 & up.)
Book Club Discussion Questions
1. How does Katniss feel about the country of Panem? Why does she need to make her face "an indifferent mask" and be careful what she says in public?
2. Describe the relationships of Katniss with Gale, with Prim, with her mother. How do those relationships define her personality? Why does she say about Peeta, "I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people." How does her early encounter with Peeta affect their relationship after they are chosen as tributes?
3. How does the fact that the tributes are always on camera affect their behavior from the time they are chosen? Does it make it easier or harder for them to accept their fate? How are the "career tributes" different from the others?
4. Why are the "tributes" given stylists and dressed so elaborately for the opening ceremony? Does this ceremony remind you of events in our world, either past or present? Compare those ceremonies in real life to the one in the story.
5. When Peeta declares his love for Katniss in the interview, does he really mean it or did Haymitch create the "star-crossed lovers" story? What does Haymitch mean when he says, "It's all a big show. It's all how you're perceived." Why do they need to impress sponsors and what are those sponsors looking for when they are watching the Games?
6. Before the Games start, Peeta tells Katniss, "...I want to die as myself ... I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not." What does this tell you about Peeta? What does he fear more than death? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games?
7. Why does Katniss ignore Haymitch's advice to head directly away from the Cornucopia? Did she do the right thing to fight for equipment? What are the most important skills she has for staying alive — her knowledge of nature? — her skill with bow and arrow? — her trapping ability? What qualities of her personality keep her going - her capacity for love? — her intelligence? — her self-control?
8. Why does Peeta join with the Career Tributes in the beginning of the Games? What does he hope to gain? Why do they accept him when they start hunting as a group? Why do groups form in the beginning when they know only one of them will be able to survive?
9. What makes Katniss and Rue trust each other to become partners? What does Katniss gain from this friendship besides companionship? Is Katniss and Rue's partnership formed for different reasons than the other group's?
10. Discuss the ways in which the Gamemakers control the environment and "entertainment" value of the Games. How does it affect the tributes to know they are being manipulated to make the Games more exciting for the gamblers and viewers? Does knowing that she is on live TV make Katniss behave differently than she would otherwise?
11. When does Katniss first realize that Peeta does care for her and is trying to keep her alive? When does she realize her own feelings for him? Did Haymitch think all along that he could keep them both alive by stressing the love story? Are they actually in love?
12. What do you think is the cruelest part of the Hunger Games? What kind of people would devise this spectacle for the entertainment of their populace? Can you see parallels between these Games and the society that condones them, and other related events and cultures in the history of the world?
13. In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Discuss this statement as it applies to the society and government of Panem. Do you believe there is any chance to eradicate class struggles in the future?
14. Reality TV has been a part of the entertainment world since the early days of television (with shows such as Candid Camera and the Miss America Pageant), but in the 21st century there has been a tremendous growth of competitive shows and survival shows. Discuss this phenomenon with respect to The Hunger Games. What other aspects of our popular culture do you see reflected in this story?
(Questions from Scholastic's Teacher Book Wizard)
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