Unless you have been living in a bunker the last few months, you can’t have missed the promotion for the new movie “The Hunger Games.” Before the movie, was the book, however, and it quickly became a huge publishing sensation. Two other books followed in the series and I remember back to when the last book was due. I fielded 10-15 calls a days from teens wanting to be the first to get the book. So I decided to check out the sensation by taking home the audiobook. Playing it in the car for the 20-minute ride home was mesmerizing. I quickly grabbed my Kindle and downloaded all 3 books and stayed up all night finishing the 1st and half of the 2nd. I was hooked.
If you know nothing about the plot, let me enlighten you. The setting is a post-apocalyptic America, where the east coast doesn’t seem to exist. The new country is called Panem and the Capital seems to be in the Colorado Mountains. There are 13 districts in a wheel-shape around the Capital – each district a “spoke” in the wheel. Districts 1-12 are populated and each specializes in some kind of industry or agriculture. The Capital’s population lives in luxury, while the Districts live in poverty. District 13 is a no-man’s land, since it was bombed into oblivion for rebellion against the Capital. As a consequence of the rebellion, each District has to send two youths to the Capital each year to battle in a nationally televised (required watching by all citizens) contest where the “Tributes” as the contestants are called, kill each other off until only one is standing. The victor gains fortune and fame plus greater food for their District.
Katniss Everdeen is the sole support of her mother and younger sister, hunting with her friend Gale to feed both their families in the poorest district, District 12. Katniss’s father was killed in a mining accident and her mother fell into a deep depression. Katniss has had to be strong to feed her family in the face of her mother’s seemingly indifference. She has become a skilled hunter which becomes very helpful when her younger sister Prim is called to be a Tribute for District 12 and Katniss steps up to volunteer to take her place. The other Tribute for District 12 is Peeta, the baker’s son who has had a crush on Katniss since they were in 5th grade together.
The attitude of the Capital’s people to the Tributes is one of the most bizarre aspects of the book to our 21st century minds. They are celebrated, decorated, designed, and fawned-over in a way that certainly reflects our obsession with celebrities today, but there is no outrage when they are killed on live-action video feeds. There is certainly a “Big Brother” element to the book – the Capital knows all and sees all, and the President seems to be all-powerful and he doesn’t much like the independent-minded Katniss.
I’d highly recommend this compelling book and the rest of the series to teens, adults, and anyone who likes dystopian fiction. It's an intriguing re-imagining about our fascination with reality games. Could it happen here and now?