The Hunger Games are the ultimate reality show: A fight to the death among 24 young people (the tributes), one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, while the rich and spoiled people of the Capitol watch on, and bid for their favorites. Only a winner is allowed. A winner that will never be hungry again or forced to participate in the games.
The Games take place every year in the Capitol and are run by the government that rules the twelve districts, the remnants of the land that once was called North America. The Games are a reminder that “resistance is futile” as the Capitol has the power to destroy the districts if so wished, as it destroyed number thirteen seventy four years ago during the last rebellion.
As the book starts, sixteen years old Katniss volunteers to compete in the Games when her twelve years old sister is chosen to represent the 12th district. Katniss, who lost her father in a mine explosion when she was eleven years old and has been since keeping her mother and little sister fed with her hunting, is determined to stay alive whatever the price. For Peeta, the male tribute from the same district, things are not so simple. Is it possible, he wonders, to play the Games without losing his humanity?
Those who think YA and/or Fantasy books are light fare may have to reconsider after reading this book because the question The Hunger Games asks: would you kill to stay alive? Would you kill an enemy, a friend, a lover? is not easy to answer.
Suzanne Collins’s premise in The Hunger Games is that yes, when hunted, we all become hunters. But killing a human being comes with a high price and the survivor will forever be haunted by the dead.
Being a Young Adult novel, the story ends with a note of hope (and BTW that is why I read/write YA novels). Yet the question remains, taunting the reader: how much of your humanity/your core beliefs will you give up to stay alive? to make a living? It’s a question we all have had (or will have) to answer sometime in our lives, even if the circumstances are not as extreme as in the novel and the price not so high.
As of today, The Hunger Games is the #9 bestseller in Amazon.com. #1, in case you wonder, is The Mockingjay, the third volume in the trilogy. My son bought it for me today, as it is my birthday. Just in time, as I finished the second book, Catching Fire, last night. I can’t wait to read it.