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Think of The Hunger Games as the ultimate
reality show. Twenty-four youngsters between
the ages of 12 and 18 were imprisoned in a
vast outdoor arena. They had to scavenge for
enough food and water to survive for several
weeks, while trying to kill or be killed by the
other tributes. It really was a fight to the death
on live TV.
Each tribute had had a device implanted in
their bodies so that they were on camera every
minute of every day. The Gamemakers in the
Capitol would decide which gruesome event
would be telecast that day, and edit accord-
ingly. The Games were mandatory viewing for every citizen
in the land of Panem.
Panem was the country that rose up out the ashes of a place
once called North America. After droughts, fires, storms and
floods, there was little sustenance left in the land. A brutal
war for survival resulted in the emergence of the shining
Capitol, a metropolis in what was once the Rockies, ringed
by 13 districts. These districts provided the means for the
citizens to live in obscene luxury, while the people of the dis-
tricts barely survived. Eventually, this situation led to district
uprisings. At the end, 12 districts were defeated and the 13
was obliterated.
To punish the 12 for their defiance, the Capitol created the
yearly Hunger Games as a stark reminder of who really had
the power. Each district had to provide one girl and one boy
to participate in The Games. The players were chosen by lot-
tery; the names announced in a humiliating mock festivity
called the reaping. Every district citizen was again required
to attend this excruciating event.
Author Suzanne Collins vividly portrays the tense, claustro-
phobic atmosphere as District 12’s population of 8,000 tried
to crowd into the Square. Their teenagers were herded into
roped areas to wait for the announcement of which two of
them would participate in the deadly Hunger Games.
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 374 pages
Willa McLean
is a
freelance writer who
lives in Brampton.
The Hunger Games
When the name of Primrose Everdeen – a
tiny 12-year-old – was announced, her older
sister Katniss abruptly stepped forward and
demanded to take her place in The Games.
Katniss Everdeen emerges from the saga as
a unique 16-year-old. At age 11, her father
was killed in a mining accident. Her mother
withdrew from reality and went to bed, so
Katniss had to take over as head of the family.
To keep her mother and sister from starving,
she became a hunter and gatherer in an illegal
forest beyond the electric boundary fence. The
Peacekeepers (read police) were too hungry
for the fresh meat that Katniss and her friend Gale brought
to market, to prosecute them for the crime of poaching. The
legal punishment for poaching? Public execution!
When Katniss volunteered to become a tribute, she really
considered it a death sentence. The boy chosen from District
12 was the engaging Peeta, a longtime classmate. It’s fascin-
ating to follow Katniss and Peeta as they travel by train to the
Capitol and are treated like rock stars. The two live in deca-
dent luxury, with rich food on demand, while they train and
get complete makeovers to be camera-ready for The Games.
As for the portrayal of The Games themselves, if you’re aller-
gic to violence, this is not the book for you. Horror-meister
Stephen King describes it as, “a violent, jarring, speed-rap of
a novel that generates nearly constant suspense.”
In her compelling story, Suzanne Collins has created a post-
apocalyptic reality in which the one-percenters really do
control the 99-percenters, and keep them at the edge of
Because The Hunger Games is a trilogy, not everything is
resolved. I’m going to read the other two books to see what
the unpredictable Katniss does next. The books and the
two movies to be released will keep The Hunger Games in
the Zeitgeist of the digital generation for some time. Your
grandkids will think that you’re cool if you’re in on the
back story.