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The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Teen Fiction COLLINS

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From Publishers' Weekly:

If there really are only seven original plots in the world, it's odd that "boy meets girl" is always mentioned, and "society goes bad and attacks the good guy" never is. Yet we have Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, The House of the Scorpion-and now, following a long tradition of Brave New Worlds, The Hunger Games. Collins hasn't tied her future to a specific date, or weighted it down with too much finger wagging. Rather less 1984 and rather more Death Race 2000, hers is a gripping story set in a postapocalyptic world where a replacement for the United States demands a tribute from each of its territories: two children to be used as gladiators in a televised fight to the death. Katniss, from what was once Appalachia, offers to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, but after this ultimate sacrifice, she is entirely focused on survival at any cost. It is her teammate, Peeta, who recognizes the importance of holding on to one's humanity in such inhuman circumstances. It's a credit to Collins's skill at characterization that Katniss, like a new Theseus, is cold, calculating and still likable. She has the attributes to be a winner, where Peeta has the grace to be a good loser. It's no accident that these games are presented as pop culture. Every generation projects its fear: runaway science, communism, overpopulation, nuclear wars and, now, reality TV. The State of Panem-which needs to keep its tributaries subdued and its citizens complacent-may have created the Games, but mindless television is the real danger, the means by which society pacifies its citizens and punishes those who fail to conform. Will its connection to reality TV, ubiquitous today, date the book? It might, but for now, it makes this the right book at the right time. 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. Katniss struggles to win not only the Games but the inherent contest for audience approval. Because this is the first book in a series, not everything is resolved, and what is left unanswered is the central question. Has she sacrificed too much? We know what she has given up to survive, but not whether the price was too high. Readers will wait eagerly to learn more. Megan Whalen Turner is the author of the Newbery Honor book The Thief and its sequels, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia. The next book in the series will be published by Greenwillow in 2010. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In a far-future United States, a cruel Capitol keeps order by demanding an annual tribute for its Hunger Games, in which two contestants, a boy and a girl, are chosen by lottery from each of 12 districts to fight to the death in an event televised from an arena. Katniss Everdeen lives in what used to be Appalachia and is now called the Seam-a dirt-poor district without much hope of success in the games. Katniss volunteers in her sister's place and may just have the smarts to win. Then Peeta, the soft baker's son chosen from her same district, does something surprising. He declares his undying affection for Katniss just before they enter the arena. Is there room for friendship, loyalty, or even love when survival is on the line? Why It Is a Best: Collins's prose is merely serviceable, but she writes compelling characters and spins one terrific yarn. The premise is good to begin with, and the surprises keep coming. Why It Is for Us: In this fight to the death, the book's violence is cringe-worthy by even the most jaded standards. The exploitation of the desperate and impoverished for the entertainment of the wealthy and powerful is a theme reminiscent of Stephen King's The Long Walk or The Running Man. King himself makes the comparison in his Entertainment Weekly review of the book, saying "I couldn't stop reading."-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Katniss Everdeen
Female
Age: 16
Smart, really fast; lives with her mother and little sister in the poorest district of Panem, District 12, the remains of what used to be the United States; father passed away; stepped in her sister's place to appear in the Hunger Games, a televised gladiator type competition; determined to win and survive; her trainers want her to pretend to be in love with Peeta.

Peeta Mellark
Male
Son of the District 12's baker; Katniss's partner in the Hunger Games, a televised gladiator type competition; prepared to be a good loser; his trainers want him to pretend to be in love with Katniss.



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