The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (NY: Scholastic, 2008).
I wasn't sure I'd like this one--despite all the rave reviews, awards, and prizes. It sounded so brutal--a game that has kids killing kids? On TV? I do not like reality TV, especially the survival shows, but with Hunger Games Collins adds enough dystopic and critical elements--not to mention romance!--that I could abide it. This is a great story, very well told, with characters who are worth caring about.
The setting is a post-apocalyptic United States renamed Panem with twelve districts and a Capitol. Some kind of evil dictatorship oversees a brutal regime that has wiped out a thirteenth district at some point and demands "tributes" to its authority in the form of two children from each of the remaining twelve districts who must fight to the death in an annual event called the eponymous Hunger Games--broadcast live on national television and required viewing for all citizens. The districts and their residents have regimented lives dominated by work and survival. The government controls everyone and limits access to food and other necessities. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, illegally hunts in the woods outside the boundaries of district 12. After her father's death in a mining accident, she has needed her skills to keep her mother and little sister alive. When her little sister's name is drawn to compete in the Hunger Games, Katniss naturally volunteers to go in her place and while assuming she will die, fights to survive. Her relationship with the other competitor from her district, a boy named Peeta who has been kind to her in the past, develops in ways she never anticipated, and the Hunger Games takes on a new twist with Katniss as a competitor.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (NY: Scholastic, 2009).
Catching Fire takes the survival elements of The Hunger Games to the next level in an excellent sequel that will have fans agonizing to know what will happen in the final installment, Mockingjay.
Katniss and Peeta are in a difficult position, unlike any other victors in previous Hunger Games. They've manipulated the system so that two have survived instead of the customary one. And the government is not happy about it. Katniss tries to think of a way to escape but in the end has to go along to the next event, a special Hunger Game for the 75th anniversary that involves two past victors from every district competing in a spectacularly brutal game. The President himself is threatening Katniss and all those she loves, and the intrigues and alliances are so intricate it's hard to tell what is happening. Events in the real world merge with the game in the end, and while Katniss survives it's not clear whether any part of her world will in the end.
Violence, mild sexual content, no language. Grades 7 & up.
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