Monday, January 25, 2010

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins
Scholastic 2008

As late as the fifth century of the Christian Era, Roman citizens gathered in great stadiums to watch criminals and slaves battle each other to the death. Some competitors were highly trained, with wealthy sponsors who provided weapons and armor. Others were simply societal rubbish thrown to the wild animals. These bloody entertainments might make us shudder now, we who are used to knowing that the people we see hacked up or shot to pieces on the movie screen will wipe off the makeup and go home after work in one piece.

But what if the gladiatorial games were revived, and broadcast on national television?

This is what makes Hunger Games so eerie. It isn't much of a stretch. Reality TV plus the Roman Area? It could happen.

To punish their people for a rebellion nearly seventy-five years ago, the Capitol requires each District to sacrifice two of their children each year to the Hunger Games. When Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place as a contestant, she is thrust into a wilderness crawling with enemies where she must struggle not only for her life but to maintain her identity in spite of being on the cast of a deadly entertainment spectacular.

It's a brilliant premise, and Suzanne Collins makes the most of it. She deals out edge-of-your seat adventure while laying on the full emotional impact of being in the Games. At the heart of this disturbing, haunting tale of survival is a battle between one girl's inner humanity and the tyranny of an inhumane society. This is real literature, AND a riveting read.

It's violent, so violent I almost didn't review it. Still, it has my approval for dealing with the consequences of violence rather than merely mucking around in gratuitous gore. For ages 14 and up.

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