When the United States as we know it is destroyed by natural disasters and war, the nation of Panem is formed from the remains. Panem is comprised of “the Capitol” and 13 territories (that is, until one territory tries to rebel and is annihilated).
Each year a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected by lottery from the remaining 12 terroritories to compete to the death in a televised reality show.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen has hunted for years in order to provide food for her impoverished family. When her younger sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss takes her place and prepares to use every hunting skill and instinct she ever learned to fight the other contestants in the government-run game of survival that cannot end until just one contestant is left alive.
While Kat tries to focus on survival, she also battles her growing feelings for Peeta, the boy contestant from her territory, and questions the authority of the state-run government.
Suzanne Collins has crafted an outstanding book that seamlessly blends popular appeal with political analysis. Surely this book will appear on most high school reading lists if not in the high school English curriculum.
This is part one of a planned trilogy. Part two is due out in September 2009.
Highly recommended for grades 7 and up.
Update as of 3/7/2011: The Hunger Games is indeed being studied as part of the English curriculum. A middle school librarian told me in Fall 2010 that their school had ordered 180 copies of the book.
Today I read a post about a title yet to be released: The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy. Sounds like a great set of essays which discuss the deeper issues addressed in the trilogy.
Suzanne Collins has another excellent series, Gregor the Overlander, of interest to 3-6 graders.
Awards: Best Books for Young Adults 2009; Best Books of the Year 2008; Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 2008; Booklist Books for Older Readers 2008; Fanfare 2008 (Hornbook); Notable Books of the Year 2008: Children; Notable Children’s Books 2009–Older Readers; Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year 2008; Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2009