By Suzanne Collins
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 978 1 407109 08 4
Katniss Everdeen is a first-class hunter. She is athletic, quick and smart, and can shoot a rabbit or squirrel straight through the brain with an arrow. Sometimes she sells the woodland animals, and sometimes she eats the meat with her mum and younger sister. Food is scarce in the Seam, the deprived mining area of District 12 where Katniss lives. Her family needs every morsel they can get to survive.
Suzanne Collins' futuristic adventure The Hunger Games is set in a country called Panem, a fascist state that occupies the landmass that was once North America. Panem is divided into 12 districts, each with its own function and each paying allegiance to the Capitol, the rich and powerful seat of government. There once was a 13th district, but this was wiped out by the Capitol for attempting rebellion.
The totalitarian government keeps its people downtrodden by starving them and dishing out acts of brutality if anyone steps out of line. District 12 is a terrible place to live.
Each year, to remind the downtrodden people of its power, the Capitol organises the ultimate reality show that everyone must watch. Two teenagers are selected from each district, one male and one female, and trained to fight to the death in a spectacular TV marathon called The Hunger Games.
Being selected means only one thing for all but one of these unfortunate youngsters: certain death.
When Katniss' younger sister is selected to represent District 12, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The organisers of the Games don't care who the 24 teenagers are just as long as there are two from each district. Along with Peeta, a baker's son, Katniss is taken to the Capitol to be trained for the horrific ritual.
The Hunger Games is a challenging and totally absorbing picture of a dark future. The first part of the novel sets up our heroine and her background, and then the nail-biting second half throws her into the arena. Collins has written a tight plot and throws in some terrific action sequences, rollercoaster thrills and genuine suspense. It is all frighteningly believable.
Katniss narrates her own adventure, which suggests she will survive The Games, but the reader has no idea how, when the odds are so stacked against her. Winning will make her famous. Losing will mean a very public death.
The Hunger Games is an epic tale of 450 pages, and one of the most exciting books you'll read this year.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com