Scholastic Press, NY 2008
When “The Hunger Games” begins it is easy to think that it takes place in a long ago primitive time when people had to live off the land and were brutal and cruel just to survive. Although Katniss is just a young teen she is the hunter of the family, bringing home rabbits and squirrels to feed her starving mother and younger sister. Food is scarce in her district and the hunting is illegal but mostly overlooked. As Katniss tells her story we learn that it does not take place long ago, but rather is in the future. War has obliterated the United States as we know it and has been replaced by 13 districts called Panem. Like the 13 colonies that created the United States, they rebelled against an oppressive government. Unlike those 13 colonies, they lost. In retaliation the government of Panem destroyed the 13th district and rule the other isolated 12 districts with an iron fist.
One of the methods the government uses to control its people is with an extreme reality show called “The Hunger Games.” Each district sends one boy and one girl tribute to the games every year. The tributes must survive in the wild on their own, much like today’s “Survivor”-type reality shows, while cameras show their every move to the audience at home. The winner of the games is the last tribute standing—after killing all of the tributes. The games are violent and sadistic. Tributes have no choice but to participate—it’s either kill or be killed. The gamemakers manipulate the weather and cause natural disasters to force the tributes to come together in one location and fight to the death.
“The Hunger Games” brings together the horrific entertainment of our past—the Gladiator games—with the voyeuristic sadism of our present—reality shows—and gives us a future with human nature at its worst. The dystopian story continues in “Catching Fire” and concludes in the upcoming “Mockingjay.”