'Hunger Games' is good summer reading

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

“Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press. 2008. 374 pp.
By John Whitfield
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Once again it is time to pick books for the beach bag and another good one has come along: “Hunger Games.”
Reading the fly-leaf or hearing about the plot may make one skeptical but several who have started it report being hooked early into the book. It is a young adults’ book but adults find it equally engaging.
“Hunger Games” is the futuristic tale of a young woman, Katniss Everdeen, caught in a horrific situation.
It takes place in the distant future after a calamity has destroyed America and its way of life. The new country, called Panem, is divided into 12 districts and is ruled by a harsh, powerful dictator in the Capitol, District One. The other districts are poor and forced to yield to the demands of the Capitol.
One of these demands is that each year they hold a “reaping” in which each district sends two young people to the Capitol to participate in the Hunger Games. The object of these games is for the young people to be placed in a very large, wooded “arena” and kill each other until only one is left. That one is declared the victor and showered with fame and fortune.
Katniss and her neighbor, Peeta, are selected from their district and much of the story is about the innovative ways they work to stay alive.
While killing does go on, the thrust of the book is less about that and more about the experience of the various participants. It tells of their emotional response to their situation and describes the manner in which they confront and overcome their fears. The games are followed on nationwide television which adds drama to contest.
There is some science fiction in the book, especially in the technology used, but in the context of the story it does not require much stretch of the imagination. Some of the technology is quite interesting, such as Katniss’ dress, which seems to be on fire as she walks.
There is one other story line which is pursued further in this book’s sequels, it being the first in a trilogy.
Katniss, wise beyond her 17 years, wants to end the oppression of the Capitol. To some extent, leadership in this effort is thrust upon her, which the reader may learn in “Catching Fire (Scholastic Press, 2009) and “Mockingjay” (Scholastic Press, 2010).
“Hunger Games” is not great literature but it is a good, interesting read. Try it. You’ll like it.