I think I reflected on this myself earlier, but this reflection just sucked me in. Amazing BIG questions throughout, and LOTS to think about as per the value of reading at ANY age.
Thanks, Christa Osborne!
Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
"Oh my gosh, Christa! Have you read The Hunger Games? PLEASE
read it...and hurry up so I can have a girl to talk to about it!!"
These words came out of the mouth of my boyfriend's teenage daughter.
Was she really talking to me? I was shocked for two reasons: 1. She hates
to read! She had not only read this book, but the entire trilogy in
record time! 2. She also dislikes me. Her typical greeting is an eye
roll and immediate departure from the room. So, not wanting to miss an
opportunity to bond with her, I immediately found the book and began
reading it. It wasn't long before I was leaving my house at 10:00 pm,
in my pajamas, to run to a friend's to get the second and third books!
Suzanne Collins has written a modern fantasy chapter book
that captures readers, young and old. Set in a future version of what
was once North America, the landscape has changed drastically.
Residents of Panem, or what was the United States, live in districts and
are controlled by the Capitol. Each district produces a certain type
of product or service. Residents cannot leave their assigned district
except when approved by those who govern the land. The people of those
districts are for all intents and purposes, imprisoned in their
district. Food and supplies are scarce. Independent thought and
behavior is discouraged. We are introduced to these ideas by the female
Katniss is a first-person narrator for the journey through The Hunger Games. Seeing the land and the people through Katniss's eyes, her point of view
colors the reader's vision. As the book begins, we are introduced to
Katniss's sparse surroundings, members of her household and her daily
routine of finding food for her and her family. She is very matter of
fact about the events that lay ahead of her on that day. It is the day
of the reaping or the human lottery that is held annually in the land of
Panem. As part of the punishment of the people in this land, there is
an annual 'reaping' of people from each district. A boy and girl from
each district are selected to compete in the annual 'hunger games' where
the competitors fight to the death, resulting in one winner. Yes, children
fight to the death. The victor of these games receives immunity from
any future games and the family of the victor receives food and wealth
as well. Katniss is thrown into the ring as a contender when she
accidentally volunteers herself. From that point forward, she is in conflict: person against self, person against nature (or a manmade version of it), person against person and person against society.
Collins uses a style that is fast paced, with enough detail to describe
the situation without making it 'flowery' and over explained. She uses a
mixture of futuristic characters from the Capitol with their
extravagant clothing and vibrant hair and skin colors in a contrast with
the workers from the coal fields of the outlying districts. The
extreme differences between the "haves" and the "have nots" is
represented in the districts themselves, as well as the competitors in
the games. The setting for the games and that of the lives of the
characters offer stark images of realistic settings with futuristic
items such as holograms and hovercrafts. It uses the everyday to engage
the reader and make them feel as if they could be in the story. The
emotions that Katniss experiences are those that we can all identify
with: competition, isolation, despair, fear, sadness and compassion.
I will be the first to admit that this book was addictive. I could not
put it down. I felt compelled to see what happened to Katniss and how
she handled this unreal situation. I cheered her on when she had
successes and felt her pain when failure was imminent. I was very
surprised at how the 'weight' of this story hung with me. Days after I
finished it, I was still left with the heaviness of the issues of the
story. Could I kill an enemy? Could I kill a friend? How do you know
who is on your side? How do children face these issues when I cannot
imagine them as an adult? From a classroom standpoint, this book can be
used in so many different ways. It can be used for units on government
and the issues of power within the government. What kind of government
do you expect there to be in the next 25 years? 50 years? Is it
possible that the United States could become like Panem? This book and
the remaining trilogy is also a study in human nature. What are we
capable of doing when push comes to shove? Will we only look out for
ourselves Will we make sacrifices? It can be used philosophically.
How does this compare to ancient Greece?
When I finished this book, I immediately talked to the eye-rolling
teenager. She was squealing with questions. The one thing that stuck
with me was her surprise when we really talked about the age of
Katniss. In the book, Katniss was only one year older than my friend.
She could not imagine being sent out on her own, armed with very little
in the way of defense, and expected to kill for victory. Another issue
was the sadness that we both felt, especially after finishing the entire
set of books.
Since this book deals with some more adult issues, older readers will
most likely relate better to this book. It does deal with some dark
issues of human nature and some gruesome scenes. I would recommend this
to mature middle schooler students and high school students, as well as
After seeing the interest this book generated among teenagers, I am
thoroughly convinced that it's a great read, especially for those that
may not normally take an interest in reading. I'm all about any book
that creates conversation and no eye-rolling!