Put a dystopian society, a gutsy 16 year-old protagonist, a bloody, disturbing annual ritual in the name of a reality TV show together and you have an unputdownable novel and a lot to think about while you turn the pages.
Suzanne Collins’ 2008 novel, Hunger Games, the first in the trilogy, is set in the future, in a nation called Panem. Panem consists of the Capitol and 12 surrounding, poverty-stricken districts which are under its hegemony. As a reminder of the 74 year-old rebellion which the districts lost to the Capitol, it organises an annual reality TV show, The Hunger Games.
One boy and one girl from each district, between the ages of 12 and 18 are forced to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are left in a dangerous open area with computer-generated perils and they must fight to death until only one remains, who is declared the winner. The Capitol watches the ‘drama’ on television, cheering the tributes and occasionally rewarding them with ‘gifts’ they need to survive.
In this book, Katniss Everdeen lives with her mother and 12 year-old sister, Prim, in District 12. She volunteers to go to the Hunger Games after Prim’s name comes out of the lottery. Hunger Games is a riveting tale of power, politics and the inevitable emergence of strength amid the chaos. Thankfully, the book, targeted at young adults, stays away from mush and vampires. There’s danger and gore, but of a different kind and the characters — real, vulnerable and believable — make the most of it to survive.