What You Need to Know:|
• This is a thrilling, compelling, disturbing and TERRIFIC read.
• This is best-seller for a reason, just not for younger children.
• It has killing, violence, slavery, war, starvation. It can be read on many levels. But there is no simple level, and you
should read on before you put it in the hands of a child.
Sweet Series Background:|
The Hunger Game Trilogy is currently flying off bookshelves. The three books are on lots of bestseller lists, including 73 weeks and still going on the NY Times List. It is these types of books that we debate reviewing and recommending, because it is likely you will have already heard of them, without our "sweet" help. However, these much publicized books for older readers, the chapter books, are precisely why you need us. Sweet on Books reads them for you, if you don't have the time to, and let's you know what's in them so you can make an informed decision on whether your child should read them. And ultimately, if your child does read it, you can be informed about what discussion points are in there.
It is very common for kids who can read well, to get ahead in their reading. But even if they can decode and understand the text, is the content always appropriate? This is a decision we need to make individually and personally as parents, but here at Sweet on Books we would like to provide you the information to make those decisions.
The Hunger Games is set in the not-so-distant future in a fictional nation called Panem, which lies where North America once was. Panem has one central city called The Capitol and thirteen outlying Districts. The Capitol calls the shots for all the Districts and effectively keeps the Districts oppressed by rationing food, electricity and all basic needs. We learn that the Districts live in abject poverty and life is pretty miserable. So miserable that District 13 got so disgusted that they rose up and rebelled. The Capitol was able to quell the uprising and only smoking toxic remains are left of District 13, the land and the people obliterated as an example to the other 12 Districts. Then, in the ultimate form of control, and as a reminder to never do what District 13 did, the Capitol requires each District to send a boy and a girl between the ages of 12-18 each year to the Hunger Games. This abhorrent event is where the 24 tributes, as they are called, will compete to the death on live television until only one survivor is standing and declared the winner. The tributes are picked by lottery, with the poorest and least desirable in each district having the most entries.
Suzanne Collins, the author, has said the story for this trilogy is loosely based on the Greek myth Theseus and the Minataur. Collins has also said Panem is loaded with Roman references, and the actual Hunger Games is modeled on the Roman gladiator games. Click here to read the whole interview with Suzanne Collins.
Hunger Games, the first in the trilogy, begins in District 12, where we meet Katniss Evergreen, our protagonist, aged 16. Katniss is the sole hunter and gatherer for her sister Prim and her mother, effectively keeping them alive by illegally leaving the District to hunt everyday and selling her spoils on the black market. When Prim's name is called at the Reaping, Katniss immediately volunteers herself for the Hunger Games, and saves Prim's life.
The rest of the story is plot driven and frantic. It is Katniss' story of survival with her fellow tribute for District 12, Peeta. There is blood and gore, murder, romance, redemption and sadness, so much sadness. That said, I positively couldn't put this book down. It was a completely compelling, if disturbing, read. I finished it in an evening. As I write this, I am watching the clock so I can get to the bookstore before closing to get the next book, Catching Fire - no joke.
But, that said, it is a crazy violent and emotional read and you have to be really sure your reader is ready for this. I think it would be outrageous to even think of letting an elementary student read this, and I think you should proceed with caution in the early middle school years. I think older readers, who are interested in this type of read, will love it. It also has many themes imbedded that could be used as discussion points with an older audience, including government control, socioeconomic divisions, racism, personal liberties, exploitation (Reality TV, anyone?) and many more. If your reader is not ready for this book, maybe you are?
2008, 384 pages
Adventure, Fantasy, Friendship, Mystery, War
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