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Reviews of Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy

hunger gamesstar2 The Hunger Games [Hunger Games]
by Suzanne Collins
Middle School, High School     Scholastic      374 pp.
10/08     978-0-439-02348-1      $17.99

Survivor meets “The Lottery” as the author of the popular Underland Chronicles returns with what promises to be an even better series. The United States is no more, and the new Capitol, high in the Rocky Mountains, requires each district to send two teenagers, a boy and a girl, to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a reality show from which only one of the twenty-four participants will emerge victorious — and alive. When her younger sister is chosen by lottery to represent their district, Katniss volunteers to go in her stead, while Peeta, who secretly harbors a crush on Katniss, is the boy selected to join her. A fierce, resourceful competitor who wins the respect of the other participants and the viewing public, Katniss also displays great compassion and vulnerability through her first-person narration. The plot is front and center here — the twists and turns are addictive, particularly when the romantic subplot ups the ante — yet the Capitol’s oppression and exploitation of the districts always simmers just below the surface, waiting to be more fully explored in future volumes. Collins has written a compulsively readable blend of science fiction, survival story, unlikely romance, and social commentary. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2008 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

collins_catching fire Catching Fire [Hunger Games]
by Suzanne Collins
Middle School, High School    391 pp.     Scholastic
9/09     978-0-439-02349-8      $17.99     g

Six months have passed since Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games, and now they are ready to embark on their Victory Tour of the districts, but they do so under an ominous threat to the safety of their family and friends, a threat delivered in person by President Snow himself. It turns out that Katniss’s Games-ending stunt with the berries has been read not only as an expression of her devotion to Peeta but also as an act of defiance of the Capitol — and because most of the districts fester with unrest, the Capitol is pressuring her to reinforce the first interpretation. The Victory Tour and its aftermath give her time to work through her ambivalence toward the rebellion (Does her celebrity obligate her to participate in the uprising?) and romance (How does she really feel about Gale? about Peeta?), but the Hunger Games are fast approaching, and since this is the seventy-fifth anniversary, these Games will be a Quarter Quell, an opportunity for the Capitol to add a cruel twist. This year’s twist seems particularly so, but Katniss and company are equal to it. The plot kicks into another gear as the fascinating horrors of the Hunger Games are re-enacted with their usual violence and suspense. Many of the supporting characters — each personality distinct — offer their own surprises. The stunning resolution reveals the depth of the rebellion, while one last cliffhanger sets the stage for a grand finale. Collins has once again delivered a page-turning blend of plot and character with an inventive setting and provocative themes. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2009 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

collins_mockingjayMockingjay [Hunger Games]
by Suzanne Collins
Middle School, High School     Scholastic     392 pp.
8/10     978-0-439-02351-1     $17.99

Katniss has been spirited away from the carnage of the recent Quarter Quell (Catching Fire) to District 13, thought to have been destroyed years ago, but very much alive and kicking. As all of the districts move into open rebellion against the Capitol, Katniss reluctantly but resolutely accepts her role as the figurehead of the movement. As she heals, both physically and emotionally, from her previous ordeal, she works through not only the ethical minefield of warfare but also her complicated relationships with Peeta and Gale. One last desperate mission takes Katniss and company to the Capitol, where she hopes to deal a mortal blow to President Snow and his oppressive regime. Collins has always been able to generate an extraordinary amount of suspense and surprise from a single narrative arc, and that’s certainly true once again. But the events of this story play out on a much more epic scale (rapid changes in time and place and a larger cast of characters), almost demanding more than the single point of view (Katniss’s) Collins employs. Some may be disappointed that this concluding volume features less action and more introspection than the earlier books; others may wish for a different resolution, particularly where romance is concerned. All things considered, however, Collins has brought the most compelling science-fiction saga of the past several years to a satisfying and provocative conclusion. JONATHAN HUNT

From the November/December 2010 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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