Hunger Games

4 books in series
4.5 out of 5 stars 3,475 ratings

Summary

Set in the shining Capitol and brutal dystopian world of Panem, built on the ruins of North America, The Hunger Games trilogy and its prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, explore the effects of violence and media sensationalism on young people—through the gripping story of a brave and fierce teenage girl.

16-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in the poorest sector of Panem—its coal producer, District 12. Along with her younger sister, Prim, Katniss awaits the yearly lottery to see who will participate in the Hunger Games, a nationally televised battle where contestants—one boy and one girl, ages 12 to 18, from each of Panem’s 12 districts—fight to the death. But when 12-year-old Prim is chosen as that year’s “tribute,” Katniss spares her sister’s life by volunteering to take her place. Katniss is shipped off to the Capitol—and certain death—along with her fellow District 12 Tribute, the peaceful Peeta Mellark. The pair’s mentor, an arena survivor named Haymitch, comes up with a ploy to pass the two off as star-crossed lovers to gain public sympathy. Katniss and Peeta play for the camera and attempt to avoid a terrible death at the hands of their arena competitors. With the help of her hunting skills and sharp instincts, Katniss gradually becomes a symbol of hope for Panem’s oppressed citizens—and a pawn in a rebellion. Throughout the series, Katniss struggles with her place in the spotlight; her feelings for Peeta and another young fighter from District 12, Gale Hawthorne; and her purpose as a warrior.

Tatiana Maslany voices all the fear and anger Katniss feels—as well as the teen’s bitter sarcasm—as she narrates the heroine’s inner struggle with her lot in life. Maslany won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for BBC America’s Orphan Black, in which she portrayed multiple clones, and her performance in the Hunger Games series is just as outstanding. “Now THIS is what Katniss is supposed to sound like,” proclaims one listener, while another praises: “This recording sounds like there is an entire cast.” With Maslany at the mic, you can feel the emotion thrumming in each word as the terrible world of Panem comes roaring to life in your ears. Both youthful and somber, Maslany's delivery earned her an Audible Editors’ Pick.

In an interview, Suzanne Collins explained part of her motivation for writing the Hunger Games: to educate young people about the realities of war (a mission instilled by her father, a Vietnam veteran who spent his career in the Air Force) and counteract the impact of reality TV, which, she believes, often desensitizes young people to violence and suffering. Particularly struck by the current dichotomy between flashy celebrity lifestyles and the real-life hardships of many poor, disenfranchised Americans, Collins hopes to shine a light on such troubling issues and help young people become more aware of genuine tragedy. Prior to the Hunger Games, the author made her mark in children’s literature with the New York Times best selling five-book series for middle-grade readers, The Underland Chronicles, and wrote for children’s television, working on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows.

The Hunger Games is a worldwide phenomenon, with four blockbuster movie adaptations—The Hunger Games; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1; and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2—starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. All three novels in the original trilogy took a spot on the New York Times best seller list, with the debut, The Hunger Games, sitting on the list for more than 100 consecutive weeks. The novels are award winners many times over, including Publisher Weekly’s Best Book of the Year in 2008 and 2009, the Golden Duck Award, California Young Reader Medal, and School Library Journal’s Booklist Editors’ Choice.

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