THE HUNGER GAMES; Suzanne Collins; New York: Scholastic, 2008; 374p. Young Adult Fiction.
Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” is the first book in a series about a dystopian future where the governments of North America have disintegrated and then reformed into Panem, a constituency of 13 districts harshly controlled by a group of conquerors in the Capitol. Each year the Capitol mounts the Hunger Games, in a sort of “The Lottery” meets “The Most Dangerous Game,” and each District must “randomly” select a young man and a young woman to fight to the death with young people chosen from the other districts while the rulers of Panem watch. Katniss Everdeen has put her name into the lottery extra times to get food credits for her family, but when her little sister Prim is the selection, Katniss takes her place. What follows is an ingenious, terrifying, heartbreaking, vividly atmospheric exercise as Katniss must survive by wit and skill as she watches enemies and friends fall to each other and to the cruel ingenuities of the Capitol spectators, and, as she and the boy who cares for her move relentlessly towards a final confrontation. The bad news is that “The Hunger Games,” fizzles at the end, with a potential romantic dilemma only partially played out, and an implied threat from the Capitol-ists in the distant background. The good news is, there will be a sequel in which, we hope, this compelling premise plays out to a satisfying conclusion.