The Next Big Book Phenomenon – The Hunger Games

Maybe I’m late to this party. For quite a while now, my frequent flyers have been raving about 2010 Georgia Peach Book Award winner The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Elementary and middle school media specialists may already be familiar with her name since Collins is also the author of The Underland Chronicles series. Her latest release is Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

Last year, I remember one of my students freaking out with joy when we unexpectedly received the sequel, Catching Fire, from Junior Library Guild. I knew then that The Hunger Games was one of those books that I needed to check out, but as so often happens, I just kept putting it off to read other things. The event that moved this particular book to the top of my list occurred in a surprising place: my book club. We meet every few months, and our group is comprised of professional women in many different lines of work. I’m not sure how it came up, but one of the members mentioned The Hunger Games. She is a very cool banker in her mid-thirties, and I never would have pegged her for the type to read the same books as my regular library kids. Anyway, she loved it, and I remember deciding right then that I would drop everything to read this book too. I was reminded of the Harry Potter books; it has that level of wide-range appeal.

And what did I think when I did read it? Holy cow. It is one heaping pile of awesome. If you are unfamiliar with the premise, here it is. The main character, Katniss, lives in a post-apocalyptic version of North America called Panem. It is divided into twelve districts. Each year, there is a lottery in which two children from each district, a boy and girl, are selected to participate in the Hunger Games, a competition in which there is only one survivor. The participants, called tributes, are thrust into a large arena rife with deadly obstacles, and they must kill one another in order to the win the game. Tributes can even get sponsors during the game to receive extra help. If you win, you achieve not only riches for yourself, but your district receives extra food rations for the year. To add to the insanity, the games are televised.  It is basically a reality show competition, but the stakes are so much higher than on the routine programs that bombard us on our televisions here. This book is brutal. It is heartbreaking. It is glorious, and I couldn’t stop reading.

The word is spreading. A quick Google search reveals numerous fan sites as well as news that The Hunger Games is to be made into a full-length feature film. Over the winter break, I was doing some Christmas shopping at the mall and even found Hunger Games merchandise at Hot Topic, of all places! For a book that hasn’t even been released as a movie yet, I found that discovery both amazing and wonderful. I gave the book as Christmas presents to my best friend and my mother; they both loved it and now have the entire series. My husband, who enjoys reading but has limited time for it, made time for these books. They are that compelling.

Check it out at your library, buy it, or sample it on your Kindle or Nook. You will not be disappointed. If you work in a high school library and don’t have a copy in your collection already, order several. You’ll thank me later.

Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Annie Kiene

Richmond Hill High School, Bryan County

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Posted on January 5, 2011, in Recommended Reading. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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