The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, Scholastic Press, 2008, 407 pp
I have mentioned before how the bookstore where I work is located in a community just outside of Los Angeles where family values, reading, education and being involved in one's childrens' upbringing are important issues. In a word: conservative. As Young Adult literature gets edgier by the month, I am called upon as a bookseller to pronounce on "appropriate reading" when parents inquire.
It is a tricky proposition and almost always bothers me, since I consider myself an optimistic anarchist and from that philosophical position, feel that people (including kids) should read what they want to read.
So, The Hunger Games has violence. It has children killing children. It has abuse of children by an evil, repressive government. But it also has a heroine who epitomizes intelligence, bravery, loyalty and survival for all, not just herself. If I had a teenage daughter at this time in history, I would want her to read The Hunger Games.
Katniss Everdeen is 16 years old and lives each day to provide food and safety for her mother and young sister. They live in a poor outer district of a country made up of the ruins of what used to be North America. Part of the harsh control exercised by the government is an annual televised event, the "Hunger Games", in which each district must send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen, who will fight to the death of all but one survivor. When Katniss' sister gets picked by lottery, Katniss volunteers to take her place.
The rest of the story plays out in a combination of reality TV, Roman gladiator games and the Greek myth of Theseus, the Labyrinth and the Minotaur. It is a breathlessly exciting page turner and in my opinion beats Twilight hands down.