Hungry for Blood? Join the Hunger Games!

Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2009.

external image The_Hunger_Games_poster-0001.jpeg

"May the odds be ever in your favor!"

Set in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by war and controlled by a select few, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in the impoverished District 12. North America is no more. In its place is Panem -- a group of twelve districts controlled by the totalitarian government in The Capitol.

The districts are controlled through fear. Each year, as punishment for a rebellion decades in the past, The Capitol holds the Hunger Games. A televised event meant to entertain the ruling class and strike fear into the hearts of the oppressed. Two tributes - one girl and one boy - from each district are brought into an arena and forced to fight to the death. Against all odds, Katniss' sister, Primrose, has her name drawn. Thinking only of the safety of her family, Katniss volunteers to fight in place of her sister. Chosen with her is Peeta, the son of a baker.

In the arena, the fighting scenes painted by Collins are violent and brutally descriptive. Katniss is faced with countless mental and physical challenges to survive throughout the Hunger Games, having to both overpower and outsmart her opponents. As she struggles to retain her sense of humanity in the barbaric games, she must also combat her conflicting feelings about Peeta and stay focused in order to have any chance for survival.

Collins' female protagonist, Katniss, flips the script on the traditional helpless female character in action-packed books. Through Katniss, issues of government, corruption, poverty, violence, identity, love, and more are taken on and give The Hunger Games depth that many books are unable to achieve.

With the odds against her at every turn, can Katniss emerge victorious and still remain true to everything she hold dear? Tune in to the bestselling The Hunger Games and find out. And "may the odds be ever in your favor!"

Recommendations for Teachers
The Hunger Games provides countless themes and issues with which to shape interesting lessons or units for your classroom. Because of the reading level at which the novel is written, this book would be best taught in an 8th or 9th grade classroom. However, if paired with another post-apocalyptic or dystopic novel, the Hunger Games could be taught in 11th or even 12th grade classrooms.
Thematically Relevant Discussion Topics
In the true spirit of a YA novel, The Hunger Games deals with issues of young love, family, and identity, as well as sheds light on issues that could foster more critical thinking on the part of your students. Several of these thematic lessons could be part of larger units encompassing several works that have connections with these themes.
  • Government vs. Its People - Most obviously, The Hunger Games creatively presents a tense relationship between an all too powerful government and its people. Constructing a unit compiled with other novels or short stories along with The Hunger Games that deals with an overpowering or corrupt government may provide the basis for some good discussion in your classroom for the roles and boundaries of the government. Students may be able to find connections between the government based in Panem's capital and the governments in other novels (like 1984, for example) as well as any parallels between these novels and their own government.
  • Rich vs. Poor - District 12, like many of the other districts in Panem, is wrenched by extreme poverty, starvation and the need for resources. However, even in a dystopic and pathological society like Panem, there still exists a wide discrepancy between the rich and the poor. It seems that even the tributes from the more wealthy or well-off districts have certain advantages over their more poor tribute counterparts. Do the poor have certain advantages that rich tributes may not have because of their access to essential resources? How does the fight to survive help/hurt certain tributes throughout the novel?
    • As a subtopic, students could uncover the superficial nature of Capital society, which is something quite prevalent in all three books in the trilogy. What do they make of such superficial names like Glimmer, or the stark contrast in fashion between those who live in the Capitol and those who live in the districts? While something like fashion may seem trivial to discuss, this could easily turn into a discussion of what is valued in society, as well as who decides what is valued.
  • Perception of Strength/Courage - A novel such as The Hunger Games could easily be connected to Greek and Roman mythology, where the images of strength and courage are at the forefront. Have students pair together a character from The Hunger Games with a Greek/Roman character, and have them look for instances of heroism and strength exhibited from both characters. Have our perceptions of strength and courage changed since Greek/Roman times to the present (or even in future world like Panem)?
  • Feminism - With Katniss as the novel's protagonist, students could have a debate regarding the strength of her character. Do you believe she is a strong character? Why/why not? Is she a good role model for young girls? Is her character a believable 16-year-old? What do you make of her being the last one standing (along with Peeta) at the end of the games? Does this have any profound suggestions for the role/place of women in society?
  • Connections to Television - With the games being broadcast to everyone in Panem, have students look for connections to modern day television. Reality TV shows, following a group of people, showcasing every inch of drama; or a program like Survivor which puts a group of strangers in a remote location, facing challenges, forming alliances, has obvious and abundant connections to the novel. How and why are people attracted to programs such as these? What does that say about the people of the Capitol and their excitement over the broadcast of the games?
Classroom Activities
  • Construct your own Hunger Games!
    • What would the rules/regulations be? Who would be entered in the games? Could you reverse the roles - instead of children being the fighters, have adults be the chosen tributes? Would instituting an alteration like this change your perception of the novel?
  • Thematic Trailer or Short Film
    • With the release of the film adaptation of the novel, some fans of the novel were left disappointed, feeling that the film left out or changed key parts of the book. Give the students an opportunity to create their own film adaptation or trailer, showcasing their perception of the novel.
  • Creative Writing Assignments
    • Character analysis: Have the students write journal entries from the perspective of another character other than Katniss (since her view is the lens through which the entire novel is perceived). This would give students an opportunity to connect with a character with whom they might have more in common, and showcase their ability to adopt a characters' manner of speaking in a creative writing context.

About Suzanne Collins
external image 153394.jpg
Suzanne Collins (August 10, 1962 - Present) is an American television writer and novelist who was born in Connecticut. Her father's career in the Air Force inspired some of her most recent works. Collins studied at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, completing her double major in Drama and Telecommunications at Alabama University. She has since written for several Nickelodeon shows and collaborated on multiple children's books. Some of her works have been nominated for the Emmy award.

Her television work includes Clarissa Explains It All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, Little Bear, and Oswald. She has also published novels for young adults, such as five novels in The Underland Chronicles series: Gregor the Overlander; Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane; Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods; Gregor and the Marks of Secret; and Gregor and the Code of Claw.

She is most famous for The Hunger Games series, which has made the New York Times Bestsellers list for 60 weeks in a row. The first book in the series has been adapted into a major motion picture. As a result of the series' popularity, Collins was named one of Time magazine's most influential people of 2010. In 2012, Amazon announced that Collins had become the best-selling Kindle author of all time.

Collins currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

A sadistic, fascist all-powerful government. Children in a televised reality show game who must kill or be killed in the Gamemaker's arena. Required viewing for all citizens of Panem. Betting on the winners or losers. Does this sound familiar? If not, check out this interview with author, Suzanne Collins, on what inspired her to write her best-selling novel.

Additional Resources:
--Reviewed by Marissa Bell, Emily Gunsch, Drew Tocco and Bill Treat (for other reviews by us, see: Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue Review1 and Doctorow's Little Brother Review2).