(Editor’s note: Ok, so we’re a little behind the 8ball on this one, so shoot us. Warning, if you haven’t read the books or seen the movie, there are some spoilers ahead. And if not, what are you living under a rock or something?)
Imagine living in a world where you’re a teenager, and you still need to go to school, and your father is dead, and you don’t have enough to eat… you can sign up for extra oil and grain “tesserae”, so that your family doesn’t starve, but that means putting your name into the Hunger Games pool one more time. You can do this for each family member. You do this so you don’t starve, when the ration should be enough to feed and heat your household for a month, but it’s not. So, if you’re Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old living in District 12, the poorest of the districts, you break the rules and go outside the fence and you hunt, bringing needed food to your family’s table and also selling meat to the Peacekeepers and the Mayor.
Totally illegal, but wasn’t something the Peacekeepers or the Mayor will willing to do anything about, as they liked the meat she and her best friend Gale brought to the table. But, then, there were the Hunger Games, the “price” to be paid for the rebellion 73 years ago by the 13 Districts. There were only 12 districts now, each that produced a single product (District 13, which had produced Nuclear Weapons), had been wiped from the map by the Capitol.
Each year, there was a celebration of the Hunger Games, where each District choose 2 “tributes” a boy and a girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death. The choice was totally random, with the names of the tributes going into a lottery once for each year, starting at age 12, unless you took out ‘tesserae’ for extra oil and grain. If you did not take out ‘tesserae’, your name went in once at age 12, twice at age 13, and so on, until at age 18, your name was in a total of 7 times. Katniss Everdeen, and the other residents of District 12, in having to feed their families, put their names in extra times. In the books, her friend Gale had his name in 47 times when he was 17.
We meet Katniss’s family, her mother, a fragile woman who after her husband’s death, did not go to work, like she was supposed to after a month of grieving, in the mines, and her younger sister, Primrose. Prim turns 12 this year, her first year to have her name in the Hunger Games.
When the names are drawn, first the girl tribute, incredibly, Prim’s name is drawn… and Katniss, almost before she can think about it, volunteers in her place. She goes and trains with the other tributes. Incredibly, she’s acquainted with the male tribute, who she knows, if only by one encounter, because he gave her lightly burned bread by throwing it out, that saved her and her family from starvation years ago. In the interviews, he reveals he has loved Katniss from the moment he saw her and this is played off by their trainer, the only other person to win in District 12. However, he spends most of his time drunk and Katniss and Peeta are expected to train with him. This does not go over well.
An arrangement is made, however, and after the training, Peeta and Katniss are introduced to everyone on Panem as the “star crossed lovers”, when Peeta confesses during his interview that he has loved Katniss from the day he saw her hiding outside this family’s bakery. This brings gifts from ‘sponsors’ during the games. Katniss doesn’t want to accept such gifts, but she does, to save Peeta’s life in one instance. We meet the other tributes, the ‘careers’, those that have trained all their lives for this moment (even though it’s technically illegal to do so), the youngest tribute, Rue, who Katniss befriends, and when she dies, Katniss decides to show the world just how cruel the Capitol can be. The Games are all televised, every waking moment, so when another tribute shoves a spear through Rue, Katniss covers her in flowers, hoping to shock the populous of Panem. All it does though, is make the Peacekeepers angry with her… and she doesn’t care one bit. The first book is fast paced, an easy read, and I was rooting for both Katniss and Peeta throughout the latter part of the book, wondering how it would be resolved. The resolution shocked me, and I think it will shock you as well.
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