The Hunger Games
A complete set of The Hunger Games trilogy
|Genre||Adventure, science fiction, drama, action|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)
|No. of books||Three|
The Hunger Games is a series of three adventure novels written by the American novelist Suzanne Collins. The series is set in The Hunger Games universe, and follows young characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark.
The novels in the trilogy are titled The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009), and Mockingjay (2010). The novels have all been developed into films, with the film adaptation of Mockingjay split into two parts. The first two books in the series were both New York Times best sellers, and Mockingjay topped all US bestseller lists upon its release. By the time the film adaptation of The Hunger Games was released in 2012, the publisher had reported over 26 million Hunger Games trilogy books in print, including movie tie-in books.
The Hunger Games universe is a dystopia set in Panem, a country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 12 districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, children from the districts are selected to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called The Hunger Games.
The novels were all well received. In August 2012, the series ranked second, beaten only by the Harry Potter series in NPR's poll of the top 100 teen novels, which asked voters to choose their favorite young adult books. On August 17, 2012, Amazon announced The Hunger Games trilogy as its top seller, surpassing the record previously held by the Harry Potter series. As of 2014[update], the trilogy has sold more than 65 million copies in the U.S. alone (more than 28 million copies of The Hunger Games, more than 19 million copies of Catching Fire, and more than 18 million copies of Mockingjay). The Hunger Games trilogy has been sold into 56 territories in 51 languages to date.
The Hunger Games trilogy takes place in an unspecified future time, in the dystopian, post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, located in North America. The country consists of a wealthy Capitol city, located in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by twelve (originally thirteen) poorer districts ruled by the Capitol. The Capitol is lavishly rich and technologically advanced, but the districts are in varying states of poverty. The trilogy's narrator and protagonist Katniss Everdeen, lives in District 12, the poorest region of Panem, located in Appalachia, where people regularly die of starvation. As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol (called the "Dark Days"), in which District 13 was supposedly destroyed, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve remaining districts, between the ages of 12 and 18, are selected by lottery to compete in an annual pageant called the Hunger Games. The Games are a televised event in which the participants, called "tributes", are forced to fight to the death in a dangerous public arena. The winning tribute and his/her home district are then rewarded with food, supplies, and riches. The purposes of the Hunger Games are to provide entertainment for the Capitol and to remind the districts of the Capitol's power and lack of remorse, forgetfulness and forgiveness for the failed rebellion of the current competitors' ancestors.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th Hunger Games in place of her younger sister Primrose Everdeen. Also participating from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a boy who has developed a secret crush on Katniss. They are mentored by District 12's only living victor, Haymitch Abernathy, who won the Games 24 years earlier and has since assumed a solitary life of alcoholism. Peeta confesses his love for Katniss in a television interview prior to the Games, leading the Capitol to portray Katniss and Peeta as "star-crossed lovers". This revelation surprises Katniss, who harbors feelings for Gale Hawthorne, her friend and hunting partner. Haymitch advises Katniss to play along and feign feelings for Peeta in order to gain wealthy sponsors who can gift them crucial supplies during the Games. In the arena, Katniss develops an alliance with Rue, a young tribute from District 11 who reminds Katniss of her kid sister, and Katniss is emotionally scarred when Rue is killed. Katniss devises a memorial for Rue by placing flowers over her body as an act of defiance toward the Capitol. More than halfway through The Games, the remaining tributes are alerted to a rule change that allows both tributes from the same district to be declared victors if they are the final two standing. After learning of the change, Katniss and Peeta begin to work as a team. When all of the other tributes are dead, and they appear to win the Games together, the rule change is revoked. Katniss leads Peeta in a double suicide attempt to eat poisonous berries known as nightlock, hoping that the latest change will be reinstated, and that they will both be victorious. Their ruse is successful, and both tributes return home victorious. During and after the Games, Katniss develops genuine feelings for Peeta and struggles to balance them with the connection she feels with Gale. When it becomes clear that the Capitol is upset with Katniss' defiance, Haymitch encourages her to maintain the "star-crossed lovers" act, without telling Peeta.
In Catching Fire, which begins six months after the conclusion of The Hunger Games, Katniss learns that her defiance in the previous novel has started a chain reaction that has inspired rebellion in the districts. President Snow threatens to harm Katniss' family and friends if she does not help to defuse the unrest in the districts and marry Peeta. Meanwhile, Peeta has become aware of Katniss' disingenuous love for him, but he has also been informed of Snow's threats, so he promises to help keep up the act to spare the citizens of District 12. Katniss and Peeta tour the districts as victors and plan a public wedding. While they follow Snow's orders and keep up the ruse, Katniss inadvertently fuels the rebellion, and the mockingjay pin she wears becomes its symbol. District by district, the citizens of Panem begin to stage uprisings against the Capitol. Snow announces a special 75th edition of the Hunger Games—known as the Quarter Quell—in which Katniss and Peeta are forced to compete with other past victors, effectively canceling the wedding. At Haymitch's urging, the pair teams up with several other tributes, and manages to destroy the arena and escape The Games. Katniss is rescued by the rebel forces from District 13, and Gale informs her that the Capitol has destroyed District 12, and captured both Peeta and their District 7 ally, Johanna Mason. Katniss ultimately learns—to her surprise—that she had inadvertently been an integral part of the rebellion all along; her rescue had been jointly planned by Haymitch, Plutarch Heavensbee, and Finnick Odair, among others. After some hesitation Katniss joins the rebels.
Mockingjay centers on the districts' rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss returns home and sees the remains of District 12. It is revealed that some District 13 residents survived the Dark Days by living underground, and they are led by President Alma Coin. Katniss, after being brought to District 13, agrees to become the "Mockingjay" and recruit more rebels from the districts. She sets conditions so that Peeta, Johanna Mason, Annie Cresta, and Enobaria, fellow victors captured by the Capitol, will not be seen as traitors, and Katniss will be able to kill Snow as an act of vengeance, if the rebels win. It is revealed that Peeta has been "hijacked"—brainwashed using Tracker Jacker venom—to kill Katniss, and he tries to choke her to death upon their reunion. After her healing, Katniss and a team known as the Star Squad, composed of Gale, Peeta, Finnick, a camera crew, and various other soldiers, embark on a mission to go to the Capitol to kill Snow. The mission succeeds, and they thus win the rebellion. Throughout their mission, many members of the Squad die in various ways, including just-married Finnick. Towards the end of the book, as Katniss approaches Snow's mansion, she sees a group of Capitol children protecting the entrance to the mansion as a shield, and suddenly a Capitol hovercraft drops bombs, killing the children. The rebels send in medics, including Prim. A bomb goes off, killing Prim instantly as soon as she notices her sister. Katniss, also injured, awakens from a coma to hear that the rebels have won, and Snow is awaiting execution, which Katniss will be allowed to carry out. At the meeting, Snow suggests that it was in fact the rebels, led by Coin, who hijacked the Capitol hovercraft and killed Prim in a move to portray Snow as barbaric. Coin then asks the remaining victors to vote on a final Hunger Games, in which the children of high-ranking Capitol officials (including Snow's granddaughter) would compete, in order to punish the Capitol for their crimes against the districts. At what is supposed to be Snow's execution, Katniss instead decides to kill Coin, and Snow dies by choking on his own blood while laughing. This leads to Katniss' prosecution, but she is deemed innocent, as the jury believes she was not in a fit mental state. Katniss is sent home to District 12, and Katniss' mother and Gale both take jobs in different districts. In the epilogue, Peeta's love wins against the Tracker Jacker venom, and he and Katniss remain together. The couple bears two children, a boy and a girl.
Each book in The Hunger Games trilogy has three sections of nine chapters each. Collins has said this format comes from her playwriting background, which taught her to write in a three-act structure; her previous series, The Underland Chronicles, was written in the same way. She sees each group of nine chapters as a separate part of the story, and comments still call those divisions "act breaks".
Origins and publishing history
Collins says she drew inspiration for the series from both classical and contemporary sources. Her main classical source of inspiration is the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, in which, as a punishment for past crimes, Minos forces Athens to sacrifice seven youths and seven maidens to the Minotaur, which kills them in a vast labyrinth. Collins says that even as a child, she was stunned by the idea since "it was just so cruel" to force Athens to sacrifice its own children.
Collins also cites as a classical inspiration the Roman gladiator games. She feels three key elements create a good game: an all powerful and ruthless government, people forced to fight to the death, and the game's role as a source of popular entertainment.
A contemporary source of inspiration was Collins' recent fascination with reality television programs. She says they are like The Hunger Games because the Games are not just entertainment but also a reminder to the districts of their rebellion. On a tired night, Collins says that while she was channel-surfing the television, she saw people competing for some prize and then saw footage of the Iraq war. She described how the two combined in an "unsettling way" to create her first ideas for the series.
Scholastic published the first novel on September 14, 2008; the second novel on September 1, 2009; and the final novel on August 24, 2010.
All three books have been favorably received. Praise has focused on the addictive quality, especially of the first book, and the action. John Green of The New York Times compared The Hunger Games with Scott Westerfeld's The Uglies series. Catching Fire was praised for improving upon the first book. Mockingjay was praised for its portrayal of violence, world building, and romantic intrigue.
The series received criticism regarding the reality TV "death game" theme, which is also present in The 10th Victim, Battle Royale, Das Millionenspiel, The Running Man, The Long Walk, and Series 7: The Contenders. The series was also criticized for the romantic plotline: Rollie Welch of Ohio's The Plain Dealer criticized the characters' lack of resolute behavior, and Jennifer Reese of Entertainment Weekly stated that there was little distinction between Peeta and Gale, and the series lacked the "erotic energy" seen in the Twilight series.
J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters stated "While the film saga does capture the action of The Hunger Games, the novels are most assuredly the heart of the story. They are nothing less than 'The Writer’s Cut' of the films themselves."
The last book, Mockingjay, was criticized by Dan Shade of SF Site, who felt that Katniss is a weaker character than her comrades and less resolute in her journey to the Capitol, and that with respect to her vendetta against President Snow, her actions in the finale are inconsistent with her established character.
Lionsgate Entertainment acquired worldwide distribution rights to a film adaptation of The Hunger Games, produced by Nina Jacobson's Color Force production company. Collins adapted the novel for film herself, along with director Gary Ross. The cast included Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale. The first film began production in Spring 2011, and was released in March 2012. For Catching Fire Ross was replaced as director by Francis Lawrence; the film was released in November 2013. Lawrence then directed Mockingjay, parts 1 and 2, released in November 2014 and November 2015.
Influence in Thailand
A gesture (a raised up hand with three middle fingers pressed together) used in The Hunger Games trilogy to express unity with people striving to survive, was used in 2014 by anti-government protestors in Thailand, at least seven of whom were arrested for it.
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- Olga Zamanskaya (10 June 2014). "People arrested in Thailand for gesture from 'Hunger Games' film series". Voice of Russia. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
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