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Collins, S.  (2008).  The hunger games.  New York, NY: Scholastic Press.2009 ALA Notable Children’s Book Interest Level: YAThe Hunger Games Trilogy:1 - The Hunger Games2 - Catching Fire3 - Mockingjay

Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
2009 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Interest Level: YA
The Hunger Games Trilogy:
1 – The Hunger Games
2 – Catching Fire
3 – Mockingjay

“May the odds be ever in your favor!”

Suzanne Collins begins The Hunger Games by introducing the reader to Panem, a dystopian society divided into 12 districts in the ruins of what was once North America. Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl, will learn that her actions alone can ignite change for a better future. She is from District 12, one of the poorer districts where food is scarce.  We learn that Katniss has had a hard life after her father died when she was 11-years-old in a mining accident and her mother was unable to cope leaving Katniss to fend for the family.  She taught herself to hunt illegally outside of the limits of District 12, how to barter her catch for food and goods with other traders at the Hob, and to inevitably keep her and her sister alive.

Each year, Panem has an event called “The Reaping” in every District. The Reaping is for The Hunger Games. Every district picks two tributes, a boy and a girl by lottery that will literally fight for their lives.  For the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss steps up and volunteers after her sister, Primrose’s name is drawn.  Peeta Mallark is also chosen, the boy that once gave her bread for her family when they were starving. The two tributes of District 12 are sent to the capital of Panem, a plush luxurious place with as much food as one could eat. There they train for the upcoming games in which they learn to hone the skills they were born with.  For Katniss it’s hunting with a crossbow in which her skill and accuracy are unmatched.  For Peeta it’s his strength and ability to camouflage himself.

Katniss’ partnership during the games with fellow tribute Rue reminds Katniss of Primrose and fuels a desire to protect her.  When Rue dies it breaks Katniss heart and Katniss tries her best to honor Rue.  That honoring of District 11’s tribute sparked anger and discontent over the games.  The connection between Katniss and Rue may have helped start the rebellion that begins later in The Hunger Games Trilogy. The star-crossed lover story was cooked up by Haymitch, but to Katniss’ surprise she finds that Peeta’s feelings are true but not mutual. And, at the end of the games, rather than killing one another, Katniss and Peeta choose to consume poisonous berries so that the Game Makers will fail, resulting in the 74th Hunger Games without a victor.  Because there must always be a victor, the two are allowed to live. Many believed their actions as an act of defiance, particularly President Snow who could foreshadow an upcoming rebellion as a result.

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy is immensely likeable. They were hard to read at times due to the violence but the story offers highly likeable characters in which readers will find themselves able to relate to one or more characters keeping them feverishly reading the series.  Suzanne Collins successfully conveys Katniss’ sadness over her losses and her inherent strength to climb back out of her pain to cope with the next bad thing.  Katniss does not live a life of illusion. She recognizes the ugliness in her world, her desire for change, but also her acceptance that this may be all she ever knows. Readers will learn a lesson that’s not metaphorical, or even the most inspirational, but what a reader may take from The Hunger Games is that making the best of a bad situation and finding a way to cope may be life’s only choice at times. And, even if the characters lack hope, the story is so compelling that the desire for success of these characters will have most readers believing they somehow can offer their strength and courage to aid Katniss and Peeta. The Hunger Games, and the entire trilogy offers a highly suspenseful and philosophical action-adventure with elements of romance in these YA novels that tweens will be eager to read. Other books that tweens may also enjoy that are set in dystopian futures and are specified as tween literature include, Among the Betrayed (Shadow Children #3) by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The City of Ember (Book of Ember #1) by Jeanne DuPrau, and The Unwanteds (The Unwanteds #1) by Lisa McMann.

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Lowry, L. (1993). The giver.New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.
1994 Newbery Medal
Interest Level: 5-8, Reading Level: 6.0
Giver Quartet:
1 – The Giver
2 – Gathering Blue
3 – Messenger
4 – Son

The Giver by Lois Lowry is a futuristic science fiction novel set in dystopian world in a community under the illusion of a utopian existence. This community not only does not allow but has genetically engineered as much as possible to provide an existence without such things as feeling, hunger, inequalities, pain, color, love, and memories of their distant and ancient past. The Giver is about Jonas, when he turns twelve, like all other children in their community who are given their permanent job assignments based off of observation and tedious calculations by the Elders that decide the future of each and every citizen in their community. If they do well they are rewarded, if they do not acclimate to the highly structured lives expected of each member of the community, then they are released outside of the community.

Jonas is to become the next Receiver of Memory and he must learn all there is to know from the former the Giver, the former receiver of memories. Jonas, knowing that he has memories no other community member has and that those members have caused emotional and physical pain for the Giver, and though he begins expressing that some memories are unfair not to share with others, and he is still a carrying young boy and is willing to accept the pain that comes with the transfer of unpleasant memories in additional to the happy ones. He learned learns of war, starvation, sledding in the snow, colors, a sunburn and a broken bone, as well celebrating Christmas with a family. When Jonas learns that “released” from the community actually means death as he observes a recording of his father end the life of the weaker of the twin infants, he decides that the community must have all the memories he has been given over the past in his training well aware of the pain it will bring with those memories.

The Giver, often used in upper elementary school curriculum (ages 9-10) may be more suitable than other dystopian novels in which world devastation, human suffering, and death is commonly seen whereas in The Giver, Lowry introduces this utopian dystopia in a unique and unforgotten that allows for each reader to use their own interpretation to determine whether Jonas has made the best decision and even use their own imagination as to what may come next. Lowry’s novel offers ample educational material ranging from creative writing in Language Arts, genetic engineering  or even optical illusions as Jonas was observing as he occasionally saw color prior to being chosen as the Receiver of Memories for  science curriculum. Philosophy discussion may include the ideas of a utopia vs. dystopia and comparing similarities between the two, sociology curriculum discussions can focus on viewpoints and the effects of individual feeling that may cause conflict by comparing/contrasting diverse cultural and religious issues within a local community. And in a world where there is more instability than a generation earlier, dystopian novels provide tweens the opportunity to read material they can identify with since a dystopian future may not be as far away as we once believe with wars, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, increasingly more devastating natural disasters and other environmental concerns.  Those that enjoy The Giver may be interested in reading the remaining three books in the Giver Quartet (The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, Son), Jeanne DuPrau’s Books of Ember (The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, The Diamond of Darkhold), Or Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay).